“The year 2023 marks a significant milestone as many destinations and travel businesses are still focused on recovering from the impact of Covid-19,” the company stated. “While the speed of recovery varies by region, it is expected to be complete by the end of 2024 – even for countries that recently lifted travel restrictions.”
Consequently, ForwardKeys said that destinations are now ‘turning their attention to pre-pandemic issues such as determining the type of tourism, destination, and purposes that they want to promote’. However, it added that ‘the context in which these questions are asked has changed’ due to ‘geopolitical events, technological advancements, and concerns about sustainability’.
Urban tourism and a wider range of destinations
ForwardKeys found that urban destinations became more popular in 2023, with a year-on-year growth rate of 52 per cent. This growth is outpacing that of ‘sun and beach’ destinations, which demonstrated a 26 per cent growth rate over the same period.
This trend is part of a broader shift in the types of destinations that tourists are choosing to travel to, as travellers become more adventurous. While in 2022, the Caribbean and southern Europe were the most popular destinations – reflecting a pent-up demand for beach holidays as Covid-19 travel restrictions ended – in 2023, new popular destinations have emerged.
While the Dominican Republic, Greece, and Mexico all maintain high positions, new destinations have gained popularity, with the Middle East and Africa being ‘particularly well represented among the high performers’ in the past year.
The rising popularity of Columbia was also noted. The country has now surpassed 2019 levels for international tourist arrivals by five per cent, marking a return to growth, and ‘considerable outperformance’ compared with its South American peers. ForwardKeys attributed the growth to the country’s ‘improving reputation for tourist safety, paired with relatively high affordability, and substantial connectivity improvements’.
Family and luxury travel
Family group travel – in which three to five passengers travel together – has increased in popularity in recent years, showing the fastest post-pandemic recovery compared with 2019 figures across all regions. This is particularly true in the Americas, where it has already surpassed 2019 levels.
Additionally, ForwardKeys reported that couples’ travel was the second most resilient segment in every region, and was only slightly behind family group travel in terms of popularity in Asia-Pacific and the Americas.
Luxury travel has also seen a rapid recovery compared with other travel options in some regions – particularly in Asia-Pacific. This can in part be attributed to the ‘revenge travel’ phenomenon. However, even in regions such as Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East where that phase has passed, demand for premium cabin classes shows a stronger recovery compared with economy seats.
This suggests that there is still significant numbers of passengers willing to pay more for high-end travel experiences, despite ongoing concerns about the cost of living.
While the intense heatwaves, wildfires, and flooding that affected much of the northern hemisphere in the summer of 2023 did not have a significant impact on travel patterns, ForwardKeys said it expects the effects of climate change to have a long-term effect on travel preferences in the future.
It stated that ‘as temperatures rise, summer demand for hotter destinations is likely to decrease, while cooler regions will become more appealing to travellers’.
InsureMyTrip recently released its own report on the travel habits of policyholders across four different generations.