Expedia Group reveals unexpected travel trends for 2023

Expedia Group, which includes popular travel sites Expedia, Hotels.com and Vrbo, has revealed some unexpected travel trends for 2023, which the company categorizes as the “non-normal” rather than the “new normal” of travel.

“We’re seeing a surge in travel to cultural capitals, a new wave of interest in wellness retreats, and a spike in demand for outdoor destinations beyond beaches and mountains — not a new normal, but people are branching out into unexpected trends in what we’re seeing.” we call it “not normal,” read a statement from Jon Gieselman, president of Expedia Brands.

The “No-Normal” study was conducted from Sept. 22 to Oct. 14 via an online survey of 24,000 adults from 17 countries who plan to travel domestically or internationally in the next 36 months.

Traveling in 2023 is about saying no to the normal, breaking routines and seeking experiences without compromise. “Whether it’s flying to those once-in-a-lifetime events or hosting group celebrations at a vacation home, travelers are no longer adjusting to the next new normal, but creating their own status quo.”

In addition, travelers are choosing options “aligned with their personal values”, particularly with regard to sustainability, inclusiveness and accessibility.

London, UK (offered by Expedia Group)

London, UK (provided by Expedia Group/Matt Cooper)

‘Set-Jetters’ inspired by TV shows and movies

According to Expedia Group, travelers will be inspired by entertainment for their trip in 2023.

The study found that streaming movies and TV shows are becoming more popular sources of travel inspiration at 22 percent, making them just as influential for travelers as recommendations from friends and family. The most popular source of travel inspiration is social media at 30 percent.

Among Canadian travelers in particular, 60 percent have considered visiting a destination featured in a show or movie on a streaming platform, while 27 percent have actually booked the trip.

The top destinations are the UK and New Zealand.

The city of Edinburgh in winter from Calton Hill, Scotland, UK

The city of Edinburgh in winter from Calton Hill, Scotland, UK

Cities are becoming popular again

During the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor locations and more remote, spacious destinations were flooded with popularity.

With many COVID-19 restrictions loosened around the world, city centers are becoming popular again.

Based on traveler demand, Expedia Group found that most of the destinations with the biggest increases are all “culture-rich cities where the arts and cultural festivities are reviving.”

The most popular destinations are:

  • Edinburgh, Scotland

  • Lisbon, Portugal

  • Tokyo, Japan

  • Dublin, Ireland

  • New York, USA

  • Sydney, Australia

  • Dubai, UAE

  • Montreal, Canada

  • Munich, Germany

  • Bangkok, Thailand

Mama Shelter Paris West

Mama Shelter Paris West

‘Three-star superstars’

Of Canadian travelers, 41 percent admitted they are more concerned than before about the value for money of their trips. The survey found that 28 percent of Canadian respondents plan to stay in one- to three-star hotels, while 60 percent plan to book with perks, such as free breakfast and toiletries.

“Showing a mindset shift away from the post-pandemic bucket list mindset and moving towards a more spontaneous approach, a [traveller] would rather travel more in 3-star hotels than spend on one big luxury getaway,” the Expedia Group information reads.

Whitepod Eco-Luxury Hotel in Switzerland (Provided by Expedia Group)

Whitepod Eco-Luxury Hotel in Switzerland (Provided by Expedia Group)

Bored of traditional wellness retreats

Of Expedia Group’s Canadian respondents, 45 percent said they are more open to “wellness breaks” than before, but say they are tired of “traditional wellness retreats” and want something more exciting.

Hotels like the Loire Valley Lodge in France and Whitepod in Switzerland offer hands-on activities that encourage travelers to get closer to nature. Activities such as forest bathing and fruit harvesting are more popular than classic wellness retreat activities.

Gallatin Gateway, Montana (Provided by Expedia Group)

Gallatin Gateway, Montana (Provided by Expedia Group)

Find hidden gems

Looking at trends for 2023, travelers want to explore more ‘hidden gem’ locations.

Demand for Vrbo privately owned vacation homes in each of the following Canadian destinations has increased by 30 percent or more since September 2021:

  • Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

  • Chaudiere, Quebec

  • Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

  • Canmore, Alberta

  • Calgary, Alberta

  • Prince Edward County, Ontario

  • Winnipeg, Manitoba

  • Quebec City, Quebec

  • Cowichan Valley, British Columbia

  • Saanich, British Columbia

Rustic getaways are on the rise, including ranch retreats where travelers can “act out their western fantasies” in a vacation rental, including in destinations like Canada’s Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. For a European twist, travelers book converted barns and farmhouses in rural Italy, Spain, France and the UK. More adventurous travelers rent farmhouses in the Australian outback.

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