“Flexcations,” Experiences Drive Travel Demand in 2023: Expedia

The desire for activities and experiences is a top priority among decision-makers when it comes to booking travel. That, plus other trends like “flexcations,” consumer savings and (forgive us) pent-up demand, are reassuring signs that travel will have a robust year in 2023, according to Expedia Group’s 2023 Q1 “Traveler Insights Report.”

Traveler Confidence on the Rise

In all, travel search volume was up 10 percent year-over-year in Q4 2022. Traveler confidence also appears to be on the rise, with many booking further out. During the last quarter last year, 35 percent of all searches were for travel in 2023—a 55 percent increase from 2021 (for 2022 travel). Search share for the 61- to 90-day window were up nearly 15 percent globally, with double-digit growth among North American travelers.

On the domestic side, it’s a tale of two stories: On one hand, the majority of all domestic travel searches fell within in the zero- to 30-day booking window, while domestic searches for the 180-plus window increased nearly 35 percent quarter-over-quarter, driven by North American travelers. Internationally, travelers are booking further out. International search share growth in the 61- to 90-day window grew by 20 percent in North America during Q4, while the 31- to 60-day window grew by more than 10 percent.

Cities, Warm-Weather Destinations Reign Supreme

The top 10 most-booked destinations for North American travelers shouldn’t be too much of a surprise (as more domestic travel is booked than international). What’s to note, however, is the return to city escapes post-pandemic. The list goes: New York; Las Vegas; Orlando; Cancun, Mexico; Los Angeles; Chicago; Miami; London, England; Honolulu; and San Francisco. “Winter sun” destinations were also popular among Americans (who were enduring winter in Q4): Searches from the U.S. for Puerto Rico and the Bahamas increased by 35 and 20 percent, respectively. Other trending search destinations for U.S. travelers during Q4 included Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico

Miami's Ocean Drive Art Deco buildings
Miami checks both the "city" and "warm weather" boxes for American travelers. (Photo by pawel.gaul/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Elsewhere, Asia Pacific search volumes up more than 50 percent year-over-year, signaling positive responses to travel restrictions easing in various countries. China, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan all saw early search volumes increases in Q4.

Growing Interest in “Flexcations,” Experiences

As flexible work options remain for many companies around the world, “blended” or “flexcation” travel—a longer stay that mixes remote work and play—is on the rise. Insights from Expedia Group’s “Traveler Value Index 2023” study back up this theme, showing that 28 percent of consumers are looking to take a flexcation trip in the next 12 months.

Flight data also shows that, on average, travelers are taking longer trips year-over-year, which can be supported by the ability to work remotely. This is particularly true for North American travelers, whose average length of stay in Q4 2022 was 10 percent longer than in Q4 2021.

In addition, just as activities and experiences were some of the top priorities and decision-drivers for travelers pre-pandemic, their importance is on the rise again. From culinary-first travel to wellness retreats and off-the-beaten-path adventures, experiences are influencing trip decisions. That said, for many travelers—especially those experiencing post-holiday burnout—this can also mean experiencing nothing. The “nothing-cation” is where warm weather, relaxing and recharging are the main attractions. In fact, a separate recent survey by Expedia found that 96 percent of U.S. travelers want to spend part of their next vacation doing nothing. 

Good to know: Despite the high intention to travel in 2023, travelers’ spending behaviors are expected to evolve, pointing to the growing importance of price and value. According to the 2023 research, low pricing is a leading factor when booking all elements of a trip for nearly one out of every three travelers. Putting the emphasis on value will continue to be important, not only in pricing but also in demonstrating and delivering offers, perks and traveler experiences.

Source: Expedia Group

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