American Express Reveals The Latest Trends In Travel
Now that travel has returned to pre-pandemic levels, travelers are traveling around the world for new experiences. As a major force in facilitating these journeys, American Express conducts regular surveys to see how, where and why its cardholders travel. The results of American Express Travel’s 2023 Global Travel Trends Report were released yesterday and include detailed results from 8,000 respondents from around the world: 2,000 in the US, 1,000 each in Australia, Canada, India, Japan, Mexico and the UK, all with one Household income of $70,000+ and who travel by plane at least once a year.
Overall, the results show that travel continues to be on the up: 85% said they will take two or more vacation trips this year; 74% said a great travel experience is more important than cost; 78% said travel is a big budget priority. Where they are going, however, was divided between familiar choices and breaking new ground.
For 89% of respondents, “new” is definitely an operational term: they want to go to off-the-beaten-path destinations rather than the well-known tourist cities, really explore those destinations on a granular level, and support local communities. This is especially true for Gen-Z and Millennial respondents, who in greater numbers than other respondents express a desire to discover a new vacation spot before others do, to shop in small, local, authentic places when they are there, and experience the destination as the locals do.
Travelers who have decided to visit Sicily this year may have made their decision after watching the second season of The White Lotus, which showcases another trend called set jetting — flocking to places they love seen on screen, either on TV, in movies or on social media. Gen-Z and Millennials are also leaders in this category and are more likely to choose travel destinations they’ve seen in this media, particularly on Instagram and Tik Tok, and because of this see places they know they are in their own photos will look good on these platforms.
Wellness vacations have been, and continue to be, on the rise in recent years, not least due to pandemic-related stress. 88% of respondents said they are spending as much, if not more, for this vacation this year at hotels like Amanyara in Turks and Caicos, The Cape, A Thompson Hotel in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and One & Only Cape Town in this south African city. 75% swear they will unplug/put away their phones on vacation to improve their mental health, with many instead intending to engage in experiences such as exploring hiking/beach trails, visiting a private beach, and getting a massage/facial to contribute . 43% choose a hotel for its wellness facilities and 68% choose destinations surrounded by nature to improve their mental clarity.
Another trend that has been gaining ground and is continuing this year is choosing a vacation spot based on its culinary scene: 81% of respondents said that trying the local cuisine is the part of the trip that they feel most passionate about be happy. A smaller number – 37% – plan to visit a particular famous restaurant. Others lean more toward a pure, authentic, simpler dining experience, the kind of culinary journey that now more appeals to esteemed James Beard Award-winning Israeli-born chef Michael Solomonov, whose restaurants include Zahav in Philadelphia and Laser Wolf in Williamsburg , Brooklyn, belong.
“As I get older, the good memories I have that shape the way I think about food are not from Michelin rated restaurants but from the little places that opened up because they do, generations of people, who have been doing the same thing for a long time. You can taste the soul. I love that,” he says. He selects the southern Oregon coast, where he happened to stop at a Dungeness crab shack and ate crab with butter, which he describes as “I can’t remember ever eating anything that good.” Other unforgettable experiences include ceviche from one of the local spots in the village of Quepos, the town next to the resort he was staying at in Costa Rica, and vibrant granita from a cabin near a hiking trail on Italy’s Amalfi Coast surrounded by lemons, figs and olives.
Not that he totally ignores more serious restaurants, but he doesn’t generally make the pilgrimage to the most famous. He suggests looking at offerings in second-tier cities in the US, where the lower cost of living and diverse immigrant communities create a wealth of dining experiences, like Philadelphia’s excellent Vietnamese and Cambodian restaurants. And if you’re staying in a hotel, he offers this solid advice. “Instead of the restaurants they would normally recommend, I ask them where they and their families would go,” he says. “In a restaurant, do the same to the staff. Ask them what they would like to eat. Show that you really care about the food and are not impressed.”
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