After a particularly turbulent time for the industry, (the pandemic cost the global tourism industry $935 billion in the first 10 months of 2020 alone), travel is gaining momentum again. But while travel is back on the cards, the landscape has changed. Travel brands are being forced to guess what consumers want now, and what will happen next. leaving travel brands to piece together what consumers want now, and what will happen next.
So whether you’re in the midst of planning travel packages, strategizing your next big media campaign, or deciding on what content to lead with to drive new bookings, here are the key travel trends you need to know for 2023.
Key travel trends for 2023
- Staycays are here to stay
- Millennials are driving demand for pet-friendly vacations
- Gen Zs are going it alone
- Millennials are splashing the cash
- Covid fears are waning
- Gen Zs are being seriously #influenced
- Baby boomers are craving familiarity
- Italy, the Caribbean, and Singapore are on travelers’ lust list
- Sustainability is hot on the agenda for millennials
- Booking flexibility is non-negotiable
1. Staycays are here to stay
The world has opened up, and so has the appetite to travel abroad. You may think that marks the end of the domestic vacay, but this isn’t the case. Around 90% of consumers say they plan to take a domestic vacation in the next 12 months.
It seems that staycations have captured the hearts of travelers, many of whom may have holidayed at home for the first time due to Covid travel restrictions.
So what is it about domestic travel that consumers love so much? Being close to nature, the beach/coast, and visiting family/friends are among the top reasons for their vacation. What’s more, 58% of domestic vacation planners say their top reason to holiday closer to home is to enjoy themselves and relax, showing that sometimes the simple things are the most important right now.
2. Millennials are driving demand for pet-friendly vacations
Passport, keys, sunglasses, furry friend? According to our latest data from GWI Travel, over 1 in 10 millennials say they plan to travel with their pets.
During the Covid lockdowns we saw a huge spike in consumers buying puppies, and now many new dog-owners are finding themselves with an extra passenger in tow. And it’s not just domestic vacations where dogs are getting in on the action. Eurotunnel reported a record-number of pets traveling on its services in August 2022, and new airline Akasa Air have pre-empted demand by announcing it will allow “domestic dogs and cats” on all flights.
3. Gen Zs are going it alone
After 2 years of restrictions, Gen Zs are after a little adventure. Over a third of Gen Z say they plan to travel by themselves, showing there’s an appetite to be bold post-pandemic. TikTok is awash with videos with the hashtags such as #solotravel, #solotraveldiaries and #solotraveltips that provide inspiration, useful content and honest reviews of what it’s like to travel alone.
Our freshest travel data set showed 35% of Gen Z think ‘safety of solo travelers’ was an important factor if they were booking a vacation/trip tomorrow, suggesting solo travel could be a lucrative market for brands to hone in on for 2023. Budget airline EasyJet is already tapping into this market, announcing that it’s extending its solo traveler discount after seeing a huge uptick in demand.
4. Millennials are splashing the cash
You may be forgiven for thinking that baby boomers are the most likely to push the boat out when it comes to vacations, but there’s a new big spender in town: the millennial.
17% of millennials say they look for options toward the top range, or reach for the top-range option, which is the highest of all generations. They’re also the most likely to say they’re taking a domestic vacation as a luxury/treat for themselves or others. So if you’re a luxury travel brand, millennials are a key segment to win over. Whether it’s flight upgrades, premium room options, or duty free, you can count on millennials being front of the queue.
5. Covid fears are waning
After a confusing and worrying time for many, consumers’ confidence in travel is slowly building with Covid concerns no longer a top priority. When asked which factors were most important when choosing a destination, Covid-19 status/restrictions was outranked across all generations by factors such as fun/excitement, sights/attractions and cost/value for money.
32% of travelers said Covid-19 entry requirements would be an important booking factor, and 28% said the same for Covid-19 case numbers, however, this pales in comparison to free cancellation/rebooking and hygiene standards which came out at 38% and 36% respectively. So while consumers are still conscious of Covid risks, they’ve got other priorities on their mind. Messaging on flexible booking policies and positive hygiene reviews are likely to be more persuasive to lead with than Covid-related assurances.
6. Gen Zs are being seriously #influenced
What influences consumers’ decision on where to vacation? Across all generations, recommendations from family and friends came out on top, with 39% of respondents saying this influenced their decision. This was highest among Baby Boomers and Gen Z, but for Gen Z, there’s another factor that plays a huge role: social media.
60% of Gen Z say social media, whether in the form of ads or posts by friends/family or celeb/content creators, influences their decision about where to go on vacation. This is a clear indication to brands that ads and influencers are a particularly effective way to engage with Gen Zs and promote their travel offering.
Want to know where to target them? According to our latest social media use by generation report, Instagram is the platform where ads resonate the most for Gen Z, with 24% of this generation saying they’ve clicked on a promoted post/ad on the site in the past month.
7. Baby boomers are craving familiarity
Unlike Gen Z, baby boomers are less concerned with finding trendy or insta-worthy hotspots, and more about visiting destinations they know and trust.
The most distinctive destination influencer for this generation is previous vacations they’ve been on. This group is much more likely than other generations to rely on their own past experiences.
In fact, 32% say they’d rather take a vacation somewhere they’ve been before.
After the disruption of the pandemic, and with the cost of living crisis beginning to bite, who can blame them for hedging their bets?
Other important factors for baby boomers include recommendations from family/friends (46% say this) and value for money (54% say this), which again highlights their desire to make low-risk decisions and book with confidence.
8. Italy, the Caribbean, and Singapore are on travelers’ lust list
Where are international vacationers planning to go? Most travelers are planning to visit locations within their own region. Italy is the top destination travelers in Europe are considering, with 29% saying they plan to visit, closely followed by Spain and Greece.
A third of international vacation planners in North America say they plan to visit the Caribbean in the next 12 months, followed by Mexico and Canada. Brands should focus their attention here when promoting offers and packages to North American audiences.
In APAC, Singapore topped the list of most sought after destinations, with interest at an all time high due to pent-up demand from the pandemic. Singapore Airlines recently announced an expanded flight schedule to keep up with growing demand from travelers. The second and third most popular destinations for APAC vacation planners are Australia and Japan.
9. Sustainability is hot on the agenda for millennials
A travel trend that’s impossible to ignore is sustainability, but it’s safe to say some generations are more concerned than others. Of all groups, millennials care most about the carbon footprint of their travel, with 37% saying they’re very/extremely concerned. Gen Zs aren’t far behind, but only 18% of baby boomers say the same.
When it comes to taking measures to limit their environmental impact, millennials are the most likely to pick a travel provider with a good sustainability/environmental policy and say they try to use local providers for services while on vacation. Brands already responding to this demand include Skyscanner, which recently expanded its Greener Choices tool (which helps travelers find lower-emission flights) to include electric vehicle booking options, helping travelers to travel in a more eco-conscious way.
However, we also know that millennials are also the most likely of all groups to indulge in luxury travel so there’s an interesting tension here between intention and action. While they may be most concerned about their carbon footprint, that doesn’t stop them traveling. According to our latest Core data, millennials are the most active group of travel buyers.
10. Booking flexibility is non-negotiable
Covid restrictions and the recent surge in flight cancellations left many travelers frustrated, and in some instances, out of pocket. Consumers are becoming increasingly wary of cancellations and delays, and as such, when asked which factors were most important if booking a trip tomorrow, free cancellation/rebooking came out on top (38% said this).
Easy cancellation/rebooking also scored highly, showcasing consumers’ desire for greater flexibility when planning their vacation. Despite travel restrictions being lifted, consumers aren’t prepared to give up the peace of mind that free and flexible booking policies afford them.