Home #WHERETONEXT Booking.com’s Seven Predictions for the Creative Reimagination of Travel in 2023

Booking.com’s Seven Predictions for the Creative Reimagination of Travel in 2023

The leading digital travel platform’s most extensive annual travel predictions research to date foresees people navigating contradiction and chaos in their travel choices

A young woman rides a gondola through Venice

People around the world are feeling overwhelmingly more optimistic about traveling in 2023 compared to 2022 and, despite some current instability felt globally. The mood is shifting from one of hopeful uncertainty to bold adaptability. If 2022 was about the triumphant return of travel, 2023 will be about creatively reimagining it amidst the chaos. Nothing will be off limits and everything is on the menu as everyone seeks to find the right balance in a world of contradictions.

To understand how travel will be reimagined in 2023, Booking.com commissioned extensive research with more than 24,000 travelers across 32 countries and territories,1 combining it with its insights as a leading digital travel platform to reveal seven emerging travel predictions. 

At a time of general upheaval, where war, increased societal polarization, rising inflation and urgent concerns about climate change are all continuing to radically change the world, people are finding themselves in a multi-directional tug-of-war, working to reconcile what is important to them with the demands of everyday life. The 2023 travel predictions reflect this sentiment, revealing that the needs of travelers are moving in a lot of different directions to adapt to changing times.   

Preppers in Paradise 

Camouflaged cabins, campfire cuisine and compasses; going off-grid will never be more sought after than in 2023. A chaotic few years with natural disasters, political unrest and a global pandemic has seen some lose confidence in the world and the frivolous must-have comforts of our modern lives. Travelers are also keen to use travel in 2023 as an opportunity to learn survival skills (54%) including how to source clean water (38%), light a fire from scratch (37%), forage for food in the wild (24%) and even prep for an apocalypse (25%). 

Expect to see more eco-friendly, earthly stays springing up to accommodate burnt-out city dwellers searching for simplicity, as well as accommodations offering guidance for guests on how to be more self-sufficient, e.g. sourcing and preparing their own meals during their stay. An increase in wilderness survival schools where travelers will learn essential skills needed to live through a cataclysmic event are also predicted to pop up around the world. 

‘Off-grid’ in 2023 won’t necessarily mean roughing it though. There is a common perception that this means giving up luxuries (63%), however there is a strong desire to combine the two with 44% only considering traveling ‘off-grid’ if it can be at a more indulgent stay. 

And how unplugged is off-grid really for the traveler of 2023? Over half (53%) will have a non-negotiable requirement: phone and internet connection at their destination is essential – so expect this cohort to be weathering the wilderness with 5G. 

Virtual Voyagers 

It used to be space travel that was ambitious and ‘outer worldly’. But now that’s happened, what and where next? Travelers are reporting that they will be turning to virtual reality next year to inspire their vacation choices, travel will enter the ever-evolving 3D virtual space of the Metaverse in earnest in 2023. With a quarter (23%) of travelers keen to embark on a multi-day VR or AR travel experience, the Metaverse will be more than ‘try before you buy’; it will educate, entertain and inspire people, opening the door for infinite adventure. Travelers will no longer be limited by physics, and can experiment with different travel experiences in a year when Metaverse worlds will begin replicating and reimaging destinations. Moving beyond 2023, haptic feedback, the use of touch to communicate with users, will make virtual travel a truly immersive experience, delivering a credible sense of 3D touch, such as the feel of soft grains of sand and the warmth of the sun. 

Travelers will become bolder in their real-life trip choices, after being able to visit them in the Metaverse first via their online avatars – especially handy for those who might feel anxious about trying somewhere new, with 31% more likely to travel to destinations that they wouldn’t have previously considered after virtually experiencing them.   

While the Metaverse will offer a new way to experience travel in the year ahead, it still won’t stop people from booking a ticket to their next destination, as three quarters (74%) believe that a virtual experience is not fulfilling enough to check it off the bucket list. 

Delight in the Discomfort Zone

Whether it’s bottled up energy, pent-up frustration or a new lease on life, the world is ready to dive into other cultures and new experiences head first. Travelers want to experience complete culture shock in 2023 – be it traveling somewhere with completely different cultural experiences and languages (40%) or exploring lesser-known cities with hidden gems that aren’t already on the radar (25%).

Forget the usual favorites, in 2023 travelers will be seeking unique vacations that shock, surprise and delight. With 59% looking forward to experiencing ‘out of comfort zone’ travel that pushes them to the limits, there will be an influx of niche experiences encouraging people to push their travel escapades to the extreme. Over a third (39%) are on the hunt for the world’s most exotic delicacy such as the hottest chilli pepper, while 26% want to use their vacation for extra-terrestrial exploration on UFO or alien spotting tours. 

Unsurprisingly, this ‘culture shook’ traveler is also partial to throwing caution to the wind, with three in ten (19%) wanting to buy a one way ticket in 2023 and follow their instinct wherever it takes them. 

Glamorizing the Good ol’ Days 

Amid global instability and the desire for escapism, people intend to carve out travel experiences that harken back to simpler times, with nostalgic getaways (84%) that provide the thrill of reliving the glory days top of the wishlist in 2023. There’s a desire – even for millennials and Gen-Zs who never lived it – to disappear into the romanticism of a pre-digital era, such as visiting landmarks or attractions featured in iconic retro films or opting for a bus as a primary mode of transport to live the group spirit of school trips. Travelers are no longer forfeiting play in favor of rest and relaxation, increasingly seeking the adrenaline rush of theme parks (57%), and drawing on the imagination with activities such as escape rooms, scavenger hunts and building fortresses with giant building blocks.  

With millennials now the parents of young kids, there will be an increase in destinations previously popular in the 80s and 90s such as Budva in Montenegro, a glam alternative to St Tropez for celebs in the 80s or Bolzano in Italy, popular for its retro Christmas markets – both destinations which feature on the list of 2023 trending destinations. Millennial travelers will be first to book emerging era-themed accommodation that transport them back to a time they hold close to their hearts, and will likely be doing so with family by their side (54%) with ‘family reunion’ multi-generational trips top of the travel agenda in 2023.  

Peace and Pleasure Pilgrimages

Travel is set to take ‘mind, body and soul’ wellness to the next level in 2023 – a fully immersive, no-holds-barred approach to attaining peace and pleasure including less conventional ways to feel bliss. Seeking to recenter the mind, meditation and mindfulness getaways are ever popular with travelers, transformative health or that helps with life milestones such as menopause or pregnancy. For those seeking enhanced spiritual experiences to stir the soul, alternative substances such as cannabis or plant-based psychedelics like ayahuasca or mushrooms will become a more mainstream offering, with 31% keen to try this kind of experimental wellness experience as part of their 2023 travels. 

Increasing conversations in the public sphere around sexual wellbeing, pleasure and orientation are encouraging more people to take time away on an erotic escape (23%). Polyamorous retreats, bondage camps and resorts dedicated to helping people discreetly delve into specific fetishes and kinks are predicted to become more mainstream in 2023, providing a safe space for travelers to explore their sexual desires away from home. 

From Daily Grind to Great Company Escape

A step change from the ‘work from anywhere’ policies that are now almost as commonplace as annual leave, employees are increasingly keen to preserve vacation time for complete escapism. A significant amount (71%) want their trips to be strictly work free in 2023, and while almost half (48%) are not interested in working while away, they would consider clocking in for a company retreat or trip.

As such, traveling for business will be back on the agenda in 2023. But unlike the business trips BC (before COVID), employees are seeking more opportunities to build team camaraderie in real life – and away from the office – reflecting a growing demand to incorporate work travel with productive play.

In response, 2023 will see a rise in destination business retreats where the focus will be on strengthening relationships and corporate recreation rather than work. Employers will gamify the retreat experience and immerse staff in a world where teamwork is the only option. Think ‘survivor’ themed trips at luxury cabins or country farmhouses complete with communal cooking and outdoor adventure activities, or crime-centric escapes where spy school, detective courses or CSI simulations double as a sight-seeing scavenger hunt. 

Saving to Splurge 

With the background of global economic uncertainty, travelers in 2023 will continue to prioritize travel but will be more mindful over how to make the most of their travel budget and what takes precedence. People will still place carefree getaways at the top of their agenda, saying that investing in a vacation remains very important to them. But being budget conscious is key, with travelers continuing to prioritize travel while seeking more bang for their buck. 

2023 will see financially-savvy itinerary curation at its finest, with people planning travel budgets more tightly by taking advantage of deals, hacks and smartly-timed travel and prioritizing value for money with discounts and loyalty programs. Half believe the best use of their budget is to opt for one or two longer vacations instead of several short breaks.

Within this context, many travelers are also surprisingly prepared to dial up their spend – and even splurge – on the components of their trip that mean the most to them. Close to half (42%) admit that they plan to be more indulgent in their spending habits while on vacation to make up for the lack of travel during the last couple of years, while 32% plan to spend lavishly to ensure they maximize their trip and every experience is worth it.

Arjan Dijk, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Booking.com comments: 

“If the last few years have taught us anything it’s that travel should not be taken for granted. This year’s travel predictions research shows the undercurrent of intentional paradoxical behaviors that will put us all more comfortably in the driving seat amid relentless instability. It also demonstrates a desire for travel to be a way to seek unapologetic moments of happiness and escapism to counteract the heavy realities of our news feeds. As such, at Booking.com our aim will continue to be to make it easier for everyone to seek their unique travel bliss in a more personalized and connected way in the year ahead and beyond.”