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Exploring 2023: New trends top Leisure Travel

Halfway through 2023 and there is a continued resurgence of Leisure Travel, coupled with an array of new trends that reflect the desires and priorities of modern travellers.

Austria is # 4 among the safest holiday destinations
Top trends in Leisure Travel: Austria is among the popular leisure travel destination

The world of leisure travel finds itself at an interesting crossroads. Gone are the days when travel was simply about the destination. Today, it’s an intricate mix of experiences, innovations, and changing traveller expectations.

From eco-conscious getaways to immersive digital escapades, the landscape of exploration is being redefined, with boundaries expanding further than ever before. Here are the top shifts in leisure travel, and discover how 2023 is rewriting the traveller’s tale, one transformative trend at a time.

Let’s delve into some of the hottest travel trends this year:

Sustainable Tourism

With an increasing global emphasis on environmental preservation, travellers are more conscious about their ecological footprint. Many are opting for eco-friendly accommodations, engaging in voluntourism, and selecting destinations committed to conservation efforts. This has led to a surge in eco-resorts, biodegradable travel products, and even travel itineraries that benefit local habitats.

Trans Bhutan Trail - Mebartsho in Tang Bumthang
Top trends in Leisure Travel: Trans Bhutan Trail – Mebartsho in Tang Bumthang

One can witness the commitment to sustainable tourism in practices like Costa Rica’s eco-lodges, which emphasize harmony with the surrounding rainforest while offering tourists a unique connection to nature. Similarly, in Bhutan, a country known for measuring Gross National Happiness over GDP, the government strictly controls tourism numbers to ensure minimal environmental and cultural impact.

The Galápagos Islands have taken a similar approach, imposing strict visitor limits to protect its unique biodiversity. Meanwhile, community-based tourism initiatives in places like Thailand empower local villages by allowing them to share their way of life with visitors, ensuring that the revenue generated benefits the community directly.

Across the globe, from the ancient pathways of the Camino de Santiago in Spain to the national parks of Kenya, sustainable tourism practices are not only preserving precious ecosystems and cultures but also providing richer, more authentic experiences for travellers.

Digital Detox Retreats

The ‘always connected’ lifestyle has spurred a new kind of vacation – digital detox retreats. These are travel experiences that encourage visitors to unplug from their digital devices, offering them a genuine break from the virtual world. Such retreats might be found in remote areas without Wi-Fi or even in dedicated resorts with no-screen policies.

Top trends in Leisure Travel: Meditation at Prana at Atmantan Wellness Centre

Nestled in the serene landscapes of California’s Big Sur, Esalen Institute offers retreats that encourage visitors to unplug, connect with nature, and delve deep into holistic wellness practices. Over in the UK, the idyllic countryside serves as the backdrop for retreats where attendees surrender their devices upon arrival, replacing screen time with nature walks and meditation.

Meanwhile, the remote forests of Scandinavia have become sanctuaries for those seeking a respite from the digital world, with lodges emphasizing mindfulness practices and deep connections with the natural world. Tucked away in the lush foothills of the Himalayas, Vana Retreat in Dehradun provides the ideal setting for a digital detox experience. Vana is founded on the philosophy of holistic wellness which goes beyond just physical health, encompassing mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. The retreat offers Ayurvedic treatments, Tibetan healing, and traditional yoga sessions in their 21-acre estate.

These retreats spread across different continents, share a common purpose: to provide harried souls a chance to disconnect from the digital realm and reconnect with themselves and the world around them.

Hyper-local Experiences

Today’s travellers seek genuine, immersive experiences. Rather than just sightseeing, they want to dive deep into local cultures, learn indigenous crafts, enjoy traditional music, and taste authentic cuisines. Many tour operators now collaborate directly with local communities to offer these enriching experiences, ensuring that travel revenues also benefit local economies.

In the winding alleys of Marrakech, Morocco, travellers can participate in traditional cooking classes with local families, using ingredients sourced from neighbourhood markets to prepare age-old recipes.

Over in Tuscany, Italy, agriturismo stays offer tourists a taste of rustic farm life, complete with vineyard tours, homemade wine tastings, and meals prepared with fresh produce from the garden. Meanwhile, in Kyoto, Japan, local artisans open their workshops to share the intricate processes behind crafts like Kiyomizu pottery or Nishijin weaving.

Kutch rann utsav in Gujarat India
Top trends in Leisure Travel: Kutch rann utsav in Gujarat India

In the vast salt desert of the Kutch region in Gujarat in India lies the spectacle of the Rann Utsav. This cultural festival is a celebration of the region’s heritage, art, music and dances. Guests stay in traditional “Bhunga” huts, which are circular mud huts adorned with local crafts and enjoy folk performances under the moonlit sky, taste the authentic Kutchi cuisine, and immerse themselves in handicraft workshops led by local artisans. The highlight is undoubtedly the surreal white expanse of the salt desert, which glistens under the full moon, creating an awesome experience.

Such hyper-local experiences allow travellers to immerse themselves deeply into a destination’s culture and lifestyle, moving beyond typical sightseeing to form genuine connections with places and people.

Space Tourism

As futuristic as it sounds, 2023 has seen significant advancements in space tourism. Companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX have laid the groundwork, making suborbital flights more accessible to civilians. The allure of seeing Earth from space has made this an incredibly sought-after, albeit premium, travel experience.

Top trends in Leisure Travel: SpaceTourists. image courtesy Christian Frei Switzerland via Wikipedia Commons
Top trends in Leisure Travel: SpaceTourists. image courtesy Christian Frei Switzerland via Wikipedia Commons

Pioneers like SpaceX are making strides towards commercial spaceflights, with plans to ferry civilians on orbital jaunts around the Earth. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, after years of anticipation, has already taken private passengers on suborbital voyages, offering them breathtaking views of Earth against the vastness of space.

Meanwhile, Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos, has successfully launched missions giving travellers a few minutes of weightlessness in space before a parachute-assisted landing. Beyond just flights, visionary projects propose lunar resorts in the near future, where guests can experience the moon’s barren landscapes firsthand. As technology continues to advance and costs begin to decrease, the dream of space tourism is moving closer to becoming an attainable adventure for many.

Slow Travel

The rush of ticking off destinations from a bucket list is fading. In its place, ‘slow travel’ is emerging, where travellers spend more extended periods in one location, deeply exploring and understanding its essence. This approach is more sustainable and allows for a deeper connection to a destination.

Slow travel is a movement that urges travellers to slow down and immerse themselves deeply into their chosen destinations. In the picturesque countryside of France, many opt for canal boating, where days are spent meandering through gentle waterways, punctuated by leisurely stops at quaint villages.

In Spain, the Camino de Santiago offers a time-honoured pilgrimage route, where the journey itself, often undertaken on foot, becomes as significant as the destination. Italy’s Tuscany region, with its rolling hills and vineyards, invites travellers to stay in rustic villas, savouring local wines, and adopting the leisurely pace of rural life.

And on the Trans-Siberian Railway, the landscapes of Russia unfold gradually, allowing passengers the time to absorb and reflect upon the vast terrains and cultures they traverse.

Darjeeling Toy Train
Top trends in Leisure Travel: Darjeeling Toy Train

In India, chugging along the picturesque slopes of the Eastern Himalayas, the Toy Train of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway offers a unique slow travel experience. Established in the 1880s, this UNESCO World Heritage site takes travellers on a nostalgic journey through vistas of terraced tea gardens, dense forests, and majestic peaks. With frequent stops at quaint stations, the journey allows one to immerse in the region’s colonial charm, interact with locals, and appreciate the slower rhythms of mountain life.

In each of these instances, slow travel champions the idea of connection over mere consumption, prioritizing experiences over checklists.

Flexible Workcations

With remote work becoming the norm for many, combining work and vacations – termed ‘workcations’ – is on the rise. Travellers are booking longer stays in destinations with robust Wi-Fi and serene environments, blending the line between leisure and work.

Bali, Indonesia
Top trends in Leisure Travel: Bali, Indonesia

Bali, with its idyllic beaches and co-working spaces, has become a haven for digital nomads seeking to balance work with surf sessions and yoga retreats. Over in the bustling streets of Chiang Mai, Thailand, professionals set up temporary bases in cafes, benefiting from the city’s rich culture and affordable living costs after office hours.

The Portuguese town of Ericeira, recognized as a World Surfing Reserve, sees a melding of business meetings and wave-catching, all in a day’s work. And in the mountainous backdrop of Medellín, Colombia, remote workers find inspiration amidst the city’s verdant landscapes, punctuating work hours with trips to local markets or nearby coffee plantations. These destinations exemplify the allure of workcations, enabling professionals to seamlessly blend productivity with exploration and leisure.

Health and Wellness Travel

The pandemic made everyone more health-conscious. This consciousness has translated into travel, with many tourists choosing destinations offering wellness retreats, spa treatments, meditation courses, and yoga sessions amidst nature.

This shift in consciousness has seamlessly woven itself into the fabric of travel. Destinations that offer wellness retreats have surged in popularity, catering to this burgeoning demand. These retreats often encapsulate a spectrum of health-focused offerings, from rejuvenating spa treatments that utilize ancient therapeutic traditions to meditation courses designed to soothe the modern mind.

Top trends in Leisure Travel: Ananda in the Himalayas India
Top trends in Leisure Travel: Ananda in the Himalayas India

Yoga sessions, a practice that harmonizes physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, are frequently held in serene natural settings, allowing participants to draw a profound sense of peace from their surroundings.

A wonderful example is Ananda, a haven of holistic wellness and spiritual rejuvenation centre in the foothills of the Himalayas. Melding ancient Indian healing practices with luxury, this retreat invites guests to embark on a transformative journey of mind, body, and spirit. Set within a Maharaja’s palace estate, Ananda seamlessly combines Ayurveda, yoga, and meditation, thus offering an oasis of tranquillity against the backdrop of lush forests and the sacred Ganges River.

Furthermore, these wellness journeys are often complemented by organic and nutritious culinary offerings, ensuring that travellers are nourished from the inside out. As the world moves forward, the intersection of travel with health and wellness promises to redefine the contours of tourism, crafting experiences that leave travellers enriched, revitalized, and deeply transformed.

Solo Female Travel

Empowered women around the world are breaking societal norms and venturing out alone. The travel industry has responded with female-only tours, women-friendly accommodations, and safety apps, catering to this growing segment.

Solo female travel has evolved from a niche trend into a powerful movement, reflecting a broader societal shift towards independence and empowerment for women across the globe. This surge in solo female exploration can be attributed to a combination of factors: increased safety measures in many destinations, more women-centric travel groups and resources, and a digital age that keeps everyone connected and informed.

Solo women travellers -
Top trends in Leisure Travel: Solo women travellers

Social media platforms, particularly, have played a pivotal role, offering a space for solo female travellers to share their experiences, insights, and advice. These shared stories not only inspire more women to embark on their own journeys but also cultivate a supportive community where safety tips, destination recommendations, and cultural nuances are exchanged.

Many countries around the world have recognized the growing trend of solo female travel and have made efforts to cater to and ensure the safety of such travellers. Among them are Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Nordic countries,

Beyond Reality: The New Wave of Virtual Explorations

Virtual explorers don state-of-the-art VR headsets, breaking free from the confines of their urban dwellings. The vast terrains of Machu Picchu for instance, materialize, enveloping them in its mystique. They traverse the ancient Incan trails virtually, sensing an authentic connection to the majesty of the bygone era.

Top trends in Leisure Travel: SpaceTourists. image courtesy Dark souls1 via Pixabay
Top trends in Leisure Travel: SpaceTourists. image courtesy Dark souls1 via Pixabay

An interactive digital guide suddenly manifests, narrating the lore of a prominent structure they observe. This AR integration enriches their virtual odyssey, melding discovery with knowledge. For many of these digital wanderers, the synthesis of history and exploration is spellbinding, allowing them to delve deeper into the stories behind iconic landmarks.

From the mountainous beauty of the Andes, they transition to the quaint streets of Kyoto. As they saunter alongside the virtual Kamo River, an elegant traditional ryokan beckons. Zooming in, they can navigate its interiors, appreciate the tranquillity of its gardens, and sense the ambience of the surrounding neighbourhood. This experience feels akin to an immersive digital brochure, hinting at possible destinations for their future real-world adventures.

Some might use it as a precursor, previewing locations before an actual visit. For others, it’s an eco-friendly alternative, satiating their wanderlust without leaving a carbon footprint.

While virtual travel can’t completely replace the tangible and sensory-rich experience of physical travel, it offers an alternative for those who are constrained by time, budget, health, or even global crises. Moreover, it’s a sustainable way to explore the world, reducing the environmental impact that often comes with traditional travel. As technology continues to advance, the line between physical and virtual travel might become even more blurred, offering hybrid experiences that cater to a variety of traveller needs.  

Going forward, Leisure travel trends highlight a shift towards more conscious, immersive, and personalized experiences. With sustainability at its heart and technology as its backbone, the future of travel promises to be exciting!

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