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The Outlook for Travel in 2023

Trying to predict the near future of an industry that is so dependent on external factors is

Doug Cooke

like looking into a slightly foggy crystal ball. What you are able to see can paint a promising picture, but those fuzzy images in the ball can have a major, unexpected impact. The travel industry learned this lesson the hard way in 2020. After a record year for most sectors of the travel industry in 2019, industry pundits were predicting another banner year in 2020. Well, we know what happened next. Within 3 months of the new year, travel virtually shut down for the better part of a year. Now 2019 is being used as a barometer of a recovered and healthy travel industry.


I recently returned from the annual USTOA (United States Tour Operator Association) Conference, where I had the chance to speak with many tour operators and industry suppliers. The good news is that most travel industry suppliers are reporting 2022 sales that came close to, or surpassed, those of 2019. 


“By the close of 2022, USTOA tour operator members report a recovery in sales of 87% from 2019, which is remarkable,” said Terry Dale, president & CEO of USTOA. “Given the unprecedented challenges of the past two years, the numbers align with the reality of what the global travel industry is facing.” 


Now, to be fair, many of those sales were paid for with FTC’s (future travel credits) that travelers had from postponed vacations in 2020 and 2021. However, most of those FTC’s have now been used and record levels of bookings are being reported for 2023. All a very good sign.


There are several factors which could potentially slow the recovery as well: inflation and rising interest rates have left consumers with less disposable income, continuing spikes in Covid levels could potentially deter some travelers, and staffing shortages continue to plague most sectors of the travel industry. However, even these factors have not affected the very optimistic outlook of most travel suppliers.


Trending Hot Spots for Travel in 2023

According to USTOA’s annual member survey, Italy was named the most popular destination for travelers in 2023. The top 10 “hot” destinations also included Greece, which ranked second, followed by France, United Kingdom, Iceland, Egypt, Spain, Portugal, Jordan, Japan, Maldives, and Ireland. 


Active Members identified their top 10 off-the-beaten path or emerging destinations that they see gaining popularity in 2023: Iceland ranked first, Egypt ranked second, followed by Croatia, Colombia, Norway, Antarctica, Portugal, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, and South Africa. 


All in all, 2023 is shaping up to be a strong year for travel. I would like to wish all of our Travel Advisor readers a Happy New Year and a Prosperous 2023!

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