So, where to go in 2023?
We asked one of our favorite travel advisors, Jack Ezon, Managing Partner and Co-founder of Virtuoso agency Embark Beyond. He tells us, “What’s old is new, and what’s new is combined with the old. Some destinations that opened late after Covid (like Japan, skyrocketed immediately. Others, like Australia and New Zealand got off to a slower start but look promising for 2023. Destinations in Southeast Asia seem to be slower based on pace for us. South America continues to grow in popularity. For many familiar return destinations in Europe, the theme seems to be continuing where clients return to a favorite pre-Covid place and look to combine it with something new, pushing less popular regions into the forefront. In general, the USA is out for Americans. While America represented about 85% of our business in 2021, it has fallen to less than 20% in 2022 and looks to shrink under 10% in 2023.”
What’s the biggest inhibitor of growth in many markets?
Jack says, “Capacity. With staffing shortages continuing to plague our industry, limited capacity and inflated prices have become an issue. Limited airlift, and corresponding magnified air rates, also contributed greatly to destination decisions.”
Jack’s picks for the top 23 destinations for 2023 are the subject of this week’s issue, so read on.
The hottest comeback kid is Southeast Asia. Pre-covid, it was on one of the steepest growth trajectories; no,w people are clamoring to return. In fact, one of the hottest ski destinations for 2023 is Niseko!
2. Italy, beyond the obvious
Look at Piemonte, Veneto, and Emilia Romagna to pop up as the new Tuscany! Great new properties like Casa di Langa are providing posh digs to catch up with the incredible food scene that secretly dominates the peninsula.
Back on the hot list is Montenegro. The new One&Only Portonovi is a hot new resort that is the new yacht haven of the Med. Couple this with the spectacular fjords of Kotor and a short boat ride to Croatia, and it’s the ultimate summer getaway.
A new set of luxe expedition ships are attracting a whole new crowd to the frozen continent. And now that you can fly over the dreaded Drake’s Passage, you can literally do an Antarctic cruise for four days (or even jaunt over from Chile or Argentina for 2-3 nights). New ships like the Silversea Endeavor, the Viking Polaris, Atlas Ocean Voyage, Aurora Expeditions, and the Seabourn Venture attract a new luxury set to what used to be reserved for intrepid explorers.
One of the hottest eco-destinations for 2023. Not surprisingly, almost 80% of Galapagos goers have been on an African safari and looking for the next great alternative. New experiences like the incredible Aqua Mare along with Pikaia Lodge add an element of luxury expected in Africa to the incredible archipelago preserve.
Despite the political unrest, Peru is back on the map for foodies and outdoor adventure enthusiasts. With renewed products like the Belmond Andean Explorer connecting magnificent destinations to the magnetic Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, the country has been especially attractive to multi-generational explorers and active affinity groups.
7. East Africa
The safari, it seems, is the ultimate antidote to urban lock-up. Kenya and Tanzania top the lists of safari destinations, growing almost 40% since 2019. While South Africa was historically 90% of our Sub-Saharan Africa bookings, East Africa accounts for almost 35% of safari experiences. Clients are especially keen to explore the Grumeti Game Reserve operated by acclaimed outfitter Singita and the Laikipia Plateau. Meanwhile, Amboseli National Park gets its first luxury lodge as Angama opens the first luxury camp in the park known for its giant elephant herds. Resorts like the new Kisawa Sanctuary are turning heads as the hottest new beach resort in Mozambique – the post-safari retreat du jour.
As soon as restrictions were lifted, Egypt fast became one of the hottest destinations for our clients. In fact, it has become so popular that you can barely get a room on the Nile. Renovation of the Old Cataract is a dream, as are a host of new and renovated Nile cruises shuttling between Luxor and Aswan.
The colors, design, fashion, flavors, buzzy nightlife, and easy access have made Morocco truly hot – especially since it is finally open! New hotels like the Park Hyatt enter the Marrakech marketplace; the posh Royal Mansour in both Casablanca and Tamouda Bay; and the ultra-chic Italian La Fiermontina Ocean opens in a remote beach village just south of Tangier.
Becoming sexy and offering a host of next-generation resorts to younger active travelers. It’s becoming ground-zero for thrill seekers in Europe, from bungee jumping to ultra-hiking with magnificent Via Ferrata courses, rappelling, and extreme mountain biking. Properties like Bürgenstock (pictured), the Alpina Gstaad, and the Omnia provide chic basecamps. At the same time, the renewed allure of train travel has made it even more appealing to easily connect several destinations along some of the world’s most dramatic topography.
Emerging as a winter hot spot for northerners. Extreme inflation and the “blue market” money exchange literally puts the country on a half-off sale. There’s never been a better time to explore the glacier-cut mountains of Patagonia, the Winelands of Mendoza, or the vibrant city of Buenos Aires. Everything from hotel rates to restaurants and experiences is less than a third of what they may be in other countries of its caliber.
Greece exploded in popularity in 2021 as the first country to open to Americans mid-Covid. While Mykonos continues to draw in crowds, it’s the newly discovered islands like Paros that are the real attraction. With new luxury resorts such as the new Cosme in Paros, the pristine Kéa that gets a new One&Only resort this summer, or even Corfu, which was often overlooked as a middle-market destination, attract travelers with new resorts such as the Ikos Odisia and Banyan Tree’s new lifestyle Angsana. The Peloponnese Peninsula continues to draw clients as Costa Navarino expands with great new resorts, Amanzoe continues to allure the uber-wealthy, and jet setters bask in the Athenian Rivera at places like the Four Seasons and the new One&Only Aesthesis.
Emerged as a leading destination in 2023 and looks like it may reach our 3rd or 4th most popular summer locale this coming year- neck in neck with Greece. Madrid has come on strong as one of Europe’s coolest capitals, with five new luxury hotels opening in a city that never had one. The elegant Ritz Madrid by Mandarin Oriental opened with fabulous flair, with the cool Rosewood Villa Magna flanking the other side of Salamanca’s buzzing lifestyle district. Brimming with sleek lounges, notable restaurants, and incredible shops, it’s a magnet to international visitors and locals alike. The city spills into Andalucia, which has seen a 19% growth in popularity, including Marbella as a considerable beach destination. Ibiza continues its growth, up almost 26% in pace for 2023, and Mallorca saw an almost 40% growth in business for the first time.
14. Australia & New Zealand
The South Pacific has finally opened to the world, and though it was a slow start, the pace for 2023 looks extremely promising. Clients who have had Down Under on their bucket list are seeing 2023 as the moment to visit. Nature-focused destinations like Queenstown, Christchurch, Tasmania, Kangaroo Island, and even Western Australia top the list of destinations our clients are looking towards this coming year.
The Cote d’Azur was as busy as ever, with St. Tropez and Antibes at its epicenter. This summer, we saw an 18% jump in more off-the-beaten-path destinations like Cognac, Champagne, Bordeaux, and the Loire. Visits to the Provence countryside were up 28% over 2019, and the pace looks even stronger for 2023.
16. South Africa
Would catapult into our top 5 destinations in 2023 if there were enough space available to put our clients. The floodgates have exploded since restrictions were lifted, with Cape Town getting its close-up and new luxury lodges like the family-oriented Cheetah Plains or the super-cool Waterside by Royal Malewane attracting newcomers and return visitors alike.
For Americans, Dubai has become the new Miami. Despite its distance, Dubai’s high-energy mix of beach resorts, beach clubs, restaurants, nightclubs, museums and shopping has become a go-to for those who have had an overdose of Miami over the past three years.
What was thought of as a once-in-a-lifetime destination for a fraction of Americans is now practically becoming routine. With destinations like Dubai becoming so much more accessible and energetic, the quick hop to Maldives is becoming almost as “cosmopolitan” as a jaunt to the Mediterranean in the summer.
19. St. Barts
Seems to never lose steam. It remains the number one warm-weather destination for Q1 and Q2 of 2023. The French flair and Mediterranean-style beach clubs are a magnet for international jet setters. Inflated rates only make it more attractive. And while hotel stays represented nearly 70% of St. Barts accommodations, for us, it has dropped to 53%, with villa stays experiencing huge growth. No, it’s not because people want privacy. You don’t really go to St. Barts for privacy. We attribute it to villas having hotel services and support, while the island infrastructure, beach club options, and restaurant scene make a destination resort (or even a beach) less important than on other islands.
Mexico City is now one of the hottest urban destinations to visit, especially in winter. The art scene, the food scene, and the cultural offerings seem relentless. The new hotel scene is booming with both stunning boutique hotels and banner brands. San Miguel Allende continues to grow in popularity for its local yet international charm. Of course, Los Cabos, Riviera Maya, and Punta Mita continue at a steady pace with incredible new resorts. This year St. Regis, Edition, and Waldorf join an envious lineup on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. At the same time, the Puerta Vallarta area sees a new Auberge Resort and luxury tented experience by Four Seasons.
Ireland was growing significantly in popularity pre-Covid, a pace that continued after its 2-year pause. New luxury hotels continue to pop up, such as Cashel Palace, paving the way for high-end travelers to explore the beautiful nature and charming villages the island nation offers.
Cartagena is as sizzling as ever. New hotels like the Sofitel Barú Casablanca in the Rosario Islands have become the most attractive option for a beach and urban experience. Bogota’s art and food scene continue to be a draw, while cities like Medellin seem reserved for only the most intrepid of our travelers.
The cool capitals of Stockholm and Copenhagen continue to draw design and gastronomic aficionados. While new nature-focused resorts and luxury yachts open up Lapland, the Fjordlands, and more remote regions to American travelers.
Contact Jack Ezon at Embark Beyond at Jack@EmbarkBeyond.com.