Summer 2023 is shaping up to what could be a peak period of record growth as travel companies play to the strengths of aspirational, multi-gen family travel unfettered by inflationary price increases.
A shift in family holiday experiences and longer booking windows for tours are just some patterns shaping the upcoming peak summer season.
These summer pricing and booking patterns indicate a well-recovered travel industry, with the experiences sector also riding a growth wave.
Macroeconomic concerns such as global inflation and the rising cost of living appear to have little impact on travel demand, as booking platforms and niche day-tour operators note slightly shifted booking patterns but improved volume overall.
Research by the U.S. Travel Association showed travelers feel more confident in their financial situation — with 61 percent of leisure travelers and 69 percent of business travelers feeling good or excellent about their financial well-being in the next six months. In addition, U.S. travel spending in December 2022 totaled $97 billion, 3 percent above 2019 levels and 7 percent above 2021 levels.
Continued demand was further echoed by the world’s largest tour operator TUI, which has seen a marked uptick in bookings during the traditional tell-month of January, with bookings exceeding its 2019 levels. Tui added that its customer base was well-cushioned against the current market conditions.
While its pricing for summer is seeing a six percent increase, it is considerably lower than the 29 percent seen for its winter offering.
Niche Family Experiences
Intrepid Travel is more than optimistic about the peak summer period ahead, going from $14.6 million in losses in 2020 to a return to profitability in 2023. The company has noted a shift in family travel experiences, and is set to bring certain family trips, previously put on hold, back into the fold.
“Quality family time is more valuable than ever, given the past years with what Covid has presented,” said Matt Berna, president of Intrepid Travel, The Americas.
“There is a real trend where families are longing for immersive cultural experiences, which allow the entire family to learn and connect with the destination not just the well-known sites. Families are seeking meaningful family trips, and many may wish to have these experiences with grandparents, too.”
Young travelers, who heavily influence choice, want to support sustainable, experience-rich trips, with Intrepid focused on including them in the planning conversation.
With a total of 46 family trips, its year-to-date global booking numbers within this market segment was tracking some 38 percent higher than 2022, however, it was about 29 percent off its 2019 performance.
Trips seeing the highest growth (compared to 2019) are the “Italy Family Holiday,” up 181 percent, “Japan Family Holiday” 53 percent, “Borneo Family Holiday” 57 percent and “Turkey Family Holiday” up some 26 percent.
An example of a family experience being dusted off is Intrepid’s week-long trip to Mexico for example, with its “Celestun Biosphere Reserve” tour (for Flamingos) Chichen Itza Archaeological site and a “Chichen Itza Day” trip to Tulum, said to be suitable for families with children in its most popular age range of between 12 to 13 years.
Longer Booking Windows
Dominant Asian market activities and experiences online travel agency Klook has continued to capitalized on the domestic demand, reporting its customers are booking longer travel trips and opting for more private experiences as indicated by its rail and car-rental data.
Klook has seen a notable dip in group tours, however family travel has shifted to bigger, multi-generational travel groups since the re-opening of China earlier in 2023.
Eric Gnock Fah, the company’s co-founder and chief operating officer, confirmed the company is seeing more 100 percent recovery beyond its 2019 levels, this as the “Asia Pacific market is only about 50 percent recovered” and the industry as whole awaits full connectivity for the region to come into effect later in 2023.
China is adding fire to the competitive flame of pricing, as companies ready their summer travel strategy. Virtuoso for says it is one of its fastest-growing markets.
David Kolner, Virtuoso executive vice president, said a surge in bookings across Virtuoso’s global network of Travel Agents has seen a 152 percent increase compared to 2019, with summer travel planning expected to come under significant pressure due to the high demand.
Destination Highlight Tours
Private tours company ToursByLocals which operates in over 180 countries has seen its January 2023 summer period sales increase by over 200 percent compared to its 2019 performance.
The company is seeing 32 percent of all tours being booked three to six months in advance.
Traditionally, the private tour market has skewed towards an older market, however, its tour guides are also seeing demand for more multi-gen trips, and more families booking private tours.
“We are seeing the vast majority of people are most comfortable booking “Highlights” type tours. The thinking here seems to be “we don’t know what we don’t know” — and they want a tour to share the obvious sites, with the understanding that by booking a local guide, they’ll also be saving time by skipping lines, and discovering under the radar spots as they go.”
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