As we head into 2023, all signs show the collective appetite for travel remains huge despite concerns over inflation and recession. Industry experts are forecasting certain 2022 trends will carry over in the new year, such as people taking longer trips, going on more of them and spending more to take them.
So where are people going in 2023? We asked dozens of travel advisers, tour operators and booking platforms to find out.
The absolute, undisputed most popular destination for 2023 is Italy. And if you thought everyone went in 2022, buckle up.
Travelers want to meet interesting locals such as chefs or fishermen. They want see beautiful places by going foraging in the mountains near Lake Como, for example, or hitting the beach. And they want to have exciting sports experiences, maybe by catching a soccer game or touring a team's training facilities.
Shayna Mizrahi, founder and CEO of Vive Voyage, says her clients are also highly interested in connecting with Italian culture through cooking classes, boat excursions and artisan workshops.
For private tour operator Access Italy, the Amalfi Coast, Lake Como, Tuscany, Puglia and Sicily are clients' most requested destinations.
As the last region in the world to reopen during the pandemic, East Asia is expected to have a banner year for tourism, with Japan poised to be the fan favorite.
While people want to go to the "Golden Triangle" - Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka - Mike Salvadore, a travel agent with Travel Leaders, recommends adding a stop to see Japan beyond its best-known cities, such as mountainous Sapporo in the north or beachy Okinawa in the south.
3. Southeast Asia
Behind Japan, Southeast Asia is also high on travelers' wish lists with Thailand, Bali and Vietnam at the top.
The travel subscription service VIP Traveler has seen a 200% increase in interest in Bali, perhaps following the country's newly launched digital nomad Visa.
It could also be that Bali appeals to the growing number of travelers interested in trips focused on wellness. Salvadore says most of his clients want to go to Ubud, Bali's lush jungle town in the center of the island.
4. The Caribbean
A perennial sunshine-filled favorite that tends to be easy for Americans to reach, the Caribbean will remain sought-after in 2023.
"A lot of people will go to the typical places like the Dominican Republic or Jamaica or the Bahamas," Salvadore said, but eastern Caribbean countries are some of his favorites, like Barbados, Saint Lucia, and Anguilla and Antigua, Grenada."
Jonathan Alder, owner of the luxury travel company Jonathan's Travels, has booked more Egypt trips for clients in the last two years than he has over the entire decade, and requests are picking up speed in 2023.
Some of the renewed interest may be attributed to the anticipated opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum, says Jasmine Padda, Egypt destination expert for Kensington Tours. She also pointed to the increase in major cruise lines adding sailings in the region.
6. The American West
Jen Moyse, VP of product for the travel app TripIt, says that while international travel is having a moment, Americans will continue a return to iconic cities at home that are still rebounding from the pandemic.
Of the top five most-booked domestic destinations on the travel booking platform Hopper, four are out west: Las Vegas, Denver, Los Angeles and Phoenix.
Mexico has been breaking tourism records throughout the pandemic and will return as a powerhouse destination in 2023. It's most popular and easy-to-get-to beach destinations are major contributors to that success.
Cancún, on Mexico's Caribbean coast, is the most-booked international destination next year for Hopper, SkyScanner and the airfare search engine Skiplagged.
8. Costa Rica
Another carryover from 2022, Costa Rica is attracting travelers - from families to honeymooners to retirees - with its abundance of affordable flights, outdoor adventures, wildlife and coastline.
For Zicasso customers, the most sought-after places to visit are Arenal, Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, Tortuguero and the Osa Peninsula - which line up with our expert recommendations as well.
9. The Galápagos Islands
Another dream trip becoming reality for travelers in 2023 is the Galápagos Islands. The biggest seller for Astonishing Travel owner Heidi Bocianowski, the Pacific Ocean archipelago appeals to people who want to see something new every day, from black lava rock and red sand to rare wildlife.
10. African safaris
Keeping with the once-in-a-lifetime theme, Brian Pentek, owner of Luxe Life Travel, says "Africa is huge," for his clients.
Most are going in multigenerational groups who use the trip as graduation presents or family reunions. They may be going to Cape Town, South Africa, as well as Botswana (for game reserves) or Rwanda for gorilla trekking.
In addition to safaris, Salvadore incorporates ways to experience local culture, or check out the food and drink scenes, for his clients in Africa, or bush camping instead of staying in luxury lodges.
Even before the north African country drew international attention in the World Cup, Morocco was emerging as a major travel hot spot. Currently the most booked country for Intrepid Travel, "we expect Morocco to continue to be incredibly popular in 2023, given the increase in flights into the destination and the ability to get out and have great experiences in one week, 10 day or two-week itineraries," said the company's CEO James Thornton.
12. Small cruises
Cruises are making a strong comeback, even for travelers who might not consider themselves cruise people. But instead of taking megaships, they're looking for smaller options operating expedition trips (think Antarctica and Alaska) or luxury voyages, mainly river cruising in Europe and Egypt.