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Travel Outlook 2023: 1,500+ Travelers Respond to Indagare’s Survey

Indagare’s fourth annual Travel Sentiment Survey had the largest number of respondents yet (1,588 luxury travelers and members of the Indagare community). Where have they traveled to lately and which destinations are they dreaming about most in the year ahead? How are they feeling about everything from their greatest challenges to the quality of service at hotels, along with their thoughts on popular destinations and why they’re traveling. Here, we share all the highlights and insights we’re tracking to help you make sense of—and enhance—your travel experiences. #HowYouTravelMatters

The Takeaways: Top Trends to Know Now

Travel is Back! Along with bigger, longer epic trips... Plus: Reconnecting to people, places, personal passions and more.

When asked what they enjoyed most about traveling over the past year, 40 percent of those surveyed said being able to return to normalcy and the freedom of being able to travel again. One respondent was excited by the “Sense of rebirth of travel. Connecting with people and places I wasn't able to for the last few years.” Another reveled in “The sheer freedom of being on the road,” while other members of the Indagare community said recent travels had provided “A sense of refreshment” and “Being in a fresh space to break the cobwebs out of my world view.”

In terms of spending on travel for 2023, 56 percent of those surveyed in the Indagare community are planning to spend more (especially on airfare and hotels) on their overall annual travel budget, compared to last year.

A whopping 72 percent of luxury travelers we polled are also planning longer trips for 2023 compared to 2022, with the majority of those remaining saying trip length will remain the same (22 percent). Travelers we polled seemed most interested in taking trips of a lifetime or wish list trips (44 percent) and city trips (40 percent). Nearly 28 percent are very interested in trips of up to three weeks or more, proof that they are willing to invest in travel.

Additionally, 44 percent of those polled last month said they were interested in experiencing something new and seeking more exposure to arts and culture, while 28 percent sought relaxation and adventure (22 percent). Nearly one out of every five travelers who responded expressed interest in traveling for food & wine. Connecting with others was a top motivator for 17 percent of travelers, while another 11 percent planned to take family trips and to incorporate history and heritage into their experiences. (Interestingly, family trips were down considerably from last year, when they held the top spot as a main motivator for travel among our 2022 respondents, at 55 percent). Traveling for wellness/well-being this year clocked in at 16 percent. What we are seeing for 2023 is that there is more diversification among personal passions, as people are able to pursue them again.

“In the past year, I most enjoyed the opportunity to ‘check out’ from everyday life and get re-inspired by the world around me”

When it comes to the overall experience of travel over the past 12 months, however, travelers did not hold back in citing their frustrations about present conditions. “In 2022, nothing was as seamless as it used to be, and it felt as though I had to relearn my ‘tricks of the trade.’” Another said: “navigating the new unknowns, different rules and regulations of traveling” has gotten harder. Things are booking up faster and further in advance. Due to the higher volume of travel, there is also considerably less opportunity for last-minute bookings, so those who pivoted quickly right after covid are having to adjust. In some cases people are finding that service providers are working hard to welcome travelers back after three years without much tourism. In others, a new reality has taken hold: it’s “the tension that comes from never being quite sure whether things will work out.”

Some travelers were also surprised by the overcrowding they’re seeing once again in some destinations—especially in Europe: “It feels like everyone is going to the same places and everything is super crowded,” said one traveler. And that’s because they probably are: According to recent data from the UNWTO, more than 900 million tourists traveled internationally in 2022, double the number in 2021, with Europe reaching nearly 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

Air Travel

Flying lows—the airline and airport experience came up short. Booking windows, lost luggage and why carry-on is the only way to go.

Air travel has replaced covid as the top challenge facing travelers, according to 51 percent of those surveyed. One member of the Indagare community said “Aviation is a mess.” “Air travel! Completely broken system,” declared another. What came through loud and clear is that unpredictability and general operational shortfalls are considerable factors when it comes to flying now: “airlines and the entire sector have gone way downhill. Service is terrible—too many nos!” offered a respondent. Others said “airports/air travel are/can be a nightmare.” And “Airplane travel was the worst it’s been in a long while—the overall cattle-like experience is not relaxing.” Travelers also voiced related pain points, including airline cancellations, the lack of staff to operate schedules—and not to be forgotten, fear of lost luggage, an all too real occurrence for many.

To combat the latter, one respondent said she credited Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley’s signature packing tips—and to only pack carry-on—saying “Thanks to Indagare, I am now a carry-on plus Indagare tote girl from now on!” Another solution for one respondent was to avoid airport crowds altogether by opting to fly private: “Deciding to become a NetJets owner, rather than remaining a cardholder—best travel decision ever.”

Related: How to Pack for Summer in the Mediterranean with Melissa Biggs Bradley & Mytheresa on Thursday, April 6 at 12:00 p.m. ET. 

Those traveling in 2022 felt that flying was considerably worse than before the pandemic; challenges include flight delays, strikes, lack of staff in the right locations and flight reductions. Several travelers also mentioned the rising cost of flights and the significant increases in business class fares.

The Lowdown on Hotels

All booked up. (Not always) at your service? Rising rates all around.

Many of those responding felt some sticker shock about the rising costs of hotel rates—especially for the same hotel rooms and services as before covid. “Hotel prices are outrageous,” said one. “Some are justifiable, others are absurd. In some instances hotel prices doubled.”

Those traveling in 2022 also found that it was taking longer to find availability at hotels, especially in Europe, and, in popular destinations. As with flying, there were also indications that travelers are experiencing similar service shortfalls and staff shortages at hotels: “...the service is “not as consistent as before.” “Hotels and restaurants don't have enough staff to offer five-star service.” Another offered, in 2022 “unfortunately I’ve had a difficult time finding true five-star luxury hospitality.”

“It still feels like level of service in top hotels and airlines has not returned to pre-pandemic levels”

Many expressed disappointment that the quality of service has not returned to 2019 levels. One traveler commented: “Service throughout Europe is deplorable. Hotels are not as well-maintained as before.” Another said, there was “barebones service at luxury hotels, along with exorbitant resort fees. And they were particularly frustrated by the “extra nickel and dime charges at hotels that previously were great.”

On the brighter side, some respondents did see improvements in 2022, compared to right after covid: “Generally speaking, service isn't what it used to be and doesn't meet expectations. However, in some instances, it is far above expectations, as service providers work hard to welcome you back after three years without much tourism.” Another agreed and felt that they were seeing customer service improve drastically at five-star hotels. Ultimately, it looks like current travelers are willing to accept that it will take time for hotel service to fully recover, because just shy of 50 percent of those surveyed said that for the most part they were very satisfied with their hotel stays and service during their most recent trips.

Top Destinations

Overcrowding (again). Which destination is on top? Plus: Where travelers went and where they’re headed next, having a positive impact and more

What was the No. 1 wishlist destination mentioned by travelers we polled? Perhaps, unsurprisingly, Italy was on top again. Those also rounding out the list included France, Spain, England, Ireland, Scotland, Greece, Portugal, along with New Zealand and Australia, all destinations that have also seen a significant uptick in tourism in 2022, according to UNWTO. Travel to Africa was also high on our travelers' wishlists and we couldn’t be happier to see trips, including safaris across the continent, returning. According to UNWTO, international tourist arrivals have more than doubled compared to 2021 and Africa has recovered about 65 percent of their pre-pandemic visitors. We’re also pleased to see travelers pursuing trips to long-haul destinations again—especially given the new direct long-haul routes (Delta recently added a non-stop to Auckland from L.A. and Air New Zealand now flies direct from JFK). We’ve also been seeing the increasing popularity of our Insider Journeys as an option for travelers looking to pursue personal passions and less-trammeled destinations such as Antarctica, Jordan and Tunisia and points beyond. One in five of those polled said they would be very interested in a small group trip or Insider Journey with Indagare, and a number mentioned interest in solo and singles trips.

What was the No. 1 wishlist destination cited by travelers we polled? Perhaps, not shockingly, Italy was on top again. 

This year in the survey, we’re also happy to see that when it comes to sustainable travel, there is sustained interest (nearly one in four of those surveyed). And three quarters (75 percent) said they would be willing to spend more on their trip to guarantee carbon neutrality (30 percent would pay more than five percent additional cost; nearly 10 percent would pay more than 10 percent additional cost).

Our Outlook for 2023: The Road Ahead

Looking ahead, we’re glad to see it affirmed from our latest Travel Sentiment Survey that 2023 travel interest looks stronger than it did pre-Covid. Indagare has never had more custom trip reservations and Insider Journeys trips booked through June and into summer and even fall, confirming that enriching travel experiences are in high demand. We know there will continue to be challenges, and as we learned over the past three years, advance preparation and flexibility is still the best approach. We love hearing and sharing your opinions about the state of travel and are committed to our mission to help people enrich and improve their lives—and the world—through travel. And we are here, as always, to help you with all your travel needs and answer your questions as you plan your next journey.

Related: Your 2023 Travel Calendar: Where to Go & When to Book Your Trips

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer, if you are considering traveling in the coming months or you are looking for intel and advice on destinations.

About the Indagare 2023 Travel Sentiment Survey

Indagare’s annual Travel Sentiment Survey was conducted online for three weeks from February 7-28 to examine travelers’ current attitudes about luxury leisure travel. The survey contained 35 questions designed to identify the latest travel behaviors, concerns, domestic and international destinations of interest, the demand for future travel, along with trends in hotels, air travel, family and bucket list trips and much more. Two thirds (66 percent) of those in the survey were Subscribers, 20 percent were Members and 40 percent follow Indagare on Social Media. Of those participating in the survey, nearly one third (32 percent) of respondents were between the ages of 55 to 64 and 43 percent split almost evenly between 45 to 54 (20 percent) and 65 to 74 (24 percent). Two thirds (68 percent) were between the ages of 25 and 74. One third of those surveyed were from New York (18 percent) or California (15 percent). In addition, of those surveyed, 35 percent took on average three to four leisure trips in 2022, while 23 percent took five to six trips. Nearly 50 percent of those surveyed have been members of the Indagare community for four years or more and just over 20 percent for over two years or more.

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