Country specialists from tailor-made tour operator Audley Travel have shared their insights into what clients are booking for 2023 and why, as well as their thoughts on other travel trends for the coming year.

Audley Travel

Celebratory travel is a key motivator for 2023

Sixty-three percent of Audley’s in-house country specialists recently cited milestone celebrations as a top motivator for clients booking 2023 trips, with many celebrations timed for a 51st birthday or 42nd anniversary, having missed the traditional milestone during the pandemic. Many clients are also determined to take a much-awaited bucket list trip, which 72 percent of specialists listed as a key reason driving bookings.

City centres as bases to explore an area

Audley’s clients continue to set aside budgets for their travel plans in order to make up for lost time since the pandemic but, due to the rising cost of living, many are keeping a closer eye on their spending than they did in the past. As a result, they are making some different decisions, for example, many are taking advantage of the greater availability (and competitive rates) of city accommodation as a result of the ongoing reduction in conference and business travel. City stays are therefore becoming a destination in their own right (rather than as a gateway to access popular sites). An example is Cape Town, where clients explore the city and take privately guided day trips to places such as the surrounding Winelands that are otherwise explored as part of a multi-day private tour. They then fly to a private reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park for a safari. 

Audley Travel

Rise in bookings for four- and five-generations

Audley’s specialists report several shifts in what clients are looking for as they return to travel – as an example, more space and private facilities are popular requests as clients book multigeneration family reunions or small group trips. The make-up of these groups has grown from the three-generation trips seen for many years, and Audley now has client bookings with up to five generations travelling together, often booking private hire properties.

A return to exploration-style travel, albeit slower

Following a couple of years with many clients either choosing to explore a single country on their trip or coupling a beach stay with local cultural touring, bookings for 2023 and beyond indicate a return to a more complex, exploration-style itinerary. Audley’s specialists report that these trips are typically slower than pre-pandemic, with clients staying longer in each of the destinations they visit.

Nature becoming luxury

Audley’s specialists report an increase in interest in accommodation designed with an outdoor focus.  Examples include eco-lodges in Southeast Asia or the upscale, safari-inspired accommodations from Under Canvas in the USA.

Electric vehicles enhance customers’ experiences

As well as the obvious environmental benefits of electric vehicles, Audley’s specialists are seeing many examples of an electric vehicle enhancing the customer’s experience at their destination. This could be reaching previously inaccessible places on an e-bike, or a near-silent safari drive or boat trip that takes the clients closer to the animals than ever before.

As an example, Green Safaris in Zambia offers electric game vehicles and e-bike safaris from Chisa Busanga camp, which is fully powered by solar.  Their ’Silent Safaris’ allow guests to enjoy a more intimate encounter with wildlife and the use of electric boats allowed one group to see, close up, a group of hippos mourning in a way that wouldn’t have been possible with the noise disturbance of a diesel-powered boat.

More than carbon offsetting

Travelling sustainably remains important to Audley’s clients. Audley firmly believes this commitment needs to be more than just carbon offsetting, with clients keen to book accommodation and experiences where they can be confident their presence will have a positive impact on local communities, wildlife, and the environment.

Where Audley’s clients are booking

Top destinations for 2023 travel are Canada, Japan, Costa Rica, India, and the USA (with Japan and India replacing Tanzania and the Maldives from the top 2022 destination list as borders reopened, and Canada, Costa Rica, and the USA remaining in the top five)). The average duration for 2023 bookings is 19 days, up 12 percent from 17 days in 2022. The average number of countries explored per trip has also increased to 1.47, up eight percent from 1.36 in 2022.

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