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Travel’s flight path has been up in the air for a while. There’s been various disruptions over the past three years – including the global pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis, as well as the airport chaos during the summer. 

For vacationers themselves, many have had cancelations and rebookings to navigate. In the uncertain world we live in today, we explore what’s on the map for vacations in 2023. Using GWI Travel, we’ll give some first-class answers to the following:

  • Are staycations still a thing post-pandemic?
  • What does demand look like for overseas vacations?
  • What impact is the cost of living crisis having on vacationers’ travel dreams?  

Staycations aren’t going anywhere

The pandemic hit the travel industry pretty hard with various lockdown restrictions putting people’s plans at a standstill. Due to country entry restrictions as well as concerns about cancellations, many vacationers opted for trips closer to home. 

At the end of 2020, when many lockdown restrictions eased and the world opened up, there was a slight drop in the number of people purchasing a domestic vacation. But since then, the number has remained steady. 

In fact, 86% of vacationers have already started planning a domestic trip in the next 12 months.

The global pandemic accelerated the growth and acceptance of staycations, with many travelers who enjoyed a staycation during the pandemic coming to value them as highly as vacations to more distant destinations. 

For domestic vacationers, staycations offer the opportunity to get away from the daily grind, without the added stress of traveling too far or dealing with potential airport chaos. Out of all the reasons domestic vacationers choose to go on a trip in their own country, enjoying some rest and relaxation comes out on top. 

The airport chaos during the summer may have also put some people off going abroad. Back in July, 77% who planned to take a flight in the next 3 months said they were likely to adjust their travel plans, and a further 50% said they’d likely be taking a vacation somewhere closer.

For these individuals, domestic trips allow them to have a vacation that’s easier to plan and don’t carry the risk of canceled flights. 

International vacations are irreplaceable to many

While the pandemic made some realize the joys of staying closer to home, it made others impatient to explore the world.

As a result, summer 2022 became the summer of the “revenge vacation” and it’s looking like that’s not likely to change in 2023.

Revenge vacations are the result of people being unable to travel for so long – they’re going bigger, more expensive, or further afield. 

The “go big or go home” mentality has made premium adventures a top trend predicted in 2023, with vacationers likely to up the ante when it comes to, not just the length of their trip and the distance traveled, but also quality of their accommodation and their experiences. 

Millennials are a key audience here; not only are they more likely than other generations to be planning a vacation abroad in the next 12 months, but when they’re booking their vacations they’re more likely to look for options in and around the top price range. 

They’re also a key market for premium upgrades as they’re more likely than other generations to say they’d pay more for flights or travel. 

Once on vacation, millennials have the urge to splurge too – 31% say they’re likely to spend extra on duty-free shopping, and 23% like to indulge in a spa treatment or massage, more than any other generation. 

The pandemic has given vacationers an appetite to travel the globe, and it’s also reminded them of what they missed out on. 

Over two fifths of international travelers feel that vacations are either very or extremely important to them, citing it as one of their highlights of the year.

While this is probably partly due to better weather and the opportunity to treat themselves, for international vacationers experiencing a new place or culture is ranked as highly as relaxation when asked why they take vacations abroad. 

Experiencing a new place or culture when traveling abroad is particularly important to Gen Z and millennials, while it’s less important to baby boomers, who place rest and relaxation as their number one reason to take a vacation abroad. 

Marriott Bonvoy leaned into this idea with its post-pandemic campaign “The Power of Travel”, focusing on how travel can open people’s minds. The campaign involved a #TravelMakesUs tag on Twitter, which delivered more than a million views on their video in just a few days. The brand also got involved on TikTok too, encouraging influencers to create their own videos using Marriott’s song and hashtag. 

The campaign is likely to have been popular because it resonated with young people and why they travel. 

Despite the cost of living crisis, travel is still a priority

With inflation and a possible recession on the horizon, people are making cutbacks where they can. For some, this will mean fewer or smaller holidays – but not for all. 

Consumers who are looking to reduce their spending would rather spend less on out-of-home entertainment, luxury products, and clothing or shoes before they trim their vacation budget.

One of the trends we looked into as part of our annual Connecting the Dots report is what the 2023’s version of the “lipstick effect” might be – the purchases consumers are making to treat themselves during hard times. It turns out that travel is a big one. 

After being cooped up for so long, consumers are excited to get away and they’re not willing to scrap their plans. 

Not only are the past two years of lockdowns contributing to this feeling, but our data also suggests that people feel vacations are good for their mental health. 

When consumers in 12 markets were asked what currently brings them joy, 44% said travel. But when they were asked what may bring them joy in the future, travel shot to second place (55%), coming just after spending time with family (57%). Plus, in Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, and the UK, travel came out on top, which really shows the value many people place on vacations. 

It seems Gen Z feel they’ve missed out on travel experiences the most, as taking vacations is the top thing they feel would bring more joy to their lives in the future out of a list of ten options. 

That said, there are some things that travel providers should keep in mind if they’re to attract vacationers in the next year. 

The top thing vacationers want when it comes to booking a trip is free cancelation and rebooking, with easy cancelation and rebooking not far behind.

It’s important for travel providers to remember that while vacationers are impatient to travel again, we live in uncertain times, so people want to book with confidence. 

What brands need to know about travel in 2023:

  • Staycations are still big. The last two years have made many realize the beauty of staycations, and the further airport chaos of the summer is likely to have made people more cautious. For consumers who want a break from the hustle and bustle, but don’t want the stress of potential disruptions, staycations aren’t going anywhere.
  • Overseas travel is back in vogue. That said, two-thirds intend to travel abroad in the next 12 months, so travel chaos hasn’t deterred everyone. With so much pent-up demand, overseas travel is back on the map for many as they seek to make up for missed experiences. For some vacationers, this comes in the form of going all out with their next trip – whether that’s traveling further or opting for more luxury. 
  • Reassurance is a must. With the cost of living crisis, people are thinking about what to pare back on, but vacations aren’t at the top of the chopping block. Still, when booking a trip, the most important thing to vacationers is the flexibility to have free cancellation or rebooking. We live in uncertain times and people want to know they have a safety net in place, should they need it.
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