Feature

Travel abroad returns in 2023, Americans appreciate tours to Asia, Europe

By Netpal Travel Bureau

According to a recent poll by tourism market research firm, Destination Analysts, around 31 percent of Americans are more interested in international than domestic travel.

Households are continuing to unleash two or three years’ worth of constrained demand as Covid-19 fears decrease and the last leftovers of pandemic-era border restrictions have eased.

The U.S. dollar also remains relatively strong versus currencies like the euro, hybrid work yields more flexibility for big trips and some airlines have added new long-haul routes to overseas destinations, according to travel experts.

Asia-Pacific is drawing particularly vigorous interest, although European destinations retain their popularity, too.

Meanwhile, 62% of 2023 flight searches in the first week of December were for international destinations, up from 55% the same time in 2021, according to a recent report.

In 2022, the share of international trips for which Americans bought travel insurance was on par with 2019 levels, the first time that had occurred in the pandemic era. The trend has continued for trips booked for 2023.

American travellers largely stayed within U.S. borders in 2020 and 2021 amid health concerns and overseas Covid-related restrictions such as testing requirements, mandatory quarantines or outright bans on foreign tourists.

2022 was also a year for more big trips abroad — but a spike in virus cases towards the end of 2021 and into 2022, fuelled by the highly contagious omicron variant, somewhat dampened enthusiasm.

Many countries had also fully closed their borders to foreign tourists. Now, most are again welcoming visitors — especially those with a Covid vaccine.

Fully vaccinated tourists can access 197 countries without Covid-19 testing or quarantine, and an additional 16 are open but require testing,

Just 12 countries, including China, Libya, Turkmenistan and Yemen, are still closed to vaccinated Americans.

Many countries have more restrictions in place for the unvaccinated. About 69% of Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends being up to date on vaccines before international travel.

Many nations — including AustraliaBhutanIsraelJapanMalaysiaMoroccoNew Zealandthe Philippines and Singapore — eased border closures in 2022. Many European nations also dropped testing requirements for Americans.

Italy, the U.K. and France ranked a respective first, third and fifth among top foreign destinations in 2023, according to a recent Destination Analysts poll. (Canada, Mexico and Japan ranked second, fourth and sixth, respectively.)

Global demand for travel has played out similarly, with most interest directed at Europe and Asia, according to Expedia data. Edinburgh, Scotland, and Sydney, Australia, rank No. 1 and 6 partly due to respective major events like the Fringe, the world’s largest arts and media festival.

International trips are poised to be more expensive next year, Hopper said, despite signals from the consumer price index that airfare, hotel and rental car prices have been trending downward in recent months. The desire to travel abroad has swelled through 2022 despite these economic anxieties.

The euro has been trading at historically weak levels against the U.S. dollar, meaning Americans have been able to get bargains when booking travel to countries like France, Germany, Italy and Portugal.