2023 travel trends
We reveal insider hotspots for this year, plus expert predictions on the way travel continues to shift to be more off-grid, educational and sustainable
Looking for where to travel in 2023? Travel expert Sarah Barrell shares her advice on hot regional destinations and holiday inspiration for the year ahead. Check out our January travel picks, foodie city breaks and boutique hotels for food lovers.
For more travel trends, read our wellness travel trends for 2023, or take a deep dive into 2023's coffee trends, drinks trends and food trends. We also have our podcast where olive columnist Gurd Loyal explores 10 hot food and drink trends for 2023.
Top travel trends for 2023
Regional travel: destination deep-dives
From the seafood of Sweden's wild west coast to Normandy's cider, calvados and pommeau producers, travellers are increasingly choosing destinations that offer culinary experiences tied to rich regional cultures. Food travel has become a way for rural and often remote regions to protect their unique culinary identity, with the chance to resurrect heritage products for a new market, subsidise farming with agri-tourism and make food production sustainable.
Seventy four percent of travellers are willing to pay more to travel sustainably if they know exactly where their money is going, according to a recent survey by travel network, Virtuoso, noting that travellers are increasingly seeking out companies and experiences that focus on “benefitting local people and the economy” and “preserving natural and cultural heritage”.
olive tips: Take a deeper dive into regional cuisine with our guides to West Sweden, Torres Strait and Andalusia.
Numerous travel companies including Expedia and Audley, expect the city break to be back in 2023 (after a pandemic hiatus), but many travellers will use urban centres as bases to explore surrounding regions, inspiring longer stays than the traditional weekend away.
Audley flags Cape Town as a prime example, with clients keen to take day tours to the surrounding Winelands and satellite trips to places like Greater Kruger National Park for safari. We're singling out the Spanish city of Cadiz for its tapas bars and surrounding sherry region, now home to Iris, the new seaside venue hosted by José Pizarro where guests can explore this area of Andalusia with specialist culinary tours and exclusive cookery experiences.
olive tips: Take a UK city break using our foodie guides.
Kyūshū: a focus on regional Japan
Japan is back on the map, with its borders recently opening to independent travellers. Fuelling the recent boom in bookings to the country, is a rising interest in regional travel. Specialists such as Walk Japan and Inside Japan Tours are offering a growing number of trips exploring places far-flung from familiar Tokyo and Kyoto. Popular spots include Kyūshū, the southernmost of the Japan's central islands. The new Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen now connects the vibrant Kyūshū's city of Nagasaki to Japan’s vast bullet train network while Fukuoka, at the northern tip, is the island's largest city, home of myriad food markets, nightly hawker stalls, and Hakata, the world-renowned ramen in a tonkotsu pork bone broth with thin wheat noodles.
Kyūshū's rich food culture is anchored in organic farming including prized Japanese brown cattle and kurobuta pork from Kagoshima. And don't miss the sweet treats of the 'Sugar Road', a culinary trail through Saga and Nagasaki where you can pick up sweet sushi, made from Kyūshū's abundant sugar and rice plantations.
olive tips: Check out our Kyoto guide and learn about Japanese izakaya on our podcast.
Asturias: remote northwest Spain gets new links
With new Ryanair flights connecting Stansted and Dublin to Asturias Airport (OVD), the most rural, remote region of Green Spain gains more presence on the travel map. And with ferries running from Portsmouth and Plymouth to Santander, it's a destination that also has appeal to no-fly travellers. One of Spain's most distinctive, if under-explored, food regions, Asturias' almost Irish-green pastures, pristine Atlantic coast and fertile farmland produce some of the most prized delicacies on the Iberian Peninsula, from aged Asturian Valley beef to sea urchins and umami-punchy mountain cheeses.
A regional tour could take in everything from a traditional fabada pork and bean stew at a rustic guesthouse in the towering Picos de Europa mountains, to a pitu de Caleya con arroz (cider-braised chicken with rice) at the two-Michelin-starred Casa Marcial, headed up by chef Nacho Manzano, and a pungent truckle of Cabrales, the raw blue-veined star of Asturias' vast cheese firmament. Visit Fundacion Cabrales in Arenas de Cabrales for an informative English-language tours through a Cabrales cheese cave.
olive tips: Learn all about Asturian cuisine with our guide from Casa Marcial's Nacho Manzano.
It's all liquid: specialist drinks tours
Gin tours, whiskey experiences and adventurous trips to visit the world's key coffee-producing regions: culinary travel is travel is increasingly focused on authentic libations. Spirited Stories is introducing four new small-group tours in Ireland, Kentucky, Burgundy and Tuscany for 2023 as part of its growing wine and spirit-led travel offering. These itineraries combine guided tastings, mixology masterclasses and special dining experiences. And the new tour operator (from travel innovator DHARMA), has also launched ten new global itineraries for this year partnering with some of the world's most notable wine and spirits brands, including Absolut vodka in Sweden, Jameson whiskey in Ireland and Perrier-Jouët champagne in France. Meanwhile, for lovers of the amber stuff, 2022 launch British Beer Breaks offers up inspiration for travels on home turf, with tons of tips on good places to drink beer en route, from craft to CAMRA and beyond.
olive tips: We've found some excellent UK gin experiences to try as well as whiskey adventures across the globe.
Viticultural travel: wine tourism gets more adventurous
The first international Alpine wine festival took place last summer in the Swiss mountain town of Verbier, catering to a growing interest in the world's lesser-known wine regions. The now-annual event aims to shine a spotlight on the vineyards that thrive in six 'Alpine arc' regions, in the Alto Adige (Italy, Switzerland), Savoie (France), Ticino (Switzerland), Graubünden (Switzerland) and the Aoste Valley (Italy), with tastings, food pairings, chef events and masterclasses. Wine lovers are increasingly looking for tours in such spectacular, if unexpected, settings. Among them, Brazil's Valley of the Vineyards in the southern Serra Gaúcha region, is a rustic, verdant terroir that takes a backseat to the famed beaches and Amazon destinations to the north. Visit terracotta-roofed tasting rooms where sparkling whites and earthy pinot noirs and merlots are fast-gaining accolades.
olive guide: Book a vineyard tour and holiday with our pick of UK vineyard breaks and European vineyard breaks.
Plant power: the growth of green gastrotourism
With more people aiming to eat local and go plant-based, food has become a key driver for sustainable tourism. Veganism’s Green Star is certainly rising with Michelin creating the eponymous category in 2020 to award restaurants that excel in ‘sustainable gastronomy practices’ – and its list of notable plant-based venues has more than doubled since launch. And the inventory of high-end hotels whose signature restaurant has gone plant-based is now seemingly endless, catering to the growing number of people who see veganism as a lifestyle choice that can be healthy, eco-conscious and also luxurious. A recent opening, in late 2022: Gramen at Lefay Resort & SPA overlooking Lake Garda offers gourmet vegan food with Mediterranean Italian dishes focused on fresh, seasonal, often raw food, much of which is taken from the Therapeutic Garden surrounding the restaurant.
Meanwhile, pioneering carbon-neutral Intrepid Travel has upped its culinary offering, with its Real Food Adventures now including Vegan Food Adventures, both focused on high-experience, low-impact tours in destinations including India, Italy and Thailand. And entire countries are getting the green gastrotourism bug, with Slovenia's countrywide Green Scheme (noting eco-friendly tourism venues) now including the Slovenia Green Gourmet Route, an 11-day, 10-destination food trail where cyclists can explore the country's lakes and mountains refuelling in Michelin-starred and sustainable restaurants en route. While nationwide 'api experiences' explore Slovenia's buzzing beekeeping tradition and honey makers.
olive tips: We found some exciting vegan hotspots in our January travel picks, or check out our vegan restaurants guide.
Go off-grid: cabins and campfire cuisine
Eco-treehouses, camouflaged cabins, posh bothies and plenty of campfire cuisine – going off-grid became the hot ticket for travellers seeking freedom amid pandemic restrictions and the trend shows no sign of abating. The 2023 travel report from Booking.com noted 'most travellers' (55%) are looking for off-grid style vacations to escape from reality. Almost half (44%) want their travel experiences to have a more back-to-basics feel, while 58% are interested in learning survival skills including how to source clean water (53%) and light a fire from scratch (42%). Expedia has seen a spike in travellers seeking 'hidden gems' — unassuming locales, unfamiliar places and beautiful rural landscapes where they can get away from the trappings of urban life. And off-grid doesn't have to mean bare basics. Quite the contrary. Seek out the most exquisite unplugged places to stay — and indulge in locally grown, sourced or foraged food — via companies such as Canopy and Stars, One Off Places, Further Afield, Unplugged Rest and Travelling Whale.
olive tips: Go off-grid at one of these cool cabins that food lovers will love.
Get hands-on: travel to learn
The rise-and-rise of so-called 'experiential travel' shows no signs of slowing. In fact, our lockdown love of learning — from virtual cooking classes to webcast wine tastings — has been released into the real world to grow apace, with a booming number of travellers realising that the best souvenir to bring home is a new skill, a transformative experience or a new connection made with communities far and wide. And food travel is a huge driver, with every luxury hotel worth its organic kitchen garden now offering specialist culinary courses, be it getting involved in the olive harvest in the Peloponnese on the Greek mainland, learning how the fruit goes from tree to bottle, making ricotta from scratch at an Italian Palazzo in Puglia or even taking masterclasses in making traditional momo dumplings at Six Senses Bhutan, in the Himalayan kingdom that only recently reopened its borders, post-pandemic, to international travellers.
olive tips: Take a foraging break or get back to the land in these hands-on experiences.
Wellness travel: get active, get outdoors
Trail running, mountain hiking, cold water therapy and yoga with everything including SUP: wellness travel is no longer about simply checking into a spa. From the new annual Arc'teryx Mountain Academy in Chamonix, launched in 2022 where you can learn alpinist skills, to trail running festivals specially designed for women, health and wellness travel is all about getting into the great outdoors to train and soothe your body, while enjoying healthy food as nutritional fuel. Spa hotels have embraced the trend, offering more outdoors focused treatments — from meditation in an Alpine meadow to mindfulness hikes and wild swimming sessions, choosing local sustainable ingredients for both treatments in the spa and treats in the restaurant.
Meanwhile, Expedia's latest Travel Trends report notes that 2023 will be the year of 'no-normal' with 'new wave wellness' travel focused on alternative getaways such as sylvotherapy (forest bathing), food bootcamps and fruit harvesting increasingly more popular than classic cookery courses or meditation sessions.
Wellness travel today, it seems, is all about feeding mind, body and soul which, according to On The Beach includes making sure you get your dose of 'dopamine destinations' — places that boost the feel-good factor via high-contrast colours and qualities that stimulate all the senses, with colourful jasmine-perfumed coastal Morocco and sun-soaked blue-and-white Greek island villages rating highly.
olive tips: Take a look out some of the best healthy holidays for food lovers.
Push boundaries: travel longer, explore further
2023 will be the year where we push traditional travel boundaries, visiting multiple destinations in one trip, or add leisure time to business travels: more experience for less carbon-emitting flights. Luxury travel company Black Tomato, for one, has reported a 94% increase in enquiries for multi-centre travel (comparing 2019 to 2022), saying its clients want to "lean into the spirit of curiosity" requesting "the kind of ‘golden-age touring’ that takes some inspiration from the early spirit of travel and exploration – and is more intrepid in nature."
And food is front-and-centre, with travellers wanting to dig deeper, prioritising authenticity, seeking out the origins and provenance of products. As Black Tomato says: "less market tours, more cultural insight." This could be, say, basing yourself in one of the barefoot luxury beach resorts around Mexico's Puerta Vallarta while doing a deep-dive into the tequila and mezcal regions of Jalisco, Nayarit and Michoacán just inland from the Pacific coast. Or learning about the production of coffee and chocolate, visiting the booming number of sustainable planters and growers in neighbouring Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
olive tips: Learn about the cuisines of Peru, Taiwan and Iceland with our in-depth cuisine guides.
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