Booking.com, the world’s leading digital travel agency held its signature media roundtable series, The Travel Edit, at Alchemist Design Orchard with media and invited guests on 13 March 2023. The event has served as a thought leadership platform for regional travel industry players since its launch in January 2022 to come together to share key insights and ideas for making the most of current travel opportunities.
The Managing Director of Asia Pacific for Booking.com, Laura Houldsworth, hosted the event, which focused on the theme of ‘creative reimagination of travel’ and highlighted the bold choices made by travelers in 2023.
The session is based on Booking.com’s latest travel predictions research and explore how travel players in APAC have to navigate in an increasingly volatile and unpredictable environment like no other especially with Chinese tourists finally returning to the fold, coupled with uncertainty given the current economic and geopolitical climate.
Building upon Booking.com’s latest Travel Predictions research, Laura shared more about travel trends in 2023 and was joined by distinguished key players in the travel industry who shed light on various areas:
- Martha Waslen, CEO & Founder, DayAway, on connecting across the travel industry through tech and partnerships
- Rajit Sukumaran, Managing Director, South East Asia and Korea, IHG Hotels & Resorts, on how the travel industry can evolve to renew its commitment as a people-first industry
- James Lambert, Director of Economic Consulting, Oxford Economics Asia, on the travel industry in the upcoming year, against the backdrop of a slowing economic climate
To understand how travel will be reimagined in 2023, Booking.com commissioned extensive research with more than 24,000 travellers across 32 countries and territories, combining it with its insights as a leading digital travel platform to reveal seven emerging travel predictions.
At a time of general upheaval, where war, increased societal polarisation, rising inflation and urgent concerns about climate change are all continuing to radically change the world, people are finding themselves in a multi-directional tug-of-war, working to reconcile what is important to them with the demands of everyday life. The 2023 travel predictions reflect this sentiment, revealing that the needs of travellers are moving in a lot of different directions to adapt to changing times.
1. Saving to Splurge
With the background of global economic uncertainty, travellers in Singapore will continue to prioritise travel in 2023, but will be more mindful over how to make the most of their travel budget and what takes precedence. People will still place carefree getaways at the top of their agenda, with half (50%) of travellers saying that investing in a vacation remains a top priority for them. But being budget conscious is key, with nearly seven in ten (70%) travellers 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 (63%) and prioritising value for money with discounts and loyalty programs (64%). Nearly two-thirds (58%) will look to save money by considering off-season destinations or longer routes on the journey, while the majority (66%) will be planning travel more in advance in the hope of securing a better deal. About two-thirds (64%) believe the best use of their budget is to opt for one or two longer vacations instead of several short breaks.
Within this context, many local 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. More than half (53%)
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 50% plan to spend lavishly to ensure they maximise their trip, and every experience is worth it.
2. Glamourising the Good ol’ Days
Amid global instability and the desire for escapism, people intend to carve out travel experiences that harken back to simpler times, with nostalgic getaways (90%) 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 nearly a quarter (21%) of 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. Singapore travellers are no longer forfeiting play in favour of rest and relaxation, increasingly seeking the adrenaline rush of theme parks (60%) and drawing on the imagination with activities such as escape rooms, scavenger hunts and building fortresses with giant building blocks.
With millennials now the parents of young kids, there will be an increase in destinations previously popular in the 80s and 90s such as Budva in Montenegro, a glam alternative to St Tropez for celebs in the 80s or Bolzano in Italy, popular for its retro Christmas markets – both destinations which feature on the list of 2023 trending destinations. 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%) with ‘family reunion’ multi-generational trips top of the travel agenda in 2023.
3. Preppers in Paradise
Camouflaged cabins, campfire cuisine and compasses; going off-grid will never be more sought after than in 2023. A chaotic few years with natural disasters, political unrest and a global pandemic has seen some lose confidence in the world and the frivolous must-have comforts of our modern lives. Well over a third (39%) of Singapore travellers want their travelling experiences to have a more back-to-basics feel, and are looking for ‘off-grid’ style vacations to escape from reality (58%), and switch off and experience life with only the bare necessities (39%). Travellers are also keen to use travel in 2023 as an opportunity to learn survival skills (60%) including how to source clean water (44%), light a fire from scratch (39%), forage for food in the wild (35%) and even prep for an apocalypse (40%).
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 guests on how to be more self-sufficient, e.g., sourcing and preparing their own meals during their stay. An increase in wilderness survival schools where travellers will learn essential skills needed to live through a cataclysmic event are also predicted to pop up around the world.
‘Off-grid’ in 2023 won’t necessarily mean roughing it though. There is a common perception that this means giving up luxuries (59%), however there is a strong desire to combine the two with 57% only considering travelling ‘off-grid’ if it can be at a more indulgent stay.
And how unplugged is off grid really for the traveller of 2023? Close to two-thirds (65%) will have a non-negotiable requirement: phone and internet connection at their destination is essential – so expect this cohort to be weathering the wilderness with 5G.
4. Virtual Voyagers
It used to be space travel that was ambitious and ‘outer worldly’. But now that’s happened, what and where next? With half (50%) of Singapore 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 earnest in 2023. With over a third (39%) of travellers keen to embark on a multi-day VR or AR travel experience, the Metaverse will be more than ‘try before you buy’; it will educate, entertain, and inspire people, opening the door for infinite adventure. Travellers will no longer be limited by physics and can experiment with different travel experiences in a year when Metaverse worlds will begin replicating and reimaging destinations. Moving beyond 2023, haptic feedback, the use of touch to communicate with users, will make virtual travel a truly immersive experience, delivering a credible sense of 3D touch, such as the feel of soft grains of sand and the warmth of the sun.
Travellers will become bolder in their real-life trip choices, after being able to visit them in the Metaverse first via their online avatars – especially handy for those who might feel anxious about trying somewhere new, with 57% more likely to travel to destinations that they wouldn’t have previously considered after virtually experiencing them.
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, as more than half (51%) believe that a virtual experience is not fulfilling enough to check it off the bucket list.
5. Delight in the Discomfort Zone
Whether it’s bottled-up energy, pent-up frustration or a new lease on life, the world is ready to dive
into other cultures and new experiences headfirst. Close to half (48%) of Singapore travellers want to experience complete culture shock in 2023 – be it travelling somewhere with completely different cultural experiences and languages (54%) or exploring lesser-known cities with hidden gems that aren’t already on the radar (25%) – including 2023 trending destination Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah on the Malaysian island of Borneo where travellers will be able to immerse themselves in nature, wildlife and the local culture the city offers just a hop, skip and a jump away from Singapore.
Forget the usual favourites, in 2023 travellers will be seeking unique vacations that shock, surprise and delight. With nearly three quarters (79%) 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. Nearly half (49%) are on the hunt for the world’s most exotic delicacy such as the hottest chilli pepper, while 38% want to use their vacation for extra-terrestrial exploration on UFO or alien spotting tours.
Unsurprisingly, this ‘culture shook’ traveller is also partial to throwing caution to the wind, with more than a quarter (27%) wanting to buy a one way ticket in 2023 and follow their instinct wherever it takes them.
6. From Daily Grind to Great Company Escape
A step change from the ‘work from anywhere’ policies that are now almost as commonplace as annual leave, employees are increasingly keen to preserve vacation time for complete escapism. A significant amount (70%) want their trips to be strictly work free in 2023, and while half of them (51%) 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 on the agenda in 2023. But unlike the business trips BC (before COVID), employees are seeking more opportunities to build team camaraderie in real life – and away from the office – reflecting a growing demand to incorporate work travel with productive play. In fact, 48% of the Singapore workforce is looking forward to their employer planning a ‘real life’ work trip to bring people together and just over half (55%) 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, 2023 will see a rise in destination business retreats where the focus will be on strengthening relationships and corporate recreation rather than work. Employers will gamify the retreat experience and immerse staff in a world where teamwork is the only option. Think ‘survivor’ themed trips at luxury cabins or country farmhouses complete with communal cooking and outdoor adventure activities, or crime-centric escapes where spy school, detective courses or CSI simulations double as a sight-seeing scavenger hunt.
Businesses stand to see benefits, too – close to two-thirds (62%) of workers in Singapore believe exploring new places will inspire them to be more productive at work.
7. Peaceful 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 Singapore travellers (45%), while more than two in five (42%) aim to find peace at a silent retreat and close to two-fifths (39%) 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.
Laura Houldsworth, Managing Director for Asia Pacific at Booking.com comments: “If the last few years have taught us anything it’s that travel should not be taken for granted. This year’s travel predictions research shows the undercurrent of intentional paradoxical behaviours that will put us all more comfortably in the driving seat amid relentless instability. It also 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. As such, 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.”