In contrast to 2022, when travel made a triumphant comeback, 2023 will be about rethinking travel in innovative ways among the upheaval. Everyone will be trying to strike the perfect balance in a contradictory environment, thus nothing will be off limits and everything will be on the menu.
Seven developing travel predictions have been made by digital travel company Booking.com, using extensive research with more than 24,000 travellers from 32 countries and territories, including India, to understand how travel would be reimagined in 2023.
People are finding themselves in a multi-directional tug-of-war, attempting to balance what is important to them with the demands of daily life, during a time of general upheaval in which war, increased societal polarisation, rising inflation, and urgent concerns about climate change are all continuing to radically change the world. This mood is reflected in the travel projections for 2023, which show that travellers’ requirements are shifting in many different directions to keep up with the trends.
Preppers in Paradise: Camouflaged cabins, campfire cuisine and compasses; going off-grid will never be more sought after than in 2023. Sixty-four per cent of Indian travellers want their travelling experiences to have a more back-to-basics feel and are constantly looking for ‘off-grid’ style vacations to escape from reality, and switch off and experience life with only the bare necessities. Seventy-percent Indian travellers are also keen to use travel in 2023 as an opportunity to learn survival skills. 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 Indian travellers on how to be more self-sufficient.
‘Off-grid’ in 2023 won’t necessarily mean roughing it though. There is a common perception that this means giving up luxuries (67 per cent of Indian travellers believe that), however there is a strong desire to combine the two with 65 per cent only considering travelling ‘off-grid’ if it can be at a more indulgent stay.
Virtual Voyagers: With 70 per cent of Indian travellers 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 2023. With 61 per cent of Indians keen to embark on a multi-day VR travel experience, the Metaverse will be more than ‘try before you buy’; it will educate people, opening the door for infinite adventure. Travelers will become bolder in their real-life trip choices, after being able to visit them in the Metaverse first via their online avatar. 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.
Delight in the Discomfort Zone: Whether it’s bottled-up energy, a new lease on life, the world is ready to dive into other cultures and new experiences head first. 71 percent Indian travellers want to experience complete culture shock in 2023 – be it travelling somewhere with completely different cultural experiences and languages 63 percent or exploring lesser-known cities with hidden gems that aren’t already on the radar 27 per cent. Forget the usual favourites, in 2023 Indian travellers will be seeking unique vacations that shock, surprise and delight.
Ninety-six per cent of Indian travellers are 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. Unsurprisingly, this ‘culture shook’ Indian traveller is also partial to throwing caution to the wind, with 46 per cent wanting to buy a one way ticket in 2023 and follow their instinct wherever it takes them.
Glamorising the Good ol’ Days: Amid the desire for escapism, people intend to carve out travel experiences that harken back to simpler times, with nostalgic getaways 95 percent 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, with 28 per cent of Indian travellers chasing experiences that evoke (faux) emotive memories of days gone past, 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.
Travellers are no longer forfeiting play in favour of rest and relaxation, with 76 per cent Indians increasingly seeking the adrenaline rush of theme parks, and drawing on the imagination with activities such as escape rooms, scavenger hunts and building fortresses with giant building blocks. Millennial travellers 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 per cent 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 recentre the mind, meditation and mindfulness getaways are ever popular with 70 per cent Indian travellers while 63 per cent aim to find peace at a silent retreat and 59 per cent are keen to go on a health hiatus that focuses on mental health, 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 64 per cent keen to try this kind of experimental wellness experience as part of their 2023 travels.
From Daily Grind to Great Company Escape: A step change from the ‘work from anywhere’ policy that are now almost as commonplace as annual leave, employees are increasingly keen to preserve vacation time for complete escapism. Seventy-five per cent Indians want their trips to be strictly work free in 2023, and while 64 per cent are not interested in working while away, they would consider clocking in for a company retreat or trip. As such, travelling for business will be back in 2023.
The year 2023 will see a rise in destination business retreats where the focus will be on strengthening relationships and corporate recreation rather than work. In fact, 68 per cent of the Indian workforce is looking forward to their employer planning a ‘real life’ work trip to bring people together and 69 per cent would like to see their employer use the money saved from the shift to remote/hybrid working models spent on corporate travel or retreats. In response, Businesses stand to see benefits, too – 76 per cent of Indians believe exploring new places will inspire them to be more productive at work.
Saving to Splurge: Indian travellers in 2023 will continue to prioritise travel but will be more mindful over how to make the most of their travel budget and what takes precedence. Sixty-nine per cent of Indian travellers will invest in a vacation as it remains a top priority for them, but being budget conscious is key, with nearly 75 per cent Indians continuing to spotlight 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 prioritising value for money with discounts and loyalty programs. 69 per cent Indians will look to save money by considering off-season destinations or longer routes on the journey, while 72 per cent will be planning travel more in advance in the hope to secure a better deal. 71 per cent believe the best use of their budget is to opt for one or two longer vacations instead of several short breaks.
Within this context, Indian travellers are also surprisingly prepared to dial up their spend – and even splurge – on the components of their trip that mean the most to them. Seventy per cent 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 67 per cent plan to spend lavishly to ensure they maximise their trip and every experience is worth it.
Santosh Kumar, Country Manager for India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Indonesia at Booking.com comments, “The years of pandemic gave us a chance to reminisce and acknowledge that travel should not be taken for granted. Our Travel predictions 2023 research 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. At Booking.com our aim will continue to be to make it easier for everyone to seek their unique travel bliss in a more personalised and connected way in the year ahead and beyond.”