Top 3 Travel Trends to Watch in 2023
Summary: Top 3 travel trends to watch in 2023
- Americans will prioritize travel & experience in the year ahead.
- International travel will make a big comeback, especially to Asia.
- For remote workers, flexible schedules will mean more travel.
1. Americans will prioritize travel & experiences next year
After a year full of revenge travel, demand for travel has not yet waned among Americans. 96% of Hopper users, who are predominantly Gen Z and millennial travelers, claim they plan to take at least one trip in 2023, with nearly 80% planning at least one vacation, and half traveling to see family or friends. 93% of Hopper customers are planning to fly at some point during the course of their travels and 61% plan to stay in a hotel at least once.
Despite concerns plaguing the US economy and continued inflation, 80% of Hopper customers planning to travel will spend the same, or more, on travel next year. Even as budgets tighten, Americans continue to prioritize travel and experiences as an important part of their expenditure.
Top domestic destinations already booked for next year all offer warmer weather, and include Las Vegas, Orlando, Los Angeles and Miami. Airfare for all destinations is averaging under $275 round trip for 2023 departures. Cancun, London, Barcelona and Punta Cana top the rankings for most booked international destinations, with airfare averaging just over $600 to the two European destinations and under $500 to the Caribbean.
2. International travel will boom, especially to Asia
As the US dropped testing requirements this summer and much of Asia and Oceania reduced or eliminated restrictions late this year, demand for international travel has surged. Today, 62% of searches made for flights in 2023 are for international destinations, compared to 55% of searches made at the same time last year. Among international searches, Europe remains the most popular with about ⅓ of all international shops to European cities, in line with 2021 levels. Asia has surged in demand the most of all regions, with 27% of international shops to Asian cities compared to just 19% at this time last year.
As most countries in Asia have almost fully reopened to tourism late this year, trans-Pacific destinations are surging in demand for 2023 travel. Of the top 10 trending international destinations for Americans, just 2 are outside of Oceania or Asia. Tokyo, Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok are trending the highest, with airfare averaging around $1,200 per round trip ticket. As airlines rebuild their transpacific networks, Americans are sure to take advantage of reopened borders to head to new, long haul destinations in Asia.
3. For those who can work remote, will travel more travel
Even as the US continues to recover from the depths of the covid-19 pandemic, remote work and remote work flexibility have remained sticky for many industries and professionals. In a survey of Hopper users, 50% say they can work remotely some of the time or full time in the next year.
Though only about half of Hopper users have this kind of flexibility, 39% of those who do say flexibility at work will change the way they plan travel for 2023. Most respondents plan to travel more often (66%), fly more during the week (41%) and stay longer at their destination (20%).
Airfare and hotel prices are typically lower on non weekend dates, meaning these flexible workers are also likely to take advantage of lower prices when traveling mid week, or on off peak dates. As travel prices are expected to remain high into 2023, these savings could go a long way!
What to expect to hit your travel wallet in 2023?
Airfare for 2023 domestic trips is currently averaging above 2022 prices, as both demand and costs remain high for airlines. Trips in January will cost travelers $208 per round trip ticket, up +7% compared to 2022, while trips in February, March and April will cost 13% more than last year. For later months this amounts to as much as $37 per ticket. Domestic travelers continue to take shorter trips than pre-pandemic, with booked trips for 2023 averaging just under 5 days, down 10% from 2019 but in line with last year.
International trips will also be more expensive next year, with international airfare expected to increase to all regions of the world compared to this time last year. Airfare to Mexico and Central America has risen the most (+40%), followed by Oceania (+23%) and Africa and the Middle East (+19%). International travelers are booking trips for ~12 days on average, one day shorter (7%) than at this time in 2019 but slightly longer than last year.
Hotel prices in the US for 2023 check-ins are currently averaging $220 per night, a 60% increase from this time last year. Travelers planning ahead are searching for stays 5 days in length, staying almost a full day longer than at this time last year.
For those travelers searching for hotel stays in other countries, higher prices are likely to prevail for winter and spring break getaways. Prices for the top 5 most searched for international hotel destinations are all considerably higher than at this time last year, with prices increasing from 12% in Puerto Rico to 60% in Paris. While prices are higher than last year, travelers are searching for much longer trips, with the top 5 destinations all seeing an increase of 2 days per stay or more. Travelers are making a week out of their trips, with most staying 6-9 days at these top destinations.
While airfare and hotel prices are surging, rental car prices are seeing relief compared to this time last year. For those planning a 2023 rental car pick up, prices are averaging $57 per day, down 5% compared to this time in 2021.
Despite lower prices per day on average, travelers will face higher prices at the pump when using their rental. Fuel prices are averaging $3.36 per gallon, 2% higher than in 2021 but 32% higher than in 2019, pre pandemic. Though they remain a small proportion of all rental car types, electric vehicles have grown in popularity this year as consumers become more environmentally and cost conscious.
Demand for rental cars continues into 2023 with Orlando, Denver and Los Angeles the most popular pick up cities. Orlando and Denver have seen prices drop since last year, while Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas have seen prices increase.
What factors are driving higher travel prices in 2023?
Demand: Despite higher prices, demand for domestic and international trips remain extremely strong as the travel industry recovers from the pandemic. As travel was still restricted to many parts of the world as recently as this fall, many international regions are just beginning to experience their own surges in demand as Americans hope to visit family, friends and tourist destinations across the Pacific. High demand will drive up airfare and hotel prices, especially as Americans remain willing to pay more.
Economic Headwinds: Inflation and high interest rates impact all parts of the travel industry and have resulted in upward pressure on travel prices. Inflation has driven up the cost of goods and services across the industry, making each hotel night or flight more costly to provide to customers. Staffing shortages, though improving, and higher wages in many parts of the industry are also driving up costs. High interest rates mean rental car companies will be less likely to invest in expanding fleets, given high new car prices and the high expense of borrowing money to finance fleet expansions. These headwinds put upward pressure on prices consumers will see in 2023.
[Flights] – Jet Fuel: Though fuel costs dropped below $3 per gallon this week, prices remain the highest they have been since September of 2014. Today, jet fuel prices are 44% higher than in 2021 and 49% higher than in 2019. Jet fuel accounts for anywhere from 15% to 30% of an airline’s operating cost, so airfare will likely remain elevated as long as fuel prices remain inflated.
[Flights] – Supply: On domestic routes airlines have rebuilt back to 96% of the capacity (seats available to book) which they were flying in 2019. Airlines have been more conservative in rebuilding international networks where demand has been slower to recover, especially trans-Pacific where only 70% of capacity has been restored. With fewer seats available to book and strong demand, airfare will continue to be inflated until supply begins to outpace demand.