After a long stretch of uneasiness revolving around Covid concerns, travelers who had sat it out and stayed home are proving that that vacations are back for good.
The sharp uptick in leisure travel in 2022 came with its share of fits and starts as airline cancellations, staff shortages and gas prices didn’t make it easy – but the “pent-up demand” for leisure travel following the pandemic was no match for weary travelers determined to enjoy a vacation.
The good news is that things are looking brighter for 2023!
According to AAA (American Automobile Association), American travelers are poised to “go their own way” as restrictions have been lifted almost everywhere around the globe. Whatever your travel preferences, a new wave of destinations is now on the move – along with your familiar favorites, as well.
While many destinations will never fade away (beach trips, big-city get-aways, state and national parks; snow skiing destinations and mountain excursions), many others are gaining in popularity in 2023.
There is a new interest in traveling sustainability, with everything from “off-grid-style vacations” to luxury self-care/wellness experiences, nostalgia adventures, and even wilderness survival schools.
Travel experts at McGehee Cruise & Travel at Highland Village in Jackson report that the travel business locally is “on the move.”
Jessica Byrd, travel manager and advisor at McGehee, said post-pandemic travel business is going in the right direction, although the industry has faced its share of bumps in the road.
“We have experienced a surge of travelers since Covid restrictions have relaxed and travel has opened back up,” she said. “The industry is still on the road to recovery, due to understaffing and the fact that airlines are cutting routes. The demand is higher than the supply, which is causing the prices to be really high right now, and there have also been service disruptions at resorts due to understaffing. It is important to us to help our clients manage their expectations of what post-pandemic travel is like right now.”
Still, the wheels are turning in the right direction.
Hottest Trending Destinations for 2023
So, just what are the hottest destination trends travelers expect for 2023?
“Greece is super-hot right now, as well as Italy,” Byrd said. “Since the Covid restrictions have dropped throughout most of Europe, all of Europe is really popular this year! Hawaii is also hot right now. Up and coming hot spots are New Zealand and Japan. Iceland is another destination that has exploded in popularity.”
Surprisingly, Byrd noted a new trend known as “TV tourism” that has developed thanks to the settings of several popular television shows.
“Destination trends can be driven by popular shows such as Game of Thrones, Outlander and White Lotus,” Byrd said. “We get a lot of calls for Iceland, Croatia, Scotland, Hawaii and the Amalfi Coast in Italy.”
Other such “TV” destinations cited by Expedia include Paris and New York.
And for many couples, families, and seniors, intergenerational traveling together is becoming more travel-trendy, as they’ve found that sticking together can be rewarding and fun as they explore the hot spots.
Other travel options gaining in popularity for groups such as seniors, incentive rewards and high school senior trips include Alaska cruises and treks to the Caribbeans and Mexico, Byrd said.
Cruises, a longtime vacation staple, are definitely back, Byrd said.
“The Caribbean is always the most popular cruise destination, as well as the Mediterranean and Alaska,” she said. “We have seen a massive uptick in cruise bookings overall since the cruise lines dropped their Covid restrictions.”
Among its top 10 travel predictions for 2023, AAA is forecasting that, thanks to the deployment of new ships coming “onboard” since last year, cruising at all levels will come back even stronger than in its robust return in ’22 – with bookings on cruises to new destinations like the Arctic Circle and the Galapagos Islands also on the rise.
AAA also predicts a resurgence of European river cruises in 2023.
Other International Destinations Gaining Popularity
Another AAA travel predication is a trend toward visiting less-crowded European and Caribbean destinations. While Italy, Ireland and the Caribbean will maintain their positions as “must-see” locations, travelers are also wanting to explore lesser-known, unique areas that allow them to interact with locals and engage in their culture and foods – a trend dubbed as “experiential traveling”.
Interest in visiting the European cities of Paris, London, Barcelona, and others should remain strong, while another rising vacation destination – Iceland - is also gaining in popularity.
McGehee’s “Most Popular” Vacation Quick-List
McGehee shares its list of “tried-and-true” destinations below.
Family beach vacations – The Beaches’ Turks and Caicos All-Inclusive Resort is the most popular for family-oriented beach vacations.
Honeymoon sites - Mexico and the Caribbean. Many resort chains offer adults only, all-inclusive resorts that are popular with honeymooners, such as Sandals and Secrets resorts.
Luxury vacations - Private guided luxury tours in Europe, Amalfi Coast (southern Italy), private yacht charters, St. Barts Island, the Maldives islands, Nevis Island, luxury African safaris and Bora Bora
Hottest skiing destinations - Aspen, Jackson Hole, and Vail
Hottest, stable destinations that are ALWAYS busy, in terms of steady bookings -
Mexico and the Caribbean are the destinations that have always been popular.
CondeNash Traveler’s Travel Trends for 2023
Check out some of CondeNash Traveler’s trends for this year:
People wanting to take “bucket-list” trips
Wellness trips to focus on health and nutrition
Sustainability lodging and travel where possible
More upscale airport lounges
Rise in nature-based outings such as wilderness adventures
Upgraded sleeping quarters
More roadside electric tanks for road trips
Smart Vacation Planning
Though many people believe they no longer need travel agents because they can set up their travel excursions on the internet, Byrd points out why travelers should think twice.
“We save clients time because we can help them quickly narrow down which destination, resort or tour would work best for them based on what they are looking for,” she said. “We also help clients navigate entry/exit requirements and Covid restrictions in destinations that still have restrictions.”
The knowledge, skill and expertise of professionals can go a long way in making sure your vacation is stress-free, she noted.
Along with Jessica Byrd, McGehee staff members contributing to this article include Senior Travel Advisor JoBeth Avdoyan; Luxury Travel Advisor Crystal Black and Manager/Advisor Jennifer Lippiatt. Together they have more than 120 years of experience in the travel business.