- Thirty-one percent of Americans are more interested in international travel than domestic travel, according to a recent survey by tourism market research firm Destination Analysts.
- Families are continuing to file a closed claim for two or three years as fears of Covid-19 fade and the last vestiges of pandemic-era border restrictions are eased.
- Asia-Pacific is attracting particularly strong interest, although European destinations also retain their popularity.
Americans are poised to travel overseas in a big way in 2023.
Families are continuing to file a closed claim for two or three years as fears of Covid-19 fade and the last vestiges of pandemic-era border restrictions are eased.
The U.S. dollar also remains relatively strong against currencies like the euro, hybrid work gives more flexibility for long trips and some airlines have added new long-haul routes to overseas destinations, according to travel experts.
“The travel industry is just becoming gangland,” said Erin Florio, executive editor of Condé Nast Traveler.
Why travel abroad is poised for a ‘big comeback’
Thirty-one percent of Americans are more interested in international travel than domestic travel, according to a recent survey by tourism market research firm Destination Analysts. That was a six-point increase from February and a higher level than last year, according to the survey, released in November.
Meanwhile, 62% of 2023 flight searches in the first week of December were for international destinations, up from 55% at the same time last year, according to a recent Hopper report. He named international travel among the top three trends for 2023, saying it is poised “for a big comeback.”
Searches on Kayak for flights abroad are up 1.3% from a year ago, according to company data through Dec. 18. Those for domestic flights fell 13%.
In 2022, the share of international trips for which Americans bought travel insurance was on par with 2019 levels, the first time that had happened in the pandemic era, according to data from online travel insurance marketplace Squaremouth. The trend has continued for trips booked for 2023.
American travelers mostly stayed within US borders in 2020 and 2021 amid health concerns and overseas Covid-related restrictions, such as testing requirements, mandatory quarantines or outright bans on foreign tourists. Visits to US national parks boomed and RV rentals soared as outdoor vacations offered the dual benefits of travel and relative virus safety.
Now, the fear of the virus has faded. In September, the share of travelers who are not worried about contracting Covid surpassed those who are, the first time that had happened in the pandemic era, according to Destination Analysts.
“There is a lot of demand for closed trips”
2022 was also a year for more major travel abroad – but a spike in virus cases from late 2021 and into the new year, fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant, dampened enthusiasm somewhat, experts said.
“There’s a lot of demand for indoor travel,” said Jessica Griscavage, a travel consultant and CEO of Runway Travel. “We missed the trips for two to three years.”
This trend of so-called “revenge travel”—a term recently coined to describe the ever-increasing libido—coincides with laxer health rules outside and inside.
The US lifted a Covid testing requirement for air travelers arriving from abroad in June. That rule, which also applied to US citizens, mandated a negative test within a day of the flight.
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Many countries had also completely closed their borders to foreign tourists. Now, most are welcoming visitors back – especially those with a Covid vaccine.
Fully vaccinated tourists can enter 197 countries without testing or quarantine for Covid-19, and another 16 are open but require testing, according to Kayak data.
“We’re almost at a place where we can go anywhere,” Florio said.
Only 12 countries, including China, Libya, Turkmenistan and Yemen, are still closed to vaccinated Americans, according to Kayak.
Many countries have more restrictions for the unvaccinated. About 69% of Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends that you be up-to-date on vaccinations before international travel.
Many nations — including Australia, Bhutan, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Morocco, New Zealand, the Philippines and Singapore — eased border closures in 2022. Many European countries also lifted testing requirements for Americans. (Travelers should consult the US State Department website for country-specific Covid restrictions.)
Additionally, the rise of pandemic-era remote work has made “bucket-list travel more of an attainable reality,” said Nitya Chambers, executive editor and senior vice president of content at Lonely Planet.
Indeed, Hopper found that 67% of commuters travel more often and 20% travel further due to the flexibility of remote work.
Where travel is growing the most
The Asia-Pacific region is poised for the biggest swell in 2023 due to its broad reopening in the second half of 2022, travel experts said.
Japan has seen perhaps the biggest increase in interest, they said. The country reopened its borders to travelers on October 11, with some restrictions remaining.
“You almost can’t talk about travel without mentioning the country of Japan for 2023,” Florio said, adding that Australia and New Zealand are also “massive”.
Asia has grown demand the most of all regions, according to Hopper data, which shows 27% of international flight searches are to Asian cities versus 19% last year.
Indeed, eight of the top 10 trending international flight destinations in early December were within Asia and Oceania, Hopper said. Tokyo; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Bangkok were the top three, with airfare averaging around $1,200 round-trip.
G Adventures, an international tour operator, has seen 2023 sales increase the most for Japan, Thailand and Vietnam, said managing director Ben Perlo. This November was an overall record month for the company; sales for the three Asian countries each exceeded their November 2019 figures, he said.
However, Europe remained the most popular destination in terms of overall volume, with European cities capturing a third of all international flight searches, about the same as in 2021, Hopper said.
Long-term rentals (those 28 days or more) have “become significantly more popular in Asia-Pacific compared to a year ago,” according to an AirBnb spokesperson. However, most long-term stays are in Europe and North America.
Major European hubs were among the most popular this year through September 30, according to Google Flights data. London ranks first, followed by Paris (No. 3), Rome (No. 6) and Lisbon (No. 9). Ho Chi Minh City was in second place, while other Asian cities such as Delhi and Mumbai also ranked high (No. 4 and 7, respectively).
Italy, the UK and France ranked first, third and fifth respectively among the top foreign destinations in 2023, according to a recent survey by Destination Analysts. (Canada, Mexico, and Japan ranked second, fourth, and sixth, respectively.)
“Everybody wants to go to Europe,” Griscavage said. “It was a destination that everyone missed during the pandemic.”
Because of the demand, people have become more “creative” about how to travel in Europe, she added. Many are opting for the typically less busy (and less expensive) shoulder season, perhaps in early March or late fall, Griscavage said.
Global travel demand has played out similarly, with the greatest interest directed to Europe and Asia, according to Expedia data. Edinburgh, Scotland and Sydney, Australia are ranked no. 1 and 6 in part due to major related events such as the Fringe, the world’s largest arts and media festival, and WorldPride, Expedia said.
Economic concerns, inflation ‘not stopping people’
However, this is not all to say that the journey is without headwinds. Value has been a particular concern for travelers whose budgets have been strained by high inflation. Overall prices for airline tickets and hotels have risen 36% and 3%, respectively, in the past year, according to the consumer price index.
International travel is poised to be more expensive next year, Hopper said, despite signals from the consumer price index that airfare, hotel and rental car prices have been trending downward in recent months. The desire to travel abroad has increased through 2022 despite these economic anxieties, Destination Analysts said.
The euro has been trading at historically weak levels against the US dollar, meaning Americans have been able to pick up bargains when booking travel to countries like France, Germany, Italy and Portugal. That dynamic is likely to drive at least some of the popularity, Perlo said. (However, the euro has strengthened slightly in recent weeks.)
“The economy right now and the prices are not stopping people from traveling,” Chambers said. “People have been home, they want to go back there, they have a list of things they want to experience and they’re doing it.”
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