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Americans Are Looking Forward to Traveling Abroad Again in 2023, with Asia and Europe Being Top Destinations

Americans are expected to travel overseas more in 2023 than in recent years.

December 25, 2022
15 minutes
minute read

Americans are expected to travel overseas more in 2023 than in recent years. This is due to a combination of factors, including a strong economy and an increase in the number of people with passports.

As Covid-19 fears wane and border restrictions ease, households are continuing to unleash pent-up demand that has built up over the last two or three years. This demand is driven by a desire for travel and experiences, as well as a need to catch up on missed opportunities from the pandemic.

According to travel experts, the U.S. dollar remains relatively strong versus currencies like the euro. Hybrid work yields more flexibility for big trips, and some airlines have added new long-haul routes to overseas destinations.

"The travel industry is booming," said Erin Florio, executive editor of Condé Nast Traveler.

A recent poll by tourism market research firm Destination Analysts found that 31% of Americans are more interested in international than domestic travel. This is a six-point increase from February and a year-to-date high.

Meanwhile, international travel is poised for a big comeback, with 62% of 2023 flight searches in the first week of December being for international destinations, up from 55% the same time last year, according to a recent Hopper report.

According to Kayak's data as of December 18, searches for flights abroad are up 1.3% compared to the same time last year. However, searches for domestic flights have decreased by 13%.

According to data from online travel insurance marketplace Squaremouth, in 2022 the share of international trips for which Americans bought travel insurance was on par with 2019 levels. This was the first time that had occurred in the pandemic era, and the trend has continued for trips booked for 2023.

U.S. travelers largely stayed within U.S. borders in 2020 and 2021 amid health concerns and overseas Covid-related restrictions such as testing requirements, mandatory quarantines or outright bans on foreign tourists. Visits to U.S. national parks boomed and RV rentals soared as outdoor vacations offered the dual benefits of travel and relative virus safety.

Now that the fear of the virus has subsided, more people are unconcerned about contracting it than those who are still concerned. This is the first time this has happened since the pandemic began, according to Destination Analysts.

2022 was also a year for more big trips abroad, but a spike in virus cases toward the end of 2021 and into the new year, fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant, somewhat dampened enthusiasm, experts said.

"There's a lot of pent-up travel demand," said Jessica Griscavage, a travel advisor and CEO of Runway Travel. "We missed out on travel for two to three years, and now people are eager to get back out there and explore."

The "revenge travel" trend, which has been coined to describe the growing desire to travel, coincides with looser health rules both abroad and at home. This trend has been driven by a pent-up desire to travel and explore new places, as well as a desire to take advantage of the loosening of restrictions.

The U.S. government has lifted the requirement for inbound air travelers from abroad to have a negative Covid test within a day of flying. This rule also applied to U.S. citizens.

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Many countries have now reopened their borders to foreign tourists, especially those who have been vaccinated against Covid-19. This is a welcome development after many months of travel restrictions.

According to Kayak data, fully vaccinated tourists can access 197 countries without Covid-19 testing or quarantine, and an additional 16 are open but require testing. This makes travel much easier and more accessible for those who are vaccinated.

Florio said that they are now at a point where they can go anywhere.

There are only 12 countries left that are closed to vaccinated Americans, including China, Libya, Turkmenistan, and Yemen, according to Kayak.

Many countries have more restrictions in place for the unvaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 69% of Americans are fully vaccinated. The CDC recommends being up to date on vaccines before international travel.

In 2022, many nations eased border closures, including Australia, Bhutan, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Morocco, New Zealand, the Philippines and Singapore. Many European nations also dropped testing requirements for Americans. (Travelers should consult the U.S. State Department website for country-specific Covid restrictions.)

The pandemic has made "bucket-list trips more of an achievable reality," said Nitya Chambers, executive editor and senior vice president of content at Lonely Planet. With more people working remotely, there is more opportunity to take advantage of travel opportunities that may have previously seemed out of reach.

Hopper found that 67% of travelers take more trips and 20% travel farther away when they have the flexibility of remote work. This flexibility allows people to travel when it is convenient for them, rather than being tied to a specific location.

The Asia-Pacific region is expected to see the biggest rebound in 2023, thanks to its broad reopening in the second half of 2022, according to travel experts.

There has been a significant increase in interest in travel to Japan since the country reopened its borders to travelers on October 11. Although there are still some restrictions in place, many people are eager to explore all that Japan has to offer.

According to Florio, Japan is set to be a major travel destination in 2023, with Australia and New Zealand also being popular choices.

According to Hopper data, Asia has seen the biggest surge in demand for international flights, with 27% of searches now going to Asian cities, up from 19% last year.

According to Hopper, eight of the top 10 trending international flight destinations in early December were within Asia and Oceania. Tokyo, Ho Chi Minh City, and Bangkok were the top three, with airfare averaging around $1,200 per round trip ticket.

G Adventures' managing director Ben Perlo has announced that the company has seen a significant increase in sales for Japan, Thailand and Vietnam in 2023. He stated that November was a record month for the company, with sales for the three Asian nations surpassing their November 2019 numbers.

According to Hopper, Europe has remained the most popular destination for international flights, with European cities capturing about a third of all searches. This is about the same as in 2021.

According to an AirBnb spokesperson, long-term rentals have become substantially more popular in Asia-Pacific compared to a year ago. Most long-term stays are in Europe and North America, though.

According to Google Flights data, some of the most popular destinations this year have been major European cities. London was the most searched, followed by Paris (No. 3), Rome (No. 6) and Lisbon (No. 9). Ho Chi Minh City was No. 2, while other Asian cities like Delhi and Mumbai also ranked highly (No. 4 and 7, respectively).

According to a recent poll by Destination Analysts, Italy, the UK and France are the top three foreign destinations for 2023. Canada, Mexico and Japan come in at second, fourth and sixth place respectively.

"Europe is a popular travel destination for many people," said Griscavage. "However, due to the pandemic, many people were unable to travel there.»

People are getting more creative in their travel plans to Europe due to the high demand, Griscavage said. Many are opting for the less busy and less costly shoulder season, which can start as early as March or end in the late fall. This allows them to enjoy their trip without the crowds and at a lower cost.

According to Expedia data, global demand for travel has played out similarly, with most interest directed at Europe and Asia. Edinburgh, Scotland, and Sydney, Australia, rank No. 1 and 6 partly due to respective major events like the Fringe, the world’s largest arts and media festival, and WorldPride.

Despite the many benefits of travel, there are some challenges that travelers face. One of the biggest concerns is value, as inflation has made it difficult to stick to a budget. According to the consumer price index, airline fares and hotel prices have increased by 36% and 3%, respectively, in the past year.

International travel is expected to be more expensive next year, according to Hopper. Despite signals from the consumer price index that airfare, hotel and rental car prices have been trending downward in recent months, the desire to travel abroad has swelled through 2022, said Destination Analysts.

The euro has been trading at historically weak levels against the U.S. dollar, meaning Americans have been able to get bargains when booking travel to countries like France, Germany, Italy and Portugal. That dynamic is likely driving at least part of the popularity, Perlo said. (The euro has strengthened a bit in recent weeks, though.)

Chambers said that people are still traveling despite the current economic conditions and rising prices. He explained that people have been cooped up at home for a while and now they want to get out and experience all the things they’ve been missing.

Eric Ng
Eric Ng
John Liu
Editorial Board
Bryan Curtis
Adan Harris
Managing Editor
Cathy Hills
Associate Editor

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