2023 travel trends: world's worst tourist attraction and long-haul holidays

A look at the new trends driving the travel and tourism industry

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Hollywood's 'walk of shame'

Hollywood Walk of Fame stars

Walk of Fame stars on the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street

(Image credit: Getty Images/Bob Riha, Jr.)

If you're heading abroad any time soon, said Alex Daniel on indy100.com, then "knowing what to avoid" is "just as important" as seeking out "must-see spots". Reusable storage container company Stasher has "put in the hard yards" by compiling a list of the internet's worst-rated tourist sites. Researching scores from Google reviews, quality of local accommodation, distance from the closest international airport, tourist safety and TikTok popularity, some of the entries on the list "might come as a surprise". 

Beating out "stiff competition" from the Grand Bazaar in Turkey, the Taj Mahal in India and Busch Gardens in Florida, said The Guardian, the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles was named as the world’s worst tourist attraction. The series of more than 2,700 stars, "each bearing the name of a legendary Hollywood luminary", have got "thousands of one-star reviews". With phrases like “smells like urine” cropping up in reviews, the "dirty stars" of Hollywood Boulevard "can be crossed off your travel itinerary". 

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Far East offers great value for long-haul holidays

The stunning Japanese covered bridge in Hoi An

The stunning Japanese covered bridge in Hoi An

(Image credit: Jui-Chi Chan/Alamy Stock Photo)

Offering "empty beaches" and "balmy weather" at "bargain prices", said The Telegraph, the Far East is a great destination for a winter-sun "holiday of dreams". The Post Office’s latest Long Haul Holiday Report has revealed that the strength of sterling against local currencies is making breaks more affordable in a number of "holiday hotspots". For the second year running, Hoi An in Vietnam offers the best value, with prices down 19.2% on 2022. Other Far East destinations on the list include Bali in Indonesia, Thailand's Phuket and the Japanese capital Tokyo. 

Passalacqua is the world's best hotel in 2023

Passalacqua on Lake Como in Italy

Passalacqua is located on the shores of Lake Como

(Image credit: Ruben Ortiz/The World's 50 Best Hotels)

The inaugural World's 50 Best Hotels list has been revealed, said Nikki Ekstein on Bloomberg, with Europe and Asia the "big winners" for 2023. At the awards ceremony in London on 19 September, the founders of the World's 50 Best Restaurants and Bars lists "crowned the world's best hotel for the first time" and Passalacqua in Moltrasio, Italy, took the coveted top spot. 

A luxury boutique hotel on the shores of Lake Como, Passalacqua opened its doors in June 2022. Set in an 18th-century villa, the former home of Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini, the property boasts "spectacular terraced gardens" and just 24 rooms, said The World's 50 Best Hotels. Showcasing the "finest Italian craftsmanship" in a "sumptuous riot of ornate Baroque elegance", this all comes together in a "sublime" retreat that makes the most of a "truly magical" lakefront location.

On the top 50 list, Europe received the most nominations (21), followed by Asia (18), North America (six), Africa (three), Oceania (one) and South America (one). Four hotels in Asia – Rosewood Hong Kong, Four Seasons Bangkok at Chao Phraya, The Upper House in Hong Kong, and Aman Tokyo – made up the top five. UK properties on the list include four in London – Claridge's (No.16), The Connaught (No.22), NoMad London (No.46) and The Savoy (No.47) – while Gleneagles in Scotland (No.32) and The Newt in Bruton, Somerset (No.37) also featured.  

'Holiday-moons': a time for celebration


Celebrate life-changing events with a holiday

(Image credit: Peera_stockfoto/Shutterstock )

Milestone events are "often celebrated" with a trip away, said Inspiring Travel. This trend has been termed "holiday-moons" and the company has "seen a rise" in the number of clients asking for help to celebrate their "life-changing" events. A "new-job moon", a "great way to make the most of your time between jobs", has had a 546% increase in online searches, according to Google Search Trends. Milestone "birthday moons", and in particular a 30th, seems to be "a growing theme", while "minimoons", shorter post-marriage trips, are "here to stay".

Of course, this very idea of marking milestones with a holiday is "not completely new", said Lizzie Thomson in Metro. It's existed "for years" in the form of honeymoons and, more recently, "babymoons", but experts have said that "more and more people are booking holidays to mark other life events now, too".

High times for cannabis tourism

Tourists at a legal cannabis shop in Pattaya, Thailand

Tourists at a legal cannabis shop in Pattaya, Thailand
(Image credit: Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock)

Traveller interest “remains high” for cannabis tourism, according to the summer edition of MMGY Travel Intelligence’s “Portrait of American Travelers” report. Examining the “behaviours and preferences” of more than 4,500 US adults, said Travel Pulse, the study found that more than a third of US travellers were interested in participating in a cannabis-related activity when on holiday. Meanwhile, 31% “voiced interest” in cannabis effects that could “complement and enhance their culinary experiences”.

The tourism sector and specific destinations have “reacted” to the demand for cannabis, hemp and CBD-related products by “designing experiences that include those elements”, said Michael O’Regan on The Conversation. They have also responded to the “expected economic potential” related to increased hotel occupancy, tax revenues, increased land values, business expansion, jobs and public health and safety benefits that “could be connected to cannabis sales”.

Most Asian nations have strict drug laws with harsh penalties, said Yucheng Tang of the Associated Press, but Thailand is enjoying “high times”. Its “de facto legalisation” of marijuana last year has brought in “a wave of tourists” from the region who are “intrigued by the lure of the forbidden leaf”.

Gap years are ‘back on the agenda’

Students want a ‘big adventure’ before starting university

Students want a ‘big adventure’ before starting university
(Image credit: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

Taking a gap year is “on the rise”, said Sian Griffiths in The Times, with more students than ever deferring starting university “in favour of a big adventure”. A record number of “adventure-hungry” British teenagers are “taking a year out” before university to travel the world over the next 12 months. According to the Universities and College Admissions Service, the latest data shows a nearly 10% “surge” in teenagers taking a year out before starting a degree course this autumn.

The gap year is “firmly back on the agenda”, said Natalie Paris in The Telegraph, and long-haul destinations are “once again within reach”. Travel company The Adventure People reported that it is selling “four to five times” more tours to Thailand, Vietnam and Australia than it did last year.

Slow travel and ‘taking your time’

Laos is a top destination for a slow travel trip

Laos is a top destination for a slow travel trip
(Image credit: akedesign/Shutterstock)

One trend that’s “resurfacing again” this year is “slow travel”, said Lizzie Thomson in Metro. An “antidote” to a “hurried mentality”, slow travel is “all about a more purposeful pace and considered attitude”. Essentially, it’s about “taking your time” and “soaking up what a place has to offer” – like a local, not a tourist.

In the wake of the “pandemic-driven rush” to travel, said Tsoku Maela on Getaway, many tourists are seeking destinations that offer a chance to “relish the joys of exploration without the overwhelming crowds”. Top places for a slow travel journey in 2023 include Laos, Greek’s Dodecanese Islands, Ghana, Milwaukee in the US state of Wisconsin, and Alberta in Canada.

‘Set-jetting’ to film locations

Trixie Motel in Palm Springs, California

Trixie Motel in Palm Springs, California
(Image credit: Visit California)

Following the huge success of the live-action “Barbie” movie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, “Barbiecore” has taken the internet by storm, said GlobeTrender. And the Visit California tourism board has jumped on the “Barbie” bandwagon by “showcasing locations that embody this picture perfect aesthetic, and are ideal stop-offs for a road trip”. “Barbie” fans can see the Golden State through “rose-coloured glasses” with visits to a range of “pink places”, including the Pink Rose Cafe in La Mesa and Trixie Motel in Palm Springs.

“Barbie” is not the only film that’s inspiring tours and holidays. According to MMGY NJF’s trends report, films such as “Indiana Jones” and “James Bond” are driving “major interest” for trips and there has “also been a rise” for destinations that are featured in video games.

How ‘Swiftonomics’ and ‘Beyflation’ are boosting tour destinations

Taylor Swift performing at SoFi Stadium in California

Taylor Swift performing at SoFi Stadium in California
(Image credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images/TAS Rights Management)

This years concert tours by Taylor Swift and Beyoncé have become “cultural phenomena” and are poised to “shatter real-world records”, said The New York Times. And host destinations are recording big profits too, as they reap the benefits of “Swiftonomics” and “Beyflation”. Swift’s “Eras” tour was forecast to top $1 billion in sales, and Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” tour could “gross even more” before wrapping up in October.

Survey company QuestionPro estimated that Swift’s concerts could generate some $4.6 billion in “economic activity in North America alone”, taking into account both stadium capacity and fans’ spending. Beyoncé’s shows were expected to “spur” $4.5 billion in spending.

The chance to see the singers perform live isn’t the only thing that has “motivated fans to open their wallets”, the paper added. They are staying in hotel rooms, buying “elaborate” outfits, spending on “flashy” manicures and attending sideline parties that are “generating business” and further boosting spending in host cities.

Teen holidays ruined by embarrassing dads

Dads really shouldn’t wear socks with sandals

Dads really shouldn’t wear socks with sandals
(Image credit: Mykola Komarovskyy/Shutterstock)

As many parents have learned, moody teenagers aren’t always the greatest travel companions. But maybe the youngsters have good reason to be grumpy? According to a new study, dads embarrass teens “up to 22 times” during a typical week-long family holiday, the Daily Express reported. The “most cringeworthy” offences include “telling bad jokes, dad-dancing, and complaining loudly”.

The easyJet Holidays survey of 1,000 teenagers also found that fathers leave them red-faced by “wearing socks with sandals, causing frisbee accidents, and constantly taking photos”.

Volunteering on safari in Kenya

Zebra and antelope in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley

Zebra and antelope in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley
(Image credit: Sam DCruz/Shutterstock)

Going on safari can be eye-wateringly expensive, but one way of keeping costs down is to go along as a volunteer, said Annabel Venning in The Mail on Sunday. Projects Abroad sends people all over the world to help on conservation, education and medical projects, including to Kenya, where you can sign up to their giraffe and lion programme. At Soysambu, a conservancy in the Great Rift Valley, you might spend blissful hours “de-snaring”, which involves combing the bush for the thin loops of wire that poachers use to catch unsuspecting zebra, antelope and warthog.

The land is “sensationally beautiful, with habitat ranging from arid scrub to lush forest”, and every day there is a “feast for the eyes”: bat-eared fox cubs and baby hyenas peeking out of their holes, zebra foals, jackal pups basking in the evening sun. You get to see amazing animals up close, as well as “make a little bit of a difference”; in sum: it’s a “safari with a soul”.

Sleep tourism: five-star snoozing

Take a ‘sacred nap’ at the Four Seasons Resort at Sayan in Bali

Take a ‘sacred nap’ at the Four Seasons Resort at Sayan in Bali
(Image credit: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts)

As travel trends go, it sounds pretty silly, but it “makes perfect sense when you consider the zeitgeist”, said Arwa Mahdawi in The Guardian. We live in “anxious times”, with “climate change to the right of us, a potential world war to the left”. Add the pressures of work, the demands of children, our addiction to screens, and many of us are struggling to get a decent night’s rest. With recent studies showing the benefits sleep brings for mental and physical health – potentially adding years to life – it has become such a “precious commodity” that luxury resorts around the world have invented a new concept to meet demand: “sleep tourism”.

The sleep facilities on offer range from “basic add-ons” to specialist multi-day programmes, said Alex Erdekian and Gilly Hopper in Condé Nast Traveller. At the Cadogan Hotel in London, guests receive a pillow menu and a “bedtime tea”, and can book in-room consultations with the “hypnotherapist and sleep expert” Malminder Gill. Clients at the SHA Wellness Clinic in Alicante sleep on Hogo mattresses that “remove oxidative stress” and “favour cell regeneration”, and can take a battery of tests, including CPAP diagnoses. In Ibiza, the Six Senses resort provides de-stressing massages and fitness classes in its week-long retreats. The Four Seasons Resort at Sayan in Bali recommends a “sacred nap” (taken in a silk hammock while listening to “the life story of Buddha as told by Ibu Fera”). And at StarStruck Glamping near the Big Bend National Park in Texas, it’s the “pristine sleeping conditions” that draw guests, including very low levels of noise and light pollution, and the “dazzling”, starry skies.

‘Champing’ is the new glamping

Champing at St Thomas’ Church in Friarmere, Lancashire

Champing at St Thomas’ Church in Friarmere, Lancashire
(Image credit: champing.co.uk)

Sleepovers in historic churches is “a rising trend”, said Sophie Dickinson in The Telegraph. Of course, staying the night in a place of worship is “nothing new” – people have been “finding refuge there for as long as they have existed”. But it’s “certainly experiencing something of a moment”. A trend which started in 2016, “champing” enjoyed a “bumper year” in 2022, with some 1,500 people joining this “historic practice”.

Champing.co.uk, which promotes “sleepovers with soul”, currently has 22 buildings listed on its website, which are available from March to October. At many of the churches, champers can “order a breakfast hamper to the church door”, or hire “huge bundles of bedding for colder nights”. Toilets, “it’s worth noting”, are “usually of the composting variety” – and there is “rarely any heating at all”.

Tiger-spotting in India

A male Bengal tiger in Bandhavgarh, India

A male Bengal tiger in Bandhavgarh, India
(Image credit: Avalon.red/Alamy Stock Photo)

This year is the 50th anniversary of India’s Project Tiger, launched in 1973 to save the big cat from extinction. At that point, there were 1,827 tigers left in the wild in India, down from 40,000 in 1900. Today, there are 3,167 – so the project has not been a huge success, said Chris Haslam in The Sunday Times, but it has made a difference.

The presence of humans in tiger reserves has been much reduced, by relocating villagers and banning tourists in many areas. As a result, your chances of spotting a tiger are limited. To maximise them, go in March or April (when foliage is sparse), and take at least five game drives in Bandhavgarh, Satpura, Kanha, Pench or Panna national parks. My advice: go with the aim of seeing their other wonderful wildlife, and regard any tiger sightings as a bonus and a blessing.

Tea bags are the must-pack essential for Brits

Tea bags

Don’t forget to pack your favourite brew
(Image credit: urbanbuzz/Alamy Stock Photo )

British tourists love to take their “creature comforts” away with them on holidays, said Iwan Stone in the Daily Mail, and according to a survey by M&S Bank tea bags are top of the packing list. A poll of 2,000 people found that 43% like to take “a box of their favourite brew with them whenever they go abroad”, while other essential items included slippers (36%), coffee (35%), anti-bacterial spray (30%) and their own pillow (25%).

The study also found that some British holidaymakers “almost always forget” some “obvious things” when heading off into the sunset, with suncream (21%), phone charger (20%), sunglasses (20%), travel adaptors (17%) and toiletries (17%) all making the list.

All-inclusive is 'in vogue'

Cocktails at an all-inclusive resort

Millennials and Gen Z are jumping on the all-inclusive ‘bandwagon’
(Image credit: Eugen Haag/Alamy Stock Photo)

The popularity of all-inclusive packages has “been on the rise”, said Miles Holder in Fault Magazine, and it’s not just grandparents who are “opting for these hassle-free vacations”. Seeking the “ultimate combination” of luxury, convenience and value, Millennials and Gen Z are now “jumping on the bandwagon”. The trend has gained “such momentum” that all-inclusive content on platforms like TikTok and Instagram are “skyrocketing”, showcasing the “appeal and experiences offered by these comprehensive vacation packages”.

British Airways Holidays (BAH) agreed that the all-inclusive is becoming popular among the younger travellers. BAH’s first travel trends report found that a “new generation of consumers” are “discovering and embracing” the concept and data shows that younger generations “now consider them as their favourite holiday type, firmly pushing it back in vogue”. According to the report 41% of Millennials plan to take an all-inclusive holiday in 2023, “more than any other generation”.

City tours with a difference

Exchange Square in Manchester

Exchange Square in Manchester
(Image credit: Trabantos/Shutterstock)

If you live in a big city, you probably think you know quite a lot about it already, but on a tour with Invisible Cities you might learn more, said Hannah Al-Othman in The Times. This social enterprise trains people with experience of homelessness to become local guides.

In Manchester, for instance, Stephen Agnew shares an “encyclopaedic” knowledge of local history in the two-hour walks he leads, from the story of James Sadler, who made a balloon ascent in 1785 accompanied by a cat, to “macabre” tales about the Bengal Tigers, a Victorian street gang. But equally “fascinating” are the first-person accounts he weaves in, including memories of his first night sleeping rough, aged ten, in Angel Meadow, and of the IRA bombing in June 1996. Founded in Edinburgh, Invisible Cities operates in six cities.

Live and ‘work’ on a cruise ship for three years

The 400-cabin MV Gemini

The 400-cabin MV Gemini
(Image credit: Life at Sea Cruises)

A cruise line is aiming to attract “digital nomads” with a 135-country, round-the-world trip that takes three years to complete. Priced from $98,994 (£80,350) for a standard inside cabin, passengers will get full-board accommodation on a ship that has been remodelled with remote workers in mind. As well as the usual cruise features, it will have offices, meeting rooms and full Wi-Fi. Life at Sea Cruises said demand has been unprecedented, with the newly retired also proving particularly keen.

The trip onboard MV Gemini will depart from Istanbul in Turkey on 1 November 2023 and the ship will cover “more than 130,000 miles over the three years”, said CNN. The company is promising to “tick off 375 ports” around the world and even slots in trips to 103 “tropical islands”.

Back-to-basics and going off-grid

Cooking over a campfire in a woodland in Kent, UK

Campfire cuisine will be a big travel trend in 2023
(Image credit: Karolina Krasuska/Alamy Stock Photo)

If 2022 was about the “triumphant return of travel”, then 2023 will be “creatively reimagining it amidst the chaos”, said Booking.com. The digital travel platform commissioned a study of more than 24,000 travellers across 32 countries and territories – and almost half (44%) want their travelling experiences to have a more “back-to-basics feel”; 55% are looking for “off-grid” style holidays to escape from reality; and 44% want to switch off and experience life with “only the bare necessities”. “Camouflaged cabins, campfire cuisine and compasses; going off-grid will never be more sought after than in 2023.”

Revival of Europe’s ancient ‘superhighway’

Tourists walking along the Appian Way, a historical road and tourist attraction in Rome, Italy

Tourists walking along the Appian Way in Rome, Italy
(Image credit: Christine Wehrmeier/Alamy Stock Photo)

National Geographic Traveller’s “Best of the World” list for 2023 was split into five categories: adventure, culture, nature, family and community. A total of 35 destinations were picked out for this year and top of the cultural list was the Appian Way in Italy. The revival of Europe’s ancient “superhighway” is a “pilgrimage route through history”, said the travel magazine. The road is “undergoing a renaissance” as the Italian government seeks to “retrace, uncover and restore the ancient cobblestones, transforming the Appia into a walkable route for modern travellers”.

Exploring the metaverse

Singapore smart city

A virtual view of Singapore
(Image credit: tcharts/Alamy Stock Photo)

In the coming years, the metaverse will take traveller engagement “to the next level”, said travel technology firm Amadeus in its 2023 trends reports. “It’s travel, but not as we know it.” Tourists will be able to enjoy deeper cultural experiences in an online world, exploring virtual concerts and exhibitions. The technology also offers enormous potential for pre-trip assistance and the opportunity to “try before you buy”, creating further wanderlust and excitement. This will become increasingly popular as a way to trial higher-priced items such as luxury cruise holidays.

Immerse yourself in nature

Explore the surrounding landscape

Explore the surrounding landscape
(Image credit: Adam Major/Shutterstock)

An increasing number of hotels and other places to stay are “putting nature and the environment at the forefront of your experience”, said Audley Travel in its trends forecast for 2023. The Oxfordshire-based travel company is seeing “more and more” hotels designed “imaginatively around a landscape’s natural features”. And many offer activities that let you explore the surrounding landscape, such as hiking, biking and kayaking. “Hotels are also working hard to be more eco-friendly, not just in terms of protecting their environments, but in striving to train and employ local people.”

The rise of e-bike holidays

E-biking in the Zillertal Alps

E-biking in the Zillertal Alps
(Image credit: Mauritius Images/Alamy Stock Photo)

Offering a “winning compromise” between effort and reward, e-bike holidays have been increasing in popularity and “we think they’re going to be big for 2023”, said activity and adventure holidays company Exodus Travels. “E-bikes provide all the benefits of a normal bike – but with the added bonus of a battery-powered pedal assist electric switch that makes light work of long rides and hard ascents.”

Deferred payment plans and longer bookings

Istanbul is one of the lowest ‘cost per night’ destinations for hotels

Istanbul is one of the lowest ‘cost per night’ destinations for hotels
(Image credit: lastminute.com )

The rising cost of living has seemingly had an impact in terms of “how and when consumers pay for their holidays”, said lastminute.com. According to the online travel platform’s data, more travellers are looking to spread out costs over a longer period, with “68% of forward bookings for 2023 choosing a deferred payment plan”.

Despite concerns over the cost-of-living crisis, lastminute.com saw a higher spend and longer holidays from UK consumers in 2022, suggesting that “travel is an expenditure that many aren’t willing to sacrifice”. For 2023 city break bookings, longer stay (four to seven nights) share is at 40% vs. 31% in 2019, whereas historically three-night stays have been most popular. For sun and beach bookings, seven nights continues to be the largest cluster, but eight or more night stays have increased in terms of share by 11% for 2023 vs. 2019.

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