From Cyprus to Colorado, here's where tourists will be heading next year.
By Caroline Bologna via Huff Post
From changing pandemic restrictions to utter airport chaos, 2022 was quite a notable year for travel.
Despite the challenging aspects, it’s clear people were ready and willing to dive back into exploration and bring the “revenge travel” predictions to fruition. Next year promises to bring more opportunities for adventure.
“The travel landscape has changed much in recent years, but people’s desire to experience different parts of the world hasn’t,” Naveen Dittakavi, CEO and co-founder of Next Vacay, told HuffPost. “If anything, it’s only grown. So just how exactly people satisfy that desire is what will drive destination popularity in 2023.”
With that in mind, where do experts see travelers flocking to next year? Below, we share their predictions for next year’s trending travel destinations.
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“I think the island of Cyprus is going to be one of the best places to visit in 2023,” said Claire Summers, the travel blogger behind Claire’s Itchy Feet.
She noted that the island is much more affordable than some other popular destinations in Greece, attracting many travel influencers in 2022.
“The city of Limassol gives serious Miami vibes,” Summers said. “It has amazing scuba diving, stunning beaches, and an abundance of cute restaurants serving delicious Cypriot food (Greek and Middle Eastern influences) and coffee shops. Plus, hop in a car for 45 minutes and you are in the mountains drinking locally produced sweet wine.”
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“I’m certain that travelers will put Japan on their 2023 bucket list, as well as explore lesser-known regions like Tohoku north of Tokyo,” said travel expert and author La Carmina. “The country was closed to tourism for over two years, but since October, Japan has returned to restriction-free travel. Since flight prices to Japan are now high, I predict that visitors will spend a greater amount of time in the country to make the most of their trip, and venture into less touristed and more affordable areas like Tohoku.”
Consider visiting the country for spring break during cherry blossom season. La Carmina also recommended taking the bullet train to explore cities like Fukushima, Sendai, Morioka, Ishinomaki.
“They have a rich and compelling food culture that includes fresh-caught seafood such as sea urchin and scallops, clean and marbled wagyu, and sake brewed by descendants of the samurai,” she said.
Whatever your interests, you’ll likely find a meaningful experience in Japan.
“Before the pandemic, Japan was at the top of many Americans’ lists ― and once again, the demand for this destination is sky high,” said Jacqui Gifford, editor-in-chief of Travel + Leisure. “People want to go back for the Michelin-star dining and small izakaya in Tokyo, the luxury resorts and unique ryokan of Kyoto, the ski slopes of Niseko ... They want to do it all, and the favorable exchange rate with the yen is certainly helping.”
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“We picked Aotearoa-New Zealand as our international destination of the year because it’s one of the places at the forefront of a few travel trends, including more sustainable and inclusive travel as well as promoting Indigenous tourism businesses and experiences,” said Eric Rosen, director of content at The Points Guy.
He noted that a number of new and upcoming flight routes are making it even easier for Americans to reach New Zealand. Once there, visitors are in for an unparalleled travel experience.
“Even before the pandemic, the country’s tourism industry adopted a pledge called the Tiaki Promise, which means caring for people and places in Maori,” Rosen explained. “Not just for New Zealanders, it is meant to encourage visitors to think deeply about their time in New Zealand and avoid potentially overtouristed places for those more off the beaten path. There’s also a variety of new Maori cultural experiences that visitors can take advantage of, including a hangi feast in Rotorua and a trek up Maunga Hikurangi on the North Island.”
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“Peru seems to be on the rise, even just in the past two months, and my prediction is that is going to carry through to 2023,” said travel blogger Esther Susag. “In general, people are excited to be able to travel again and are itching for some new adventures that are different from the classic European vacation. Destinations like Costa Rica and Peru are known for their scenery, national parks, gorgeous landscapes and wonderful cultures.”
A big reason behind the increasing popularity of Peru is the abundance of good travel deals for flying there without breaking the bank. Susag noted she found several airfare options for less than $300 round trip to Lima.
“At the intersection of history, aesthetic delight and culinary wonders, Lima is a sophisticated destination with a civilization that dates back millennia,” said Nitya Chambers, senior vice president of content and executive editor at Lonely Planet. “Stately museums display sublime pottery. Galleries debut edgy art. Solemn religious processions recall the 18th century. And crowded nightclubs dispense tropical beats. No visitor can miss the capital’s culinary genius, part of a gastronomic revolution more than 400 years in the making.”
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“Memphis, Tennessee, has had significant resources dropped into revitalization of its downtown area with cool hotels opening and a major revamp of the Tom Lee Park all coming to fruition in 2023,” said Katy Nastro, a spokesperson for Scott’s Cheap Flights.
Although tourists often limit their Tennessee travels to Nashville, the city of Memphis offers its own unique culture, complete with deep music history and delicious food. In addition to that famous barbecue, visitors can enjoy Southern comfort food, award-winning upscale restaurants, a variety of global cuisines and more. Don’t forget to check out the National Civil Rights Museum and various other historic sites as well.
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Las Vegas, Nevada
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For domestic “revenge travel,” a number of Americans have apparently opted to visit Sin City.
“It looks like Las Vegas shows no signs of stopping,” said travel expert Mark Ostermann. “They continue to set visitor, and revenue, records even as people start to pull back elsewhere with fears of what the economy will look like in the future. The numbers they are reporting are staggering when you consider that conventions are still a fraction of what they once were and international visitors are still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels.”
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Don’t overlook the appeal of exciting domestic travel options for American tourists as well. The Western states in particular have breathtaking natural landscapes, as well as attraction-filled urban areas.
“I anticipate Colorado will be a popular travel destination in 2023 because it has a year-round appeal for nature enthusiasts,” Trifari said. “Cities like Denver offer a great combination of urban appeal for city lovers, while also being in close proximity to surrounding cities like Boulder which is positioned at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains for those who enjoy the outdoors.”
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“Sydney, Australia, will be the hot ticket for 2023,” said Ravi Roth, travel expert and host of “The Gaycation Travel Show.” “Not only will Sydney be hosting the largest human rights conference on the planet, they will be hosting WorldPride from Feb. 17 to March 5.”
Following an extended period of tight COVID restrictions, the country finally opened its doors to international tourists in 2022, so it's only natural that momentum will build.
“Australia was closed for a large majority of the pandemic and has recently reopened, meaning I expect to see a growth in travelers visiting this destination,” said Gabby Beckford, a travel expert and founder of Packs Light. “Especially since everything was closed during the pandemic, people have had a lot of time to save up money for those bigger trips, and I can see Australia being the destination many travelers use their increased travel budget towards.”
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Ko Pha-ngan, Thailand
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Erika de Santi, a solo travel expert and co-founder of WeRoad, analyzed Google Travel data and other trends, and noticed increased search volume for several Asian nations, including Thailand.
“My recommendation? Head to the Thai island of Ko Pha-ngan,” She said. “No matter what time of year you go, the streets are always bustling with people, offering new experiences around every corner.”
De Santi believes the capital of Thong Sala is a great place for a visit, as it combines traditional Thai cultural attractions with top-notch bars and clubs. And of course, Ko Pha-ngan is home to the famous all-night “Full Moon Party” as well.
“I’d recommend getting yourself down to Thong Sala Night Market to try out some of the local cuisine, but be warned as this market hosts some of the most experimental foods out there,” she added.
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“Croatia has everything tourists love, but at a lower cost,” said Glenn Haussman of the “No Vacancy” podcast. “Stunning coasts filled with incredible resorts, historic cities such as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ Dubrovnik, as well as Korcula, the birthplace of famed explorer Marco Polo. There’s also gorgeous national parks and a relatively new transit network of trains and roads that make travel a snap.”
Indeed, Croatia boasts epic landscapes, rich history and relatively affordable prices for travelers. From mountain views to relaxing beaches, there’s something for everyone. Plus, pop culture fans will find a number of interesting attractions.
“Croatia is already a popular destination, particularly for summer travel in Europe, but I think it will see a rise in popularity in 2023 due to the fact that it is joining the Schengen Area in January and will be adopting the Euro as currency,” said Katie McIntosh, a travel blogger and creator of The Katie Show Blog. “The convenience of visa-free travel and Euro currency is going to add even more appeal to this wonderful destination.”
San Luis Obispo County, California
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“California’s laid-back Central Coast and San Luis Obispo County in particular will draw more travelers than ever in 2023,” said Nina Ruggiero, digital editorial director at Travel + Leisure. “Yes, Hearst Castle finally reopened, but beyond the typical road trip stops, SLO’s cities ― including Morro Bay, Paso Robles and Pismo Beach ― offer outdoor adventure, funky new eateries and rustic-chic hotels, and more than 200 wineries, many of them family-owned.”
In 2022, the region earned the coveted American Viticulture Area (AVA) recognition, giving wine-lovers more reason to make a trip to the area for some delicious California wines without the high price tags and crowds in the northern part of the state.
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“Greece is booming right now — 2022 tourism numbers might be as high as 33 million, surpassing their pre-pandemic peak in 2019,” said Jeremy Tarr, digital editorial director of Fodor’s. “But the typical hotspots ― Santorini, Mykonos ― are now overwhelmingly crowded and shockingly expensive.”
He explained that travelers are turning to other parts of the country, like Milos, Paros and Corfu. But because those destinations are smaller, he thinks Crete, as the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean, is set to be the next “it” spot.
“It has just about everything a vacationer wants from Greece: scenic ports, charming villages, stunning beaches, magnificent food and boisterous nightlife,” Tarr said. “It has history and lore — Zeus was born there! But Crete also possesses what other islands don’t: unrivaled nature. I’m talking vast, wild terrains, snow-capped mountains and cavernous gorges that are all surrounded by miles of olive groves. One moment, you’ll feel you’re in the Alps, the next, the Grand Canyon.”
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Classics like Paris, London and Rome, of course, remain popular, but many Americans are seeking European adventures that require slightly less flying time. Thus, Iceland is an ideal destination.
“In addition to Reykjavik being more physically convenient for American travelers compared to cities in continental Europe, Reykjavik’s wealth of rare attractions, like the Northern Lights, the Blue Lagoon, and other incredible landscapes, allows for unique experiences that really create that ‘wow’ moment for your trip ― the kind of moments you’ll take home with you and remember for years to come,” said Caroline Berger, U.S. head of brand at GetYourGuide.
Hong Kong, China
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“I expect Hong Kong to explode next year with travel as they continue to open up,” Ostermann said. “They just relaxed some of their requirements, and I expect more to come throughout 2023. Hopefully there is not another lockdown to deal with that delays the timetable.”
He noted that many travelers had trips planned to Hong Kong in 2020 and 2021 that had to be canceled due to the pandemic, and they may rebook them as restrictions ease.
“If they continue down this road, I fully expect it to be one of the top destinations on people’s lists in mid-to-late 2023,” Ostermann said. “That goes for much of Asia as well.”
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“Pure, raw and vast in scale, Alaska is epic and unrelentingly beautiful,” Chambers said. “The largest state in the United States, Alaska spans five climate regions and is home to an unrelenting beauty beyond its staggering wilderness and landscapes, but also its spirit of adventure and connection that weaves together the destination with its community.”
From the vast mountains and crowd-free national parks, travelers who love nature and a sense of peace will certainly find it in Alaska. The remote state also offers a chance to take a big trip without worrying about currency exchanges or other international travel expenses.