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Travel trends for 2023: Back to the slopes, long haul destinations and more

Jillian Godsil predicts what destinations will be popular and how people’s travel habits have changed post-pandemic

If 2022 was the year of the staycation then 2023 seems poised to be the year of the great return to holidays abroad. The travel industry is finally enjoying a renewed energy and agents are busy booking new holidays rather than trying to unravel cancelled ones. People are again beginning to appreciate the usefulness of booking through an agency or tour operator in case something goes wrong; while pandemics are hopefully few and far between, in case of any calamities occurring, having a professional to successfully sort out refunds can smooth out the process.

Within this renewed holiday frenzy, a sage observation is to book early. Every travel professional I speak to says the same thing: prices are going up not down and discounts will typically only be found by the early birds. Like the Chinese proverb that suggests the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the best time to book your 2023 holiday was probably last year. However it’s not too late to get organised and in the cold depths of winter, making summer plans is the perfect way to inject some cheer into the chilly evenings.

Back to the slopes

The Irish discovered skiing en masse during the 2000s, as underlined by Aldi and Lidl salopettes specials dotting the green runs across Europe. While relatively late to the ski party, the nation adopted it with passion.

As the pistes open up again, ski fans are looking to catch up on lost years and Michelle Anderson of Topflight is noticing huge interest in European destinations such as Austria.


“The Irish have an affiliation with Austria where they love the village atmospheres and shorter transfers, especially when travelling with children. For those who missed out on the past number of years, they are very keen to introduce their children to a ski holiday. Whatever else people are compromising on, it’s not this family holiday.”

Anderson also notes that insurance is a must for adventure sports holidays. “As with all insurance you hope that you never have to make a claim. The risk level is too high to travel without adequate insurance.”

Long haul destinations

Brendan Breen, managing director of Oroko, is also witnessing the return of the activity holiday and he encounters many families looking for boutique sailing holidays or adventure safaris.

“Last year Europe opened up, but for 2023 we see huge interest in long haul and we’re selling lots of holidays in Africa, Asia, Central America, [the] Middle East, even Japan which opened fully there recently,” he says.

Oroko tailors bespoke luxury holidays to suit its customers but Breen is keen to point out they also offer value as demanded by the customers, and encourages people to book early to get the better prices.

“We are taking bookings for Costa Rica, to Egypt, from Vietnam to Indonesia, from South Africa to Tanzania and Zanzibar and even Antarctica.”

Oroko is selling adventure or experience holidays such as safaris to multi-generational families, who enjoy the opportunity to blend activities with relaxation. As Breen explains: “Whether you are eight years of age or 80, you’ll enjoy it just as much.”

Solo travel

The Travel Department organises fully escorted, coach touring holidays covering about 176 different destinations from short hauls in Europe to longer trips to exotic destinations such as India. The tours come complete with guides, organised excursions and all details are managed for the holidaymakers.

Claire Doherty, product and operations director with the Travel Department, outlines her typical customers.

“Our demographic tends to be a little older and can suit solo travellers who like to holiday in a group. About 35 per cent of our customers would be solo.”

As the world opens up, Doherty has noticed a number of interesting trends developing post pandemic.

“For one, train journeys have become more popular as people see it as both greener and more open. People can move around on a train as well as enjoy the passing scenery.”

Another push has been for river cruises. The little sister to the big seagoing affairs, these boutique offerings appeal to people wishing to enjoy multiple stops and destinations without the crowding associated with cruise liners.

“People can do their own thing. Post pandemic we also find walking holidays have skyrocketed in popularity.”

Perennial favourites

Irish people are also flocking back to their old favourites including the ever-popular Spain. Rubén López, managing director of the Spanish Tourism Office in Dublin, welcomes the return of Irish tourists.

“If 2022 was the year of tourism recovery for Spain, then our Irish visitors are the fastest growing of all overseas holiday makers with an increase of 23 per cent from pre-pandemic figures,” he notes.

Spain continues to be the number one destination for the Irish market and according to López, its market share is 90 per cent higher than the next three destinations combined (France, Italy and Portugal). Popular destinations in Spain include Catalonia and the Balearic Islands followed by Valencia and the Canary Islands.

Event and entertainment trips

Keith Prowse is a niche theatre, theme parks, sports and short-break specialist, offering a wide variety of entertainment tickets from London musicals to Broadway in New York, from premiership soccer and Wimbledon, to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Caroline Quigley of Keith Prowse finds her customers tend to book closer to the event-led holidays on her books.

“When they see a special offer, they jump on it. We are taking a lot of bookings now for the February and Easter school holidays. Legoland Windsor and the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London are both popular destinations for these travel periods.

“However, we would always recommend booking tickets for attractions, and Harry Potter in particular, as early as possible as attractions such as these tend to sell out quickly.”

Another reason for booking early, aside from discounts, is to get the appropriate accommodation.

“We cater for a lot of families, and they often need interconnecting or adjoining rooms when travelling with younger or indeed older family members. Most hotels have limited availability of family rooms, so people need to book early,” says Breen.

“And in addition, much of the pleasure in going on holiday is in the anticipation so the longer the build-up the better the fun.”

Jillian Godsil

Jillian Godsil is a contributor to The Irish Times