As those of us with pent-up wanderlust make up for lost time after the pandemic pause, it seems in 2023, money constraints will have the most significant impact on the way we travel – but it certainly won’t stop it. Our dreams of a blast of heat in Spain, once-in-a-lifetime trips to all corners of the earth, and diving in to different cultures may still become a reality, but we’re learning to be canny to make our holiday funds go further.
Using surveys and online search data, travel organisations have pieced together an outlook on travel trends for the coming year. From TV-inspired holidays to a boom in budget hotels, a focus on sustainability to a return of the cruise, these are the trends that will be having their moment in 2023.
Travel is back baby!
The future looks as bright as the Californian sunshine for the travel industry now that we’re ready to pack our bags and jet off internationally in earnest, with pandemic restrictions (mostly) in the rear view mirror . With positive forecasts, Ryanair increased their capacity for this winter season by 8 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels, despite rising inflation and energy costs.
Compounded with that, the Travel Trends report of price comparison site Skyscanner, which draws on an extensive global survey, suggests one in three are thinking of going on more trips in 2023 than in 2022. Even though purse strings are being pulled tighter this year due to the soaring cost of living, only one in 14 are planning to holiday less in 2023. It all points towards a buoyant travel marketplace, with the full complement of hotels, airline destinations and operators back up to speed. In the nick of time too, no doubt.
Holiday here: For the blowout we were dreaming of while travel was on pause, pack your bags for the Maldives, a postcard-perfect destination of brown-sugar beaches, turquoise waters so clear you barely need to dip in your head to see the coral reefs underneath, and guaranteed blazing sun in peak season. On the Noonu Atoll, Siyam World is the biggest resort on the archipelago, meaning it’s among the most cost-effective too. Fly from Dublin to Male via Istanbul from €893 return with Turkish Airlines.
Budget hotels are booming
Perhaps it’s because of the frequency with which we now travel, or our renewed focus on making our holiday savings go further, but one-, two- and three-star hotels are having a moment. Booking site hotels.com found that interest is up 20 per cent for hotels that are three-star and under.
Pat Dawson, chief executive of the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA), has seen this trend reflected in Irish bookings too: “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with two or three star hotels – sometimes a clean bed and nice location is all you want,” he says. “They can be more relaxing and it means you can spend your money on exploring the destination outside. Quality can vary, but many can be lovely and provide great value for money, especially because you’re going in with two-star expectations. You’re more likely to be disappointed staying in a tired four-star hotel.”
Holiday here: Reykjavik in Iceland is far from budget destination, so keep costs sensible by staying at the vibey Kex Hostel (kexhostel.is). It’s within walking distance to the central areas and Sundhöllin, the city’s geothermally-heated public baths. It’s two stars, but well-loved for its excellent standard of cleanliness and friendliness. Fly to Reykjavik from €155 with Fly Play.
The tech revolution continues
Travelling has become a whole lot easier in the last few years. Everything from online price comparison sites to Google Maps’ advanced features allow travellers to concentrate on the important things on a trip – like trying the best street food on a Ho Chi Minh roadside, or avoiding the longest queues at the Louvre. Seeing the benefits has made us a little looser with our data and privacy, however, but around half of us are still concerned about it, according to the 2022 Global Passenger Survey from industry body International Air Transport Association (IATA). Yet three in four of us would prefer using biometric data instead of passports and boarding passes.
There’s also a keen appetite for nifty new tech features. The same survey found that four in five of us would be more likely to check in a bag if we could monitor it throughout the journey.
“Particularly after Covid, we’ve come to recognise the convenience that technology brings us – even more mature adults know what they’re doing now,” Dawson says.
Holiday here: Now Japan is open to visitors again, find out first-hand how Tokyo is on the cutting edge of tech. Already, it’s well-acquainted with bullet trains, robot waiters and warm-seated toilets that wash, dry and play music at the touch of a button. From April, it begins expanding its driverless car capabilities – so keep a (close) eye out for this transport method of the future. Fly to Tokyo from €640 return with SAS.
Convenience is king
Now we’ve been spoiled with easy-peasy researching, booking, and doing, convenience has become a priority in our travels. The IATA found that proximity to the airport was passengers’ main priority when choosing where to fly from, even if it occasionally means shelling out more. Eight out of 10 travellers were happy to share their immigration information to speed up the airport arrival process. When it comes to destinations that need visas, almost seven in 10 were put off by the complexity of the process, while one in eight cited costs, and one in 12 cited the time it took. This means places like China and Iran that have stringent visa rules may be less appealing to travellers.
It also explains the popularity of cruises, especially among Irish holidaymakers, says Dawson. “Cruise bookings for next year are hot. It’s a hassle-free way to visit six or seven cities in eight or 10 days. And because the price is all-inclusive, it makes it easier to stick to your budget. We’ve also seen that more people are spending money on upgrades and extras. Perhaps after Covid, some are reluctant to go cheap and cheerful.”
Holiday here: Tallinn in Estonia is a particularly low-stress destination. It’s in the EU, with the same currency and no entry restrictions, and once you touch down, it’s a 15-minute tram ride from airport to city centre. The four-star Metropol Spa Hotel (metropol.ee) is one of the many hotels within walking distance of the Old Town, the nightlife district, and the hip hangout of Telliskivi Creative City – and, like much of Tallinn, it’s affordable with doubles from €89. Fly Dublin to Tallinn from €70 with Ryanair.
The early bird ...
The changed travel landscape has meant transport carriers are playing it safe when it comes to scheduled operations. Coupled with an increased demand and fewer planes in operation, it means the tips and tricks that worked previously to grab a bargain no longer apply. So rather than wait for price drops nearer the time of travel, passengers are booking ahead to get the best prices and a guaranteed spot on flights and at hotels. The IATA surveys found that in 2019, travellers booked hotels for their staycation about six weeks in advance, but now it’s eight weeks. For flights, we’re booking almost three months ahead. Fortune favours the organised.
Holiday here: For a blast of much-needed sunshine during the Easter holidays, jet to the three-star Myramar Fuengirola in Costa del Sol. With Abbey Travel, seven nights for a family of four self-catering is €265 per person at the time of writing, including Aer Lingus flights from Dublin.
We’re going greener
Given the impact of the travel industry on the planet, it’s good news that there’s more awareness of sustainability. Skyscanner’s report found eight in 10 said that travel-related sustainability is more or equally important to them now as it was pre-pandemic.
Meanwhile, a survey by Virtuoso, a global network of specialist travel agencies, found that three in four travellers are willing to pay more to travel sustainably if they know where the money is going. Seven in 10 said travelling sustainably actually enhances their travel experience.
However, Dawson believes that eco considerations have a limited impact in practicality. “Sustainability is something we all have to think about, but the corporate travel industry seems to be more conscious than the leisure holiday industry. If a country’s sustainability record isn’t great, it doesn’t seem to be a deterrent,” he says.
Hand in hand with our green awareness, we’re keen on nature-based holidays in 2023: wildlife-spotting and hiking are in the top three travel activities according to Skyscanner. It helps that hiking is such a cost-effective way to enjoy new scenery – pick the right place and it can be a whole day of adventure for the price of a packed lunch.
Holiday here: Near the Atlantic coast in Portugal, Eco Soul Ericeira Guest House (ecosoulericeira.com) is a boutique couples-only guest house built with sustainability in mind; for example, it uses energy-efficient cooling system, and heats bath and radiator water using renewable sources. The beach is a seven-minute walk away, and restorative hiking trails all the way to the tourist hotspot of Sintra are found just outside the hotel. Fly to Lisbon from €50 with Ryanair.
Solo travel for YOLO times
Another year, another notch for solo travel – a trend that just keeps trending. Skyscanner found almost one in three people surveyed were considering a solo escape next year, most of whom said it was because friends and family don’t share their travel interests. Singles and divorcees were among those most inclined to treat themselves to a solo trip. But this year, the most notable shift has been among retirees. Virtuoso found that in this group, interest in solo travelling has more than quadrupled from 4 per cent in 2019 to 18 per cent in 2022. The YOLO (you only live once) approach to life has never been more pertinent.
Holiday here: There’s no single supplement on a wide range of Cox & Kings group holidays, like its Treasures of Peru trip. Soak in the sights of Lima, take a train to the spellbinding Machu Picchu, and explore Lake Titicaca, all with a knowledgeable tour manager and a group of friends-in-waiting. The nine-night tour starts from £2,595 (€3,015) including flights from London.
City breaks are top of our minds
When it comes to picking types of holidays, 2023 will be a good year for cities. Tying in nicely with the move towards frequent holidays, no-frills hotels, and more convenience, Expedia’s top 10 destination list for this year includes Edinburgh, Lisbon and Tokyo. It’s easy to understand why the bright lights of these global capitals appeal, especially as there’s an ever-evolving list of things to do.
“Cities stay popular in the winter season,” says Dawson. “Throughout the year, we see many people travel for concerts or sports events. It makes for a memorable trip, to go for a big event, and stay to see the city and try its cuisine – we’re a big foodie nation here.”
Holiday here: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band play one of their many European summer shows in Hamburg in Germany on July 15th. If you’re lucky enough to get a ticket, stay longer to roam around this port city, taking in its part in The Beatles’ history, the buzzy Reeperbahn district and the architecturally magnificent concert venue of Elbphilharmonie. Fly to Hamburg from €44 with Ryanair.
Step into film sets
Streaming services have opened up whole new worlds to us through our television screens, thus inspiring our holidays. “It’s a growing market, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve seen the effect in Ireland with Star Wars and Game of Thrones,” says Dawson.
Almost half of those surveyed by Expedia said TV had inspired their travel planning, and one in three booked a trip after seeing it featured on TV or a movie on a streaming service. On screen, locations are often shown in a particularly tempting light – just think how appealing Wales looked in Sex Education, or Sicily in the second season of The White Lotus.
Holiday here: Take a trip across the Irish Sea to live out your Bridgerton dreams. The 17th century Hatfield House, on the outskirts of Greater London, is where the interior scenes for the Featherington family home were filmed. The estate’s grand architecture and opulent interiors also featured in The King’s Speech and The Favourite. Fly to London Gatwick from €22 with Ryanair.
Australia boomerangs back
After more than two years of a stringent shutdown of its international borders, Australia reopened to visitors last February, and its popularity among travellers has boomeranged. Airbnb’s list of trending destinations for 2023, based on site searches, sees three Australian cities (Sydney, Melbourne and Perth) in the top 10.
“In Ireland we have many thousands of friends and relatives living there that we haven’t seen for years,” says Dawson. “It’s a very, very busy route, and we expect to see travel back to normal for Australia in 2023.”
Holiday here: Coincide a visit to Oz with the Fifa Women’s World Cup, hosted across Australia and New Zealand from July 20th to August 20th. Participating cities include Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide. Fly to Sydney from €1,109 with British Airways and Qantas.
Work and wander
There’s an explicable rise in the number of digital nomads and remote workers: those who can work from any desk in any country, provided they have strong wifi and a working laptop. “Three years ago, this was a very small market, but then the world discovered Zoom and Teams,” Dawson says. “Remote working abroad offers the best of both worlds: you can save your annual leave, and stay in the sunshine.”
Skyscanner found that one in six people surveyed globally plan to work while on holiday in 2023, with respondents saying it would allow them to spend more time exploring a destination, and to fly at quieter times of the year.
In response, countries are aiming to entice this new cohort of travellers: a report by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) found that in June 2022, more than 25 territories offer special visas allowing foreign nationals to enter, stay and work remotely for a defined period of time. They include dream destinations like Barbados, Costa Rica, Mauritius, Seychelles and St Lucia. Time to broach the subject with the boss?
Holiday here: Ever wondered what working from The Bahamas would be like? Find out through their Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay Permit, which allows foreign nationals to work from this paradise island for up to three years. That’s one Zoom background that won’t need to be virtual. Fly to Nassau via Toronto from €490 with Air Canada.