While patterns of travel behaviour are becoming less erratic, it remains challenging to gauge how OutThere travellers will behave in 2023. In our quantitative research, for example, we saw a much more even spread across responses, as opposed to clear-cut answers. While there is undoubtedly an insatiable demand for travel, it seems that OutThere travellers will be far more spontaneous, savvy and perhaps even gratuitous in the way they approach their travels. These are some notable takeouts:
Travel is a firm spending priority (especially for the wealthy) in 2023
87% of OutThere travellers have said that travel will be a ‘high’ (43%) or ‘very high’ (44%) priority this year; a 7% increase as compared to last year. This demonstrates increased confidence and an appetite for travel. Despite continued uncertainty in 2022, 92% of OutThere travellers travelled internationally. These respondents have unanimously stated that the cost-of-living crisis or economic uncertainty will not affect their travel spend. However, we have noted from this data that there is a correlation to wealth. Of these respondents, those in the highest income or household wealth bracket see travel as a ‘very high’ priority, whereas others see it as a ‘high’ priority.
It seems that the wealthy will continue to travel indiscriminately. Of the wealthiest of OutThere respondents, 61% plan to ‘spend more on travel’ in 2023, to ‘upgrade the quality of their experience’, or ‘go further’ and ‘travel deeper’ … an increase of 8% as compared to last year. This means that this already high-spending traveller will have an even greater economic impact and is looking to expand their travel horizons in 2023.
Both long-haul and domestic travel are on the up
83% of OutThere travellers will travel ‘long-haul’ in 2023. They are planning to take four international leisure trips on average this year, a volume increase of one trip as compared to last year’s research. This is still below the pre-pandemic average of five trips per year. For OutThere travellers, it seems domestic holidays are here to stay, contrary to what the industry in the mainstream is reporting. Last year, OutThere travellers took two more domestic trips than they had done in previous years and our research shows that they intend to do the same this year.
The renaissance for travel experts continues
This year, 66% OutThere travellers will book their travel with a recommended travel advisor or tour operator, a staggering increase of 29% since 2019. We had anticipated that as the challenges and restrictions of the pandemic subsided, people would steadily return to self-booking, but were pleasantly surprised to find that they will continue booking with travel advisors having experienced the benefits of doing so over the last couple of years.
In addition, 88% of OutThere travellers will seek their inspiration from trusted commentators and mediums – websites, print mediums and specialist blogs being the ultimate source, now outperforming social media and influencer-led activity that had burgeoned in recent years. They are looking to those who can demonstrate a comprehensive understanding and moreover have an opinion of the state of travel today. 64% are looking to be led by travel experts on their choice of destination or travel provider, over proactively researching or picking one for themselves … a significant behavioural lean to the supply side.
Travel better, savvier, further and deeper
OutThere travellers are overwhelmingly looking to ‘increase the value of their holidays’. Value in this case does not mean price, deal or offer-seeking. Instead, these OutThere travellers seek to reprioritise their spending on experiences that allow them to ‘go further’ and ‘travel deeper.’ In essence, they will spend the same amount of money (or in some cases, more), but they are looking for more bang – better experiences – for their buck.
They are also looking for a greater ‘spirit of generosity’ from their travel providers: meaning those who can go the extra mile, personalise the experience, and deliver added perks, amenities and little surprises, will see a competitive advantage when working with these travellers. In addition, they are still looking for things that came as standard during the pandemic to remain: flexibility, greater hand-holding and dedicated customer service being important examples.
OutThere travellers will also be increasing the duration of their trips on average to between 7-10 nights. In previous years, the average stay was 5-7 nights. It seems that they are planning to travel for longer and perhaps also less frequently, making bigger journeys to allow them to ‘travel further’ and ‘go deeper’.
While there may be some correlation, we do not feel that this is just due to the sustainability-driven needs of those who want to ‘travel less, stay longer’ that we have been hearing a lot about in the industry. This is more based on hedonism-driven travel and an appetite for better experiences, stemming from a desire for self-indulgence. Also, in an era of more flexible working conditions and self-defined business hours, OutThere travellers feel empowered to make much more of their holiday time. This presents an opportunity for destinations and travel providers to engage travellers better and get them more invested in the destination during their stay. It also provides destinations and travel providers that neighbour popular OutThere destinations the chance to draw in travellers who traditionally would only consider a single-destination vacation into booking a multi-destination trip.
A more spontaneous traveller
36% of OutThere travellers have already booked one holiday in 2023, departing in the first 3 months of the year. A further 38% plan to book before March 2023, for a holiday departing in the following 3 months of 2023.
There is still a great level of spontaneity in the market. 42% have said that their booking window will be within a month of departure (a 7% increase from last year), with another 41% within three months of departure. We do expect this behaviour to change as the year goes on, as travellers find availability more challenging as more international visitors re-enter the market. At the start of last year, OutThere travellers were mostly looking to book their trips for year-end. The good news is that they are now looking to book more evenly across the year, albeit closer to the date of travel than before.
Each year we ask our respondents to choose which of the six OutThere traveller types they identify as most. It’s a barometer and indicator of the sort of travel they seek to do this year. Culture, hedonism and escapism came out on top for 2023.
1. Culturalist (25%)
2= Hedonist (20%)
2= Escapist (20%)
4. Adventurer (15%)
5. Sophisticate (12%)
6. Insider (8%)
1. Culturalist (25%)
2. Sophisticate (19%)
3. Adventurer (17%)
4. Insider (15%)
5. Escapist (13%)
6. Hedonist (11%)
Photography by Charl Marais on location in Cape Town, for OutThere’s Captivating Cape Town Issue