Ready for take-off: Aruga unpacks 2023’s hottest travel trends

7 minutes read

The past few years have been a turbulent ride for travellers.

We plummeted when COVID restrictions drove us indoors and snap border lockdowns forced us to cancel holidays, often with only a few hours’ notice.

We soared when these restrictions were lifted, hitting the great outdoors in record numbers, reconnecting with family and friends, and making up for lost time with extravagant bucket list-getaways.

Now the ride is smoother, we’re ready to travel our way without compromise.

Travel companies Expedia, Wotif and Stayz surveyed thousands of travellers to discover the hottest – and most surprising – travel trends of 2023.

They found travellers are ditching the conventional and veering off course for all-new experiences.

Emerging from this tailored travel approach are five new trends – Concrete Holidays, Culture Capitals, Set-Jetting, Foodie-menities and Haycations – and the continued popularity of an old favourite, the Nothing-cation.

Buckle up, return your tray table to the upright position, and read on for our travel inspo.

Concrete Holidays

From world-class stadiums to vibrant new dining and lifestyle hubs, there’s an ever-growing list of reasons to visit Australia’s big cities.

After years of camping and staycations, travellers are swapping the bush and backyard for the urban jungle, enticed by a slate of new hotels rolling out the welcome mat.

Wotif estimates more than 60 per cent of Aussies plan to stay in a city hotel in 2023 to explore the bright lights and culinary delights from a luxurious accommodation base.

Wotif’s most anticipated hotel openings of 2023 (which include two Queensland entries) are:

  1. The Ritz-Carlton, Melbourne, VIC
  2. W Sydney, NSW
  3. Mandarin Oriental, Melbourne, VIC
  4. Rosewood Hotel, Brisbane, QLD
  5. Dorsett Hotel, Brisbane, QLD

“It’s usually a big show opening or a new restaurant that sees me YOLO-ing interstate, so an inner-city escape is me to a tee. My partner and I love basing ourselves in the thick of it where we can explore by foot. Usually, we’ll have our evenings booked with a show or a restaurant, so by day, we like to keep things agenda-free, explore the neighbourhoods and live like a local. We like to mix up our hotels too – you’ll rarely catch us at the same hotel twice, no matter how much we loved it.” – Adam, Aruga Co-Founder

Culture Capitals

Social distancing is out and travellers are ready to enjoy the hustle and bustle of big cities again – think crowded pubs, open-air markets and dazzling destinations that hum with culture and action.

Big is beautiful and travellers are ready to immerse themselves in the heart of some of the world’s most bustling cities, with Expedia predicting 2023’s must-visit destinations will be:

  1. Edinburgh, Scotland
  2. Lisbon, Portugal
  3. Tokyo, Japan
  4. Dublin, Ireland
  5. New York, USA
  6. Sydney, Australia
  7. Dubai, UAE
  8. Montreal, Canada
  9. Munich, Germany
  10. Bangkok, Thailand

“As much as I dream to live out the plot of The Holiday, I won’t pretend I want to find a ‘hidden secret’ in the depths of a remote off-grid town. Pop me down for the tried-and-tested city where I can find 101 official tourism websites, travel blogs and TikToks telling me where to stay, what to see, and where to eat. Some say basic, I say efficient.” – Claudia, PR Account Manager.


Get ready for the ‘Set-Effect’ with adventurers flicking on the TV or picking up a book to inspire their next big trip.

Expedia data shows 29 per cent of travellers have booked a trip after seeing the destination on-screen and 69 per cent have at least considered visiting the set of their favourite show.

Top destinations include New Zealand for fans of sweeping fantasy landscapes, bucolic British backdrops for history-buffs and Bridgerton tragics, stunning resorts (minus the questionable service) in Hawaii, and dreamy cityscapes in Paris and New York for hopeless romantics.

“I just can’t help myself – whether it’s heading to New Zealand following the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the UK following Harry Potter, Scotland following Dan Brown’s release of The Da Vinci Code, Emily in Paris motivating my visit to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or Sarah Jessica Parker for visiting New York and going on every Sex in the City tourist bus (yes I did!). My travel locations are inspired by the books I read and the series I’m binge-watching. However, my last holiday location was Bali and I would like to think that destination was selected for the beaches and promise of buffet, kids’ club and happy hour as opposed to the Schapelle Corby biography I read all those years ago! Perhaps the San Domenico Palace Hotel in Taormina from The White Lotus is next on the list but will it live up to the hype? Only travel will tell.” – Tracy, Agency Director


The kitchen is the heart of the holiday home in 2023, according to Stayz booking data.

Staying in, cooking and enjoying meals together is on-trend, and next-level cooking amenities are an absolute must.

Almost two-thirds of travellers looking for holiday rentals say kitchen amenities are one of the most important criteria while 45 per cent use cooking to cut down on holiday costs and 44 per cent feel it’s a great opportunity to bond as a group.

The most sought-after cooking amenities are:

  1. Outdoor kitchens or barbeques (67%)
  2. Fancy coffee machines (47%)
  3. Air fryers (39%)
  4. Pizza ovens (29%)
  5. Access to gardens with fresh produce (16%

“My fun comes from poring over hundreds of holiday rental properties and choosing them based on their kitchens. On arrival, I’m the head chef admiring my walk-in pantry, the newest steam oven and a French door fridge (with ice-maker). Holidays are ALL about the food – I’ll scope out the best bakery, pick up cheese from a local deli and create platters of treats at any time of the day. Calories don’t count when you’re away, right?” – Kirsty, BonBon Events & Activations Director.


Rustic cottages and farmhouses full of regional charm are nipping at the heels of beach getaways as Stayz’s top holiday home destinations in 2023.

Booking data shows demand for holiday homes in some of Australia’s top rural locations is up by more than 90 per cent this year and that travellers are increasingly drawn to mountainside destinations with views of lakes and rivers.

The most in-demand regional destinations in 2023 are:

  1. Bright, High Country, VIC
  2. Marysville, Yarra Valley, VIC
  3. Crackenback, Snowy Mountains, NSW
  4. Goulburn, Capital Country, NSW
  5. Wodonga, Murray East, VIC
  6. Halls Gap, Western Grampians, VIC
  7. Tamworth, New England, NSW
  8. Echuca, Central Murray, VIC
  9. Yeppoon, Capricorn Coast, QLD
  10. Nietta, North West, TAS

“Sign me up for a Hay-cation! When you’re online more often than not, and juggling all the screens for work and life, there’s nothing better than a digital detox. By my count, I average five different types of screens every day. Take me to the countryside, pop the phone on Do Not Disturb and send me off for a hike or hand me a book, please. If it’s the latter, the irony will be I’ve probably found the book I’m reading on #booktok.” – Katie, Creative Director



Burnt-out? Sounds like you need a Nothing-cation.

Borne out of necessity during the grim COVID years, Nothing-cations have retained their popularity as a way of re-setting and re-energising after a hectic year or chaotic Christmas.

Expedia polled 4,000 travellers in January and found more than one-third reported feeling burned out from the Christmas holidays and nearly everyone surveyed (96 per cent) planned to spend a portion of their next trip doing absolutely nothing.

Relaxation is the name of the game but it’s also important to adopt a leisurely pace (54 per cent), forgo a strict schedule (52 per cent) and float away in the pool or ocean (49 per cent).

“My whole life is dictated by other people and their deadlines: be at this place by this time, the deadline is this, you need to have it completed by this time. For a few days of the year, it’s nice to just wake up whenever you want and not worry about anyone else. No emails. No phone calls. Just do nothing.” – Isaac, Senior Designer.