ForwardKeys names the Caribbean as global destination of choice in 2023
Leading travel analytics ForwardKeys has released its 2023 Global Travel Trends Report, revealing the Caribbean as the global destination of choice in 2023, as global aviation reaches 75% of its pre-pandemic levels.
The report features 21 pages of travel intelligence and insights using the latest air ticketing data from ForwardKeys in addition to the 2023 Global Destination Rankings, per region. The analysis reflects the continued recovery of global tourism post-COVID-19.
In 2022, the Caribbean and Southern Europe were the most popular destinations, as pent-up demand for "sun and beach" destinations boosted international tourist arrivals. In 2023, however, more diverse travel patterns emerge. The Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Greece still maintain high positions, but the mix is more varied overall, with the Middle East and Africa (MEA) particularly well-represented among the top performers.
Looking at the world’s most visited countries, seven of the top ten have a Caribbean coastline. The Dominican Republic heads the list, with 14% more visitors set to arrive by air in 2023 than in 2019. It is followed by Costa Rica and Aruba, both 11% ahead; Jamaica and Puerto Rico, both 9% ahead; Colombia and Mexico, both 5% ahead; The Bahamas and Greece, both 3% ahead and Saudi Arabia, flat, receiving the same number of flight arrivals as in 2019.
The Caribbean’s success has been driven by the strong appeal of beach holidays, proximity to the world’s strongest outbound travel market, the US, and economic dependence of many Caribbean countries on tourism.
The full destination list, with additional analysis and trends, and a listing of top cities, is included in ForwardKeys’ Destination Insights Report: Global Travel Trends 2023.
An alternative analysis, focusing on a top twenty ranking of mainstream destinations, reveals that only four – Dominican Republic, Colombia, Mexico and Greece – are set to exceed flight arrivals seen in 2019. After Saudi Arabia, sixth place is taken by Portugal, 1% behind; it is followed by Argentina, 3% behind, UAE, 7% behind, Türkiye, 9% behind and Egypt, 10% behind.
European outbound air travel is set to be 21% behind 2019, with strong inflation holding back growth. The source markets, where outbound flights have managed to recover more strongly than the European average, are Ireland, 5% behind, Spain, 7% behind and Norway 9% behind.
In the Middle East and Africa, Egypt stands out as the only outbound market to recover to pre-COVID-19 levels, posting 4% growth.
The Global Travel Trends Report also examines the emerging patterns of global tourism and evolving traveler behavior that have shaped the industry. “While the speed of recovery varies by region, it is expected to be complete by the end of 2024, even for countries that recently lifted travel restrictions,” ForwardKeys points out.
Key travel trends include the rise of urban tourism and the effect of climate change in the long-term.
Over the last two years, due to the post-pandemic scenario, travelers have developed a strong preference for destinations that offer "sun and beach." However, in the year 2023, there has been a “remarkable shift” in the trend. Urban destinations are now becoming more popular among tourists, with a growth rate of 52% as compared to 26% growth in "sun and beach" destinations over the same period in 2022.
In the summer of 2023, the Northern Hemisphere experienced extreme temperatures, wildfires, and floods due to climate change. However, these events did not have a significant impact on travel patterns. Despite the Rhodes wildfires, ticket sales returned to normal levels within a month. Nevertheless, climate change is expected to have a long-term effect on travel preferences. As temperatures rise, summer demand in hotter destinations is likely to decrease, while cooler regions will become more appealing to travellers.
The ForwardKeys report also notes the return of family travel. Compared to 2019, this segment has shown the fastest recovery across all regions, particularly in the Americas, where it has already surpassed 2019 levels. Although the recovery has been slower, couple travel is the second most resilient segment in every region and is only slightly behind family group travel in APAC and the Americas.
It also indicates that “luxury beats economy travel worldwide.” with the Asia Pacific region seeing a faster recovery in the demand for luxurious travel experiences compared to regular travel options. This can be attributed in part to the "revenge travel" phenomenon. However, in the Americas, the Middle East and Africa, where this phase has passed, the demand for premium cabin classes is showing a stronger recovery compared to economy seats. This, according to the report, “suggests that, despite the widespread concerns about the cost of living, consumers are still willing to pay more for high-end travel experiences”.