A strong start for new year bookings
Looking forward to January 2023

With recession well and truly here and news headlines increasingly gloomy, it’s easy to think that 2023 could be another rocky year for travel. UK consumers have less disposable income as inflation soars, interest rates continue to rise and heating bills are literally going through the roof, not to mention the fact that getting from A to B is becoming more difficult with Border Force strikes, rail strikes and the like.

Many consumers will have no choice but to cut the number and length of their holidays but it is exactly this prioritisation of spend that will provide an opportunity for travel organisations with the right strategy to take advantage of the market.

So far, many travel companies have not experienced the anticipated crunch in consumer spending, highlighted by Ryanair recently announcing it is expecting pre-exceptional after-tax profits for the year ending March 31 in the €1.325 billion - €1.425 billion range, after benefiting from better-than-expected travel and fares over the Christmas and New Year period.

So what can we really expect?

Leisure & corporate bookings

Travel Weekly reported on-trade sales, with Advantage Travel Partnership showing that bookings  were up 4% on the same period in 2019, with revenue 31% up. Top destinations included the Canaries, Greece and the US, with 32% of sales for departures within 12 weeks.

InteleTravel said revenue between December 25 and January 3 was 33% up on the same period last year, with average booking values up 32%.

Meanwhile, Four’s client Travel Counsellors has also reported that 87% of its customers have either booked or are planning to book a foreign holiday in 2023. Travel Counsellors corporate sales are also up 52% for November-December bookings compared to the same period in 2019.

Early indications show that consumers will not give up their holiday though they may change their budget, destination and booking lead-time but holidays will still be a key priority for Brits.

Four’s insights team research has shown that consumers have developed an increased fear of missing out (FOMO) and those who are interested in holidaying overseas who can afford it, are still looking to take that holiday of a lifetime.

So for this travel hungry crowd what are the key trends that are influencing today’s travel choices?

"Storyfication" or "set jetting" 

Recently identified by Conde Nast Traveller as well as luxury specialist Black Tomato, is the growing trend of “storyfication” or “set jetting” – both say that our love of film and TV will increasingly influence travel plans in 2023. Black Tomato has seen a 30% increase in interest for its narrative-based trips, which include its Take Me on a Story itineraries for younger families, where journeys are inspired by characters from children’s stories.

Recent data from Netflix revealed that 70% of programmes watched by a typical Netflix user were filmed in a foreign setting, and the locations of chosen programmes were frequently their favourite holiday spots. Expedia highlights set-jetting as the dominant trend for 2023 and says that it will be more influential than social media.

It seems that many have spent the last few years glued to the TV and now we want to get out and explore – good news for most of our clients both UK and overseas who have multiple claims to fame between them!

Health & wellness

In addition to set jetting, health and wellbeing continues to dominate. Expedia is saying that almost half (46%) of global travellers are more open to wellness breaks than ever before, but the quirkier the stay, the better. Alternative getaways include forest bathing and laughter therapy, which are becoming more popular than more conventional offerings.

Four’s market insights have identified the most common motivation to participate in a wellness holiday is reducing stress and the key purchase driver is enjoying new natural surroundings. While mental wellbeing is the leading motivator for seeking a wellness holiday – activity also includes physical pursuits.

Sustainability & responsible travel

Consumers are more aware than ever of their impact on the planet and increasingly conscious about spending with ethical businesses. Mintel research in 2022 highlighted that 75% of Brits want to do more to minimise their impact on the environment whilst travelling. While 28% stated that the environment is of a higher priority to them now compared to before the pandemic outbreak.

As a B Corp accredited company, Four is proud to work with clients that have some truly outstanding sustainable policies - from saving the African chameleon in Costa Navarino and being the first to use recycled nappies at Bluestone National Park Resort to promoting responsible travel through Costa Rica’s Pura Vida Pledge.

About Four

Four is an integrated marketing, media, PR and sales agency in the UK and Middle East. We work across sectors including travel and tourism.

If you want to find out more contact:

Rob Wilson, head of sales & marketing, travel rob.wilson@fourcommunications.com

Helen Coop, managing director, travel  helen.coop@fourcommunications.com