At last! After more than two years of the pandemic, the borders have reopened, travel restrictions have eased, and a long-awaited “return to normal” for the tourism industry is on the horizon.
Already, in the first quarter of 2022, there were approximately 20 million more trips than at the same time in 2021 (Statistics Canada) It is expected that this number will continue to increase since nearly one-third of Quebecers are waiting until 2023 to resume their travel activities (Tourism Intelligence Network).
It is the emergence of a new normal that will shape the industry over the next few years. Consumer needs, habits and behaviours have changed dramatically after the upheaval of the pandemic. Among other things, people are increasingly looking for flexibility, discovery, and connection with themselves and others. In a nutshell, a bolder type of tourism is emerging.
Combining the insights of our travel marketing experts with the latest research on the subject, our team has put together the top eight travel trends to watch in 2023.
Caution and flexibility
After having to postpone or cancel many trips, people no longer want to experience unpleasant surprises. According to a recent Quebecor Expertise Media report on tourism trends, 63% of Canadians now favour companies that offer flexible cancellation policies.
Some people take advantage of these more flexible policies to do travel stacking, a new phenomenon that consists of booking two or even three trips at the same time to avoid being stranded if one of the trips has to be cancelled. For example, a person might plan a big trip abroad as well as a stay in Quebec in case it is no longer possible to leave the country. They will cancel her plan B a few days before departure—when they are sure they can leave.
However, there is also the opposite trend. With the pandemic making planning difficult and unpredictable, many people now prefer to book their getaways at the last minute. These two completely opposite behaviours nevertheless indicate a common need for caution and flexibility in travel preparation.
Catching up on lost time
People are ready to start travelling again, and their expectations are very high. In 2023, they will focus on adventures that allow them to live in the moment and enjoy unique experiences off the beaten path. Thirty-four percent of Quebecers say they want to feel euphoria and excitement on their next trips, and 31% want to try something new (Quebecor Expertise Media).
Private and semi-private experiences are popular, as are luxurious experiences. Indeed, after more than two years stuck at home, people have saved up and are ready to pull out their wallets for unforgettable moments. It is estimated that in 2020 alone, Quebec household savings increased by an average of $5,800 (Destination Canada)
These savings will allow people to treat themselves—something they have not done in a long time. According to the Quebecor Expertise Media report, 65% of Quebecers plan to invest in their next adventure (without looking at the numbers too much!) by adopting a “no regrets” approach. Even more compelling: 54% plan to spend more on their travels than before the pandemic.
Going loco for local travel
Despite the recovery in international travel, the appeal of local destinations is not waning. In fact, 48% of Quebecers say they want to explore their province more in the coming years, even if the borders are reopened (Tourism Intelligence Network). While some are doing this because of the uncertainty of travel restrictions, others simply have a renewed interest and pride in their local roots.
Many people are heading to the regions. In 2021, the most popular local destinations for Quebecers were Charlevoix (24%), Québec City (22%), the Laurentians (21%), the Eastern Townships (20%), and the Gaspé Peninsula (19%) (Quebecor Expertise Media). Gourmet tourism, agrotourism experiences and the great outdoors are particularly popular with this segment of travellers.
More adventurous snowbirds
Although the United States remains the top choice for snowbirds, a growing number of sun-seeking retirees are now venturing around the world for longer stays. Among the new popular destinations are several South American countries, such as Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica. Europe is also high on the list, especially Spain and Portugal.
This is due in part to the high cost of the U.S. dollar. The currency and cost of living in South America or the Caribbean allow snowbirds to travel longer and buy properties at a much better price. In addition, younger retirees, who are growing in number with the increase in baby boomer retirements since the start of the pandemic, prefer shorter, more active trips rich in adventure and experiences. They are also less likely to own a home or condo abroad, which does not tie them down to a single destination.
In 2025, the number of people aged 65 and over will represent 11% of the world’s population, and their annual international travel will double (Destination Canada). Make sure you reach this audience that has the time and means to travel!
Another category of travellers to watch out for: remote workers. Also called semi-tourists, these professionals enjoy workcations (a contraction of the words work and vacation), which consists of leaving for a stay that combines work and vacation days. They are mostly educated adults, between 25 to 34 and who earn a high salary. Most of them live in the Greater Montreal area, and one-third of them have children (Quebecor Expertise Media).
These semi-tourists are planning slower trips with longer stays. This is a trend that industry players are already noticing. For example, Airbnb noted that between July and September 2021, 20% of its revenue came from long stays (more than 28 days), which is a 68% increase over 2019 (Tourism Intelligence Network).
Several major hotel chains have even begun to offer packages and services for telecommuters, from discounted rates on long stays, fully equipped villas and apartments, workspace rentals, grocery delivery, and pet-friendly accommodations.
Some destinations also have visas and other programs in place to encourage telecommuters to move to their homes. This is the case in Costa Rica, which created a visa in 2021 that allows telecommuters to stay in the country for two years.
Everyone’s mental health has been strained during the pandemic. People are now looking for activities to recharge and put the stress of the past two years behind them. According to a recent survey conducted by American Express, 68% of respondents said they wanted to dedicate their next trip to their mental well-being.
Travellers will focus on activities that allow them to recharge their batteries, enjoy the present, and feel a sense of accomplishment. The definition of “wellness” experiences is very broad, and it is up to you to communicate how your offering fits into this trend. Consider offering relaxation activities, nature expeditions or meetings with local communities.
Outdoor activities, in general, are still very popular this year. The great outdoors and fresh air are the perfect remedies to past lockdowns! Eighty-two percent of Quebecers say they are spending more time in nature, and 37% of them are doing so more often than before the pandemic (Québecor Expertise Media).
There is a high demand for more physically demanding activities as well as more relaxing ones, such as swimming, bird watching or easy family hikes. There is also a craze for all types of unconventional nature accommodations, such as tree houses, pods, mini-cabins or domes that let you sleep under the stars.
Technological innovations have evolved dramatically during the pandemic. It is estimated that companies have accelerated the digitalization of their supply chains and customer interactions by three to four years ( McKinsey & Company ). The use of technology will continue to be critical in 2023, and in two areas in particular: marketing and customer service.
In recent years, the adoption of technology tools by travellers has allowed tourism companies to generate a wealth of data about their users. A gold mine of information that, if properly analyzed, will guide you in making informed decisions on your product development, marketing and pricing strategy.
If you want to take your business to the next level, turn to data sharing, where you pool your data with other companies to gain a more comprehensive understanding of your consumers’ behaviours. With the impending demise of third-party cookies, leveraging your first-party data will become essential to directly reach your audiences and deliver tailored experiences and messages.
Technology also appears to be a solution to the labour shortage. According to a study by the Transat Chair in Tourism, half of Quebecers who travelled in the province in the summer of 2021 encountered a problem caused by a lack of staff. The irritants that most affected their experience were a decrease in services offered, slow service, a reduction in opening hours, and a decrease in the quality of service.
If you’re affected by the labour shortage, we urge you to leverage digital tools to automate low-value tasks so your employees can fully focus on delivering highly personalized services and experiences.
The pandemic was a time of social awakening that changed the way we think about travel. Companies and tourists alike are increasingly aware of the impact of their activities on the environment and on local populations.
No less than two out of three Quebecers say they would be willing to change the way they travel if it would reduce their carbon footprint (Réseau veille tourisme). If, however, people are reluctant to pay more for environmentally friendly options, they would favour companies with more sustainable practices at the same price.
Another obstacle to sustainable tourism is the perception of a lack of options. If you are making efforts to limit your waste, reduce your GHG emissions, or protect the fauna and flora, it is essential to communicate it well. This is the added value that will distinguish you from your competitors.
Sustainable travel also takes into account the impacts of tourism on local populations. People are more and more interested in meeting them and supporting local businesses. We even talk about “regenerative travel,” a type of tourism designed to bring positive value to destinations on economic, socio-cultural and environmental aspects.