At an event hosted by media personality Andy Cohen at The Times Square Edition in New York City, Expedia Group unveiled a comprehensive view of traveler trends across Expedia, Hotels.com and Vrbo and the broader travel industry in 2023.
Sourced from the company’s first-party data, and from custom research of thousands of travelers and industry professionals across 17 countries, these top travel trends prove there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to travel next year. Instead, these trends point to a year defined by the “no-normal.”
“When we look at Expedia, Hotels.com and Vrbo data together, we see a detailed and robust picture of travel into 2023,” said Jon Gieselman, president, Expedia Brands. “We’re seeing a surge in trips to culture capitals, a new wave of interest in wellness retreats and a spike in demand for outdoor destinations beyond just beaches and mountains—not a new normal, but people branching out to unexpected trends in what we’re calling the ‘no normal.'”
Unexpected travel trends in 2023
Booking a trip after binging a popular new series will become serious business in 2023. Expedia research confirms that streamed movies and TV shows are now the top sources of travel inspiration (40%), outpacing the influence of social media (31%). Furthermore, the small screen is now considered on par with recommendations from friends and family when it comes to travel inspiration.
In the U.S., more than two-thirds (68%) of travelers considered visiting a destination after seeing it in a show or movie on a streaming platform, and 61% booked a trip.
The top set-jetter destinations include New Zealand, with its landscapes featured in one of this year’s most epic series, followed by the U.K., Paris, New York and the beach resorts of Hawaii.
Expedia: Culture capitals
National parks and rural retreats have had big moments these past two years. Now, it’s time for cities to see a comeback. Based on traveler demand, most of the destinations seeing the largest increases are culture-rich cities where art and culture festivities are getting back to full swing. Travelers can check out the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, plan a trip to WorldPride in Sydney or walk among the cherry blossoms in Tokyo. Culture capitals are calling:
- New York
Hotels.com: Three-star superstars
Travelers are seeking smarter ways to see the world, without compromising on comfort or cool factor. In the U.S., nearly a third (32%) of travelers are more concerned with value for money than ever before. Hotels.com data shows interest is up more than 20% globally in three-star hotels.
In 2023, 40% of U.S. travelers plan to stay in 1-to-3-star hotels and 34% plan to book a vacation with added value inclusions, such as free parking or breakfast. Showing a shift in mindset from the post-pandemic bucket-list mentality and moving towards a more spontaneous approach, one-third of travelers would rather go on more trips in three-star properties than splurge on one big luxury getaway. Fewer stars do not mean lower standards, however. Many properties, such as Una Vida in Mexico or Mama Shelter in Paris, offer excellent amenities, stylish interiors and unique vibes as a standard.
Hotels.com: New wave wellness
According to Hotels.com, more than half (53%) of Americans are seeking wellness breaks but cite boredom for traditional retreats and want to experience something more exciting in 2023. Millennials are the top drivers of this, as 60% of 25-34-year-olds are seeking out alternative wellness getaways. Most travelers want to explore new offerings in the U.S. However, Gen Z has a different view and would prefer to book an adventure to Norway, Turkey, Switzerland, Iceland and Sri Lanka.
To capture this awakened market, hotels such as the Loire Valley Lodge in France and Whitepod in Switzerland are offering advanced rejuvenation programs and hands-on activities that encourage travelers to get up close and personal with nature. The quirkier the activity the better. Sylvotherapy, forest bathing and fruit harvesting are more popular than classic activities like cooking courses, sport holidays and meditation sessions.
Hotels.com: Hot new hotel openings around the world
New hotels that cater to evolving traveler needs are opening around the world. These properties offer far more than a place to sleep, with destination restaurants, co-working spaces, and beautiful interiors as standard. From an art-filled social hub in London to unbridled luxury in Rome, these are the most exciting hotels to have on your radar in the year ahead, according to Hotels.com:
- La Palma | Capri, Italy
- 100 Princes Street | Edinburgh
- Ikos Odisia | Corfu, Greece
- Celestial Suites | Kefalonia, Greece
- 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay | Princeville, Kauai
- Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo | Tamarindo, Mexico
- Alila Kothaifaru Maldives | Maldives, Indian Ocean
- Six Senses | Rome
- Atlantis The Royal | Dubai
- art’otel London Battersea Power Station | London
Kitchen credentials are a must, with travelers looking to plate up at their own convenience in a private Vrbo vacation home. Outdoor kitchens, pizza ovens and air fryers are the top three foodie-menities travelers crave. Additionally, nearly half of U.S. travelers (43%) are using cooking to cut down on costs.
Travelers are looking for preferred amenities in their whole home vacation rentals rather than focusing on location. In fact, more than half (57%) of travelers would rather book a unique vacation home to be with their people in a lesser-known destination than a less interesting, less equipped vacation home in a popular area.
Rustic getaways are on the rise, as travelers crave private vacation homes with abundant space and exhilarating views. Cue the cowboy-cation, offering an intimate escape in the rugged wilderness. Demand for Vrbo homes in U.S. western destinations increased by more than 30% from September 2021 to August 2022, as travelers seek to reconnect with nature. Plus, 42% of U.S. travelers find inspiration in outdoorsy destinations and mind-blowing landscapes. Think log-lined cabins, flickering fires and sweeping vistas.
Travelers can live out their western fantasies by booking a luxurious lodge, ranch retreat or farmhouse that fits the whole crew. Destinations across Montana, Colorado and other western states spring readily to mind, but the cowboy-cation is not confined to the US. For a home on the range in Europe, travelers are booking converted barns and farmhouses in the countryside of Italy, Spain, France and the U.K. Thrill-seekers can also embrace their inner cowboy in Australia, where farmhouses in the outback overlook acres of wineries and wild brush.
Vrbo: Hidden gems
Travelers are also exploring unassuming locales and new places. Top hidden gems in the U.S. have one thing in common: beautiful lakes, where travelers can take in tranquil views. Demand for Vrbo’s private vacation homes in each of these unconventional destinations has increased by 30% or more since September 2021:
- Nampa, ID
- Greensboro, NC
- Layton, UT
- Irmo, SC
- Oneonta, NY
- Hampton, VA
- Bristol, RI
- Spokane, WA
- Las Cruces, NM
- Missoula, MT
Travel in 2023 will be about saying “no” to normal, breaking routines and searching for experiences without compromises. Whether it’s flying to those once-in-a-lifetime events or hosting group celebrations at a holiday home, travelers are no longer adapting to the next new normal, but creating their own status quo altogether.
An optimistic industry pushes forward
For the first time, the 2023 travel trends are being released at the same time as insights from industry professionals, from airlines to hotels to vacation rental hosts and more. In a tailored report for travel partners, Expedia Group reveals the ways that the pandemic forever changed travel. The research shows the highest levels of optimism since 2020. Most professionals expect leisure (71%) and business (70%) travel to return to pre-2020 levels within two years. While travelers looking for a change of scenery kept the industry afloat during the pandemic, all eyes are on the return of international and business travel. In fact, more than half (51%) in the industry say business is their organization’s highest priority in 2023.
Another insight from industry professionals shows travelers are choosing options aligned with their personal values such as sustainability, inclusivity and accessibility. Most travel businesses (60%) made changes in the last year to ensure their services are inclusive and accessible. In fact, sustainability is tied with marketing as the highest area of investment for 2023, with one in five industry professionals saying they plan to invest in sustainability next year.