Say 'no' to normal travel: Expedia Group reveals unexpected 2023 travel trends

Waterfront architectural landmarks of Sydney, Australia city central business district (CDB) around Circular quay and the Rocks on shores of Harbour in aerial cityscape. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Expedia Group, which includes popular travel sites Expedia, Hotels.com and Vrbo, has revealed some unexpected travel trends for 2023, which the company is categorizing as the "no-normal," instead of the "new normal" of travel.

"We’re seeing a surge in trips to culture capitals, a new wave of interest in wellness retreats and a spike in demand for outdoor destinations beyond just beaches and mountains — not a new normal but people branching out to unexpected trends in what we’re calling the ‘no normal,'" a statement from Jon Gieselman, president of Expedia Brands reads.

The "No-Normal" study was conducted from Sept. 22 to Oct. 14, through an online survey of 24,000 adults, from 17 countries, who are planning domestic or international travel in the next 36 months.

"Travel in 2023 will be about saying 'no' to normal, breaking routines and searching for experiences without compromises," Expedia Group's findings reads. "Whether it’s flying to those once-in-a-lifetime events or hosting group celebrations at a holiday home, travellers are no longer adapting to the next new normal, but creating their own status quo altogether."

Additionally, travellers are choosing options "aligned with their personal values," particularly with sustainability, inclusivity and accessibility in mind.

London, U.K. (Provided by Expedia Group)
London, U.K. (Provided by Expedia Group/Matt Cooper)

'Set-Jetters' inspired by TV shows and movies

According to Expedia Group, travellers are getting inspiration for their 2023 travel from entertainment.

The study found that streaming movies and TV shows are becoming more popular sources of travel inspiration, at 22 per cent, making them as influential for travellers as recommendations from friends and family. The most popular source of travel inspiration is social media at 30 per cent.

For Canadian travellers in particular, 60 per cent have considered visiting a destination featured on a show or movie on a streaming platform, with 27 per cent actually having booked the trip.

The top destinations are the U.K. and New Zealand.

Edinburgh city in winter from Calton hill, Scotland, UK
Edinburgh city in winter from Calton hill, Scotland, UK

Cities become popular again

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor locations and more remote, spacious destinations flooded with popularity.

Now, as many COVID-19 restrictions around the world have been loosened, city centres are becoming popular again.

Based on traveller demand, Expedia Group found that most of the destinations seeing the largest increases are all "culture-rich cities where arts and cultural festivities are getting back to full swing."

The most popular destinations are:

  • Edinburgh, Scotland​

  • Lisbon, Portugal​

  • Tokyo, Japan​

  • Dublin, Ireland​

  • New York, USA​

  • Sydney, Australia​

  • Dubai, UAE​

  • Montreal, Canada​

  • Munich, Germany​

  • Bangkok, Thailand

Mama Shelter Paris West
Mama Shelter Paris West

'Three-star Superstars'

For Canadian travellers, 41 per cent admitted that they are more concerned for value for money for their trips, more than every before. The study found that 28 per cent of its Canadian respondents plan to stay at one to three star hotels, with 40 per cent planning to book with inclusions, like free breakfast and toiletries.

"Showing a shift in mindset from the post-pandemic bucket-list mentality and moving towards a more spontaneous approach, a [traveller] would rather go on more trips in three-star properties than splurge on one big luxury getaway," the information from Expedia Group reads.

Whitepod Eco-Luxury Hotel in Switzerland (Provided by Expedia Group)
Whitepod Eco-Luxury Hotel in Switzerland (Provided by Expedia Group)

Bored of traditional wellness retreats

Of Expedia Group's Canadian respondents, 45 per cent indicated they are more open to "wellness breaks" than before, but cite that they're bored of "traditional wellness retreats" and want something more exciting.

Hotels like the Loire Valley Lodge in France and Whitepod in Switzerland are are offering hands-on activities that encourage travellers to get close with nature. Activities like forest bathing and fruit harvesting are more popular than classic wellness retreat activities.

Gallatin Gateway, Montana (Provided by Expedia Group)
Gallatin Gateway, Montana (Provided by Expedia Group)

Finding hidden gems

Looking to 2023 trends, travellers want to explore more "hidden gem" locations.

Demand for Vrbo private vacation homes in each of the following Canadian destinations has increased by 30 per cent or more since September 2021:

  • Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

  • Chaudière, Quebec

  • Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

  • Canmore, Alberta

  • Calgary, Alberta

  • Prince Edward County, Ontario

  • Winnipeg, Manitoba

  • Québec City, Quebec

  • Cowichan Valley, British Columbia

  • Saanich, British Columbia

Rustic getaways are on the rise, including ranch retreats where travellers can "live out their western fantasies" at a vacation home rental, including in destinations like Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada. For a European variant, travellers are booking converted barns and farmhouses in the countryside of Italy, Spain, France and the U.K. More adventurous travellers are renting farmhouses in the Australian outback.