The last few years have been a rollercoaster for the travel industry, so much so that the typical playbook when it comes to what consumers want has essentially been thrown out the window in favor of what consumers can actually do.
But with the world very much returning to some kind of normal, and COVID-19 no longer the main topic of conversation, choices again abound for consumers, and travel advisors can once again have an almost full world to sell from.
To get a sense of what’s trending for next year, TMR asked frontline travel advisors about what destinations are coming up most often in conversations with their clients and why. Here is what they said:
1. European Favorites
Even with borders opened and health and safety protocols largely relaxed for 2022, travel advisors speaking to TMR still see a return to old favorites in Europe as the most likely scenario for 2023.
Rachel Galvez, with Indiana’s Personal Travel agency, said that she is “already seen a swing that way for 2022” and Paul Hutton, a Cruise Planners advisor in Spokane, Washington added that it has been “too long since travelers have been able to return and complete their explorations.”
In particular, advisors mentioned the continued strong U.S. dollar as a way for consumers to get value on increasingly more expensive travel, and pricing comparable to some other favorites closer to home.
“Airfare is better and hotel prices better than in the US. People are ready to invest in a vacation that will be a memory maker,” Barbara Linebarger of Delightful Memories Travel in Marietta, Georgia said.
Europe is “More accessible and people haven't been able to go the past several years. Also, flights to Europe are similarly priced as they are going to Mexico and the Caribbean,” Kerri Dickson of Sapphire Adventures LLC in Washington said.
In particular, advisors agreed on some specific European favorites, including Italy, France, Ireland, and the U.K.
“So many people are looking to explore Ireland. Its beauty, culture, and history are huge draws. The fact that it’s primarily English speaking makes it easy to travel to,” Megan Lamovec of Wisconsin’s Summit to Sea said.
“All of Europe is on sale due to the strength of the dollar, but Italy will remain a key destination in 2023,” AAA’s Bryan Shilling told TMR.
The top answer among advisors remains Greece, which seems to be the top choice for a lot of consumers
“I have many clients who have booked Greece. Trending due to climates, desired local, excursions,” Laura Palmer of Vai Travel in South Carolina said.
“Increased air service from our market, favorable pricing, and seems to be something people are talking about on social media,” Jenny Cagle of Elm Grove Travel in Wisconsin said.
2. Bucket List Destinations, Including One in Particular
The thought from some coming out of the pandemic was that, with the absence of the opportunity over the last two years, more consumers would be more motivated to check off bucket-list destinations. Advisors speaking to TMR said that, while the signature European destinations are still at the top of their clients’ lists, bucket list destinations are also trending for next year, a welcomed sign for advisors who specialize in off-the-beaten path places.
“It is more about bucket-list experiences, so more interesting destinations like those for Northern Lights or wilderness and nature adventures,” said Alana Wallace of Scottsdale, Ariz.’s Holiday Cruises and Tours.
What destination is truly going to be the winner in the bucket-list category next year is anyone’s guess. Courtney Samuels of Toronto’s Craig Travel, for instance, specifically mentioned Holy Land Tours as the bucket list destination that’s trending for her clients in 2023. And Diane Manson of Mountain City Travel in Kimberly, British Columbia said that Polar destinations will be a big winner next year, “Travelers are living their dream,” she said.
The one “bucket-list” destination that was cited by the most advisors who chose the category was New Zealand, a country that, after being closed for most of the last three years, is getting more direct air service from North America.
“The country was closed for so long that demand for cruises and land tours of this diverse country is greater now than pre-COVID,” Bob Shaffer of Florida’s Cruise and Travel Experts said.
“It’s finally open with no restrictions. Almost all citizens are vaccinated. New Zealand is doing a big push to bring business back to the country,” Anna Bright of Anna Bright Luxury Travel in Nashville, Tenn. Said.
“New Zealand was off limits for a long time over the course of the pandemic, so I think travelers want to take advantage of the re-opening there and see this gorgeous country. Plus, travelers seem focused on big trips post-pandemic, and for North American travelers it's a long journey to the South Pacific, so many are feeling like it's now or never,” Laura Derksen of Personal Travel Management in Burnaby, British Columbia said.
“Pent up desire and simply so much to offer that's a departure from the norm yet English-speaking. Adventurous yet with a modicum of familiarity,” Aaron Sidner of IKP Travel in St. Paul, Minn. said.
3. The Caribbean
The Caribbean was one of the big winners of the pandemic—outside of some domestic favorites, North American travelers only had a few options until European and other International borders reopened in 2022. Many families, couples, multi-gen groups, and more flocked to the Caribbean in 2021 and 22 and, according to travel advisors, that’s now slowing down.
“Easy...people want to go away so they are finding the best package and going. AIs make it super easy to do that,” Kelly Belliveau of Nova Scotia’s Our Destinations Travel told TMR.
In particular, there’s one Caribbean destination that advisors turned to and that’s Costa Rica. Tena Reid of Ellison Travel & Tours in Exeter, Ontario said she has had “Many inquiries about the country and available accommodations and excursions. Everyone who comes back has had a wonderful time and they tell their friends. People feel safe In Costa Rica. There are so many different experiences offered. Something for everyone.”
According to advisors, Costa Rica has also recognized the power of the trade, which many said could lead to a boost in their ability to pitch it to clients looking for a new Caribbean destination. “They have stepped up their presences with travel advisors over the past year,” Denise DelVecchio of Texas’ Magic Destinations Travel, LLC, said.