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‘The excitement and desire to travel are back in full force’

Where are the best places to head to in 2023? Edel Corrigan hears from travel industry professionals

The pandemic certainly threw a spanner in the works of many people’s travel plans, and its impact still isn’t over yet, with markets like China not fully open. However, for those of us who are ready to head into the great unknown – or even the known – where are the best places to head to in 2023?

Covid impacts

While many sectors were impacted by lockdowns, the travel industry certainly took a harder hit than many. During such a tricky time for the industry, it was hard to see how it would recover, but now that countries have opened up again the demand for travel is booming. “Our post-pandemic recovery has been exceptional, and booking levels are well ahead of pre-pandemic levels,” says Michelle Anderson, marketing manager, TopFlight Travel Group.

“After a number of challenging years, demand is fantastic.

“To put it simply, the excitement and desire to travel are back in full force. Obviously, there was an initial apprehension about travel as the world reopened. However, at this stage, people simply want to get back to enjoying their holidays.


“Winter sports are a large part of our overall programme, and our customers are looking forward to this ski season where restrictions are very limited if there are any at all. Ski holidays are a great multi-generational holiday option and there is great excitement about introducing the little ones to the slopes for the first time.”

Caroline Quigley, general manager at Keith Prowse agrees. “Recovery in overseas travel has definitely gathered pace throughout 2022 and we see this trend continuing into 2023, evidenced by the new routes recently announced by the airlines and customer-driven demand. Demand for international travel has bounced back stronger and faster than we anticipated, and we are seeing a lot of pent-up energy for travel as we move into 2023.”

Luxury and long-haul travel

The trend seen in the luxury sector last year was a bounce back of people wanting to travel but not inclined to venture too far, says Brendan Breen, managing director at Oroko Travel. “In 2022, we sold a far greater proportion of holidays to Europe. This time last year, at the beginning of 2022, there were all kinds of restrictions in place which were often changing and there were annoying requirements in places like Austria and Germany. We had clients going on ski trips or winter sun trips and there was a lot of uncertainty – wondering if they should cancel or were the requirements changing. That’s gone completely. People aren’t thinking about that at all.

“For us, one year on, not only are people not thinking about their holiday not going ahead or worrying about Covid, but they’re also travelling long-haul. So, in the first half of 2022, we wouldn’t have had many long-haul holidays purchased. Most people were going to Italy, Greece, Croatia, and Portugal. Now, we see people booking a massive range of destinations – Bali, South Africa, and Argentina. It’s great.” Breen says that pretty much everywhere is open. Japan has even opened up without restrictions recently.”

Where to go?

Irish holidaymakers’ favourite destination in 2022 was the UK fuelled by an increase in those travelling for sports and theatre-related trips, according Quigley. “The UK theatre scene is very vibrant at the moment, with some fabulous productions on offer such as Tina Turner – The Musical, Pretty Woman, Back to the Future, The Lion King, and Abba Voyage at the Abba Arena.

“Prague, Budapest, Berlin, and Vienna were also good destinations for us in 2023 as the short-stay city break returned.”

Castellón, the most northerly province of the Valencian Community, and the second-most mountainous in Spain, offers a coastline with excellent beaches, stretching more than 120 kilometres of coast, adjacent to a diverse and natural interior which cannot fail to move the visitor, says Rubén López, managing director of the Spanish Tourist Office in Dublin. “Castellón is a province of contrasts. From the sparkling coastline to the historic inland and incredible landscapes, this slice of the region of Valencia has a great deal to explore.

“Wherever you look in the province of Castellón, you will find destinations that will take your breath away. From the coastline and inland to towns, cities and villages, there is something for every taste and mood.”

Breen says the old reliables such as Greece and Italy never fail. “There are so many different experiences that you can have travelling through those countries. In Greece: island hopping, sailing – and it’s great to combine with Athens.

“It’s lovely to go island-hopping Paros and Naxos. There’s such variety there that people will go back time and again.” He says the same applies to Italy – there are so many different types of experiences people can have, that they can return again and again and never grow tired.

Heading further afield

Long-haul destinations are becoming more popular, says Breen, with people booking in the last six months for travel next year. “As we go into 2023, we see families are keen to book long-haul. In almost all cases they wouldn’t have had a long-haul holiday in four years.

“We’re seeing a demand for family-based adventure destinations such as Costa Rica, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Vietnam, Bali and other parts of Indonesia. These are places where you can combine adventure stuff and also have a relaxation element to the trip.

“In Costa Rica, there are beaches, rainforests, and volcanoes. In Cape Town, there’s Boulder Beach where you can see penguins. Then you could do a couple of nights in the Winelands or go on safari.”

Breen says safari works for everyone age from seven-year-olds to 70-year-olds and beyond. “We’re seeing a trend for people [who] were much more likely to stay closer to home last year venturing farther ahead.”

Top Destinations to explore

Whether you’re looking for a quick weekend away or something farther flung, here are a range of destinations that are getting people excited in 2023.

Asturias, Spain

Asturias is home to various World Heritage sites which you can visit: the pre-Romanesque churches on the outskirts of Oviedo, the stretches of the St James Way that pass through the region, various prehistoric caves with cave paintings, the Holy Chamber of the Cathedral of Oviedo and the fountain of the Foncalada (these last two landmarks are in Oviedo). The three main cities in the region are Oviedo, Gijón and Avilés.

The Redes Natural Park is home to a spectacular waterfall – Tabayón del Mongayu – and the place where one of the oldest cheeses in Asturias is made: Casín, which has a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).

Castellón, Spain

Start in Vinaròs, a seaside destination defined by its paradise coves, historic centre and delicious gastronomy. Spend your time here gazing at beautiful views and breathing in sunsets from Paseo de Ribera, a walk lining the coastline that will take you to the cliffs. Don’t forget to sample the town’s most famous delicacy: langoustine. They are some of the best you’ll ever taste.

Alcalà de Xivert/Alcossebre is another beautiful destination. Nestled between the coast and the mountains, its unique positioning promises the best of both worlds: hiking through the Sierra de Irta mountains and lounging on wild beaches and coves, such as Cala Mundina and Cala Ribamar.

Peñíscola is a beautiful town and an absolute must-visit. The image of Castillo del Papa Luna jutting out into the sparkling seas of the Mediterranean will stay with you for a lifetime. Take a stroll through the winding streets of the historic centre and then while away the hours at dreamy beaches and coves.

Grossglockner, Krimml Waterfalls, Hohenwerfen Castle and The Liechtenstein Gorge, Austria

Austria is so much more than a ski destination all year round. This exciting holiday offers the best of an Austrian summer, all from the beautiful base of Zell am See. Experience some of the most naturally beautiful sites in the region, including majestic waterfalls, mighty glaciers, and drive the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, with jaw-dropping views of the highest mountain in the Alps.

Cape Town

In Cape Town you can see penguins and elephants – from Boulder Beach to a safari trip, there are many opportunities to see amazing animals in the wild. If you fancy it, you could do a couple of nights in the Winelands. Known for producing some of the world’s finest wines, it’s not just about the booze – it’s the experience, the scenery, the food and the accommodation, which often comprises boutique farms.

Edel Corrigan

Edel Corrigan is a contributor to The Irish Times