Excuse Me, What's Your Discomfort Zone?

By Yeoh Siew Hoon, Web in Travel

The seven desires of travellers in 2023, according to

You couldn’t ask for a more comfortable start to the year than the one just had – in January 2023, room nights booked hit 95 million, surpassing the previous record set in May by more than 10 million. The 95 million room nights was 16% higher than January 2019.

That came on top of a strong fourth quarter 2022 in which room nights were up 10%, with the improvement largely driven by Asia. That helped the company achieve 900m room nights booked, an improvement of 52% versus 2021 and 6% higher than in 2019.


Welcome Address by Laura Houldsworth MD


That glowing report card was shared by Laura Houldsworth, managing director, Asia Pacific, at a media event in Singapore this week in which she said, “We went from zero to revenge.”

And while there are uncertainties out there – socio-economic, political, climate change – is certainly in the very comfortable position of calling out future traveller trends as it seeks to reimagine travel in 2023.

The company commissioned extensive research with more than 24,000 travellers across 32 countries and territories, to reveal seven emerging travel predictions in what it calls the creative reimagination of travel.

At the event, Houldsworth called out three trends she said were of particular interest in Asia Pacific.

1. Delight in the Discomfort zone – Kota Kinabalu trending, along with alien spotting

“Fifty seven percent want to go fully out of their comfort zone, to be fully immersive, perhaps in a different language or setting,” she said.

As for what would be her discomfort zone, she said, “I’m not sure I’m one who wants to delight in discomfort but for culture shock I would like to experience more of Africa, I’ve only been to South Africa and would love to see and feel more.”

The research showed that over half (57%) of APAC travellers want to experience complete culture shock in 2023 – be it travelling somewhere with completely different cultural experiences and languages (51%) or exploring lesser known cities with hidden gems that aren’t already on the radar (27%), with one trending destination being Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah on the Malaysian island of Borneo.

Over three quarters (80%) are looking forward to experiencing ‘out of comfort zone’ travel that pushes them to the limits. Half (50%) are on the hunt for the world’s most exotic delicacy such as the hottest chilli pepper, while 44% want to use their vacation for extraterrestrial exploration on UFO or alien spotting tours.

2. From Daily Grind to Great Company Escape – aka “pay for my retreat”

“We went from bleisure to workation,” said Houldsworth, and “now 67% said they don’t want to work while they are travelling, they want to switch off. However, more than half would go on a business trip if it’s a retreat, to re-engage with colleagues, to go off the beaten track, on company’s expense. We’ve gone from office collaboration to outdoors collaboration.”

She recently took her team to Bali for “a mix of work and fun”.

Said the research, … “51% of the APAC workforce is looking forward to their employer planning a ‘real life’ work trip to bring people together and just over half (57%) would like to see their employer use the money saved from the shift to remote/hybrid working models spent on corporate travel or retreats.

“In response, 2023 will see a rise in destination business retreats where the focus will be on strengthening relationships and corporate recreation rather than work. Employers will gamify the retreat experience and immerse staff in a world where teamwork is the only option. Think ‘survivor’ themed trips at luxury cabins or country farmhouses complete with communal cooking and outdoor adventure activities, or crime-centric escapes where spy school, detective courses or CSI simulations double as a sight-seeing scavenger hunt.”

Businesses stand to see benefits, too – close to two-thirds (63%) of workers in APAC believe exploring new places will inspire them to be more productive at work.

3. Virtual Voyagers – “take me to Machu Picchu”

Yes, Virtual Reality seems to be making a bit of a comeback, over a decade after Oculus introduced its first headset in August 2012.

“Over half of APAC travellers want to use VR to understand their trips or immerse themselves, to test a new location and almost half want to immerse in multi-day VR trips,” said Houldsworth, noting that was watching this trend closely. “We are testing areas and see it as an inspirational piece perhaps for places that you’d never get to go to. There is space for inspiration, and marketing.”

For her personally, “I like the idea of using VR for places that I want to go but couldn’t… Mecca being one but also hard to get to places like Machu Picchu… I can be a bit of a tag tourist so I could get the sense of somewhere through VR without having to go.”

The research says travellers will become bolder in their real-life trip choices, after being able to visit them in the Metaverse first via their online avatars – especially handy for those who might feel anxious about trying somewhere new, with 56% more likely to travel to destinations that they wouldn’t have previously considered after virtually experiencing them.

However close to half (49%) believe that a virtual experience is not fulfilling enough to check it off the bucket list.


The other four trends are:

4. Saving To Splurge

 Travellers in APAC will continue to prioritise travel in 2023, but will be more mindful over how to make the most of their travel budget and what takes precedence. People will still place carefree getaways at the top of their agenda, with half (50%) of travellers saying that investing in a vacation remains a top priority for them. But being budget conscious is key, with nearly seven in ten (70%) travellers continuing to spotlight travel while seeking more bang for their buck.

5. Glamourising the Good ol’ Days

People intend to carve out travel experiences that harken back to simpler times, with nostalgic getaways (90%) that provide the thrill of reliving the glory days top of the wishlist in 2023. There’s a desire – even for millennials and Gen-Zs who never lived it – to disappear into the romanticism of a pre-digital era, with nearly a quarter (21%) of travellers chasing experiences that evoke (faux) emotive memories of days gone past, such as visiting landmarks or attractions featured in iconic retro films or opting for a bus as a primary mode of transport to live the group spirit of school trips.

6. Preppers In Paradise

Half (50%) of APAC travellers want their travelling experiences to have a more back-to-basics feel, and are looking for ‘off-grid’ style vacations to escape from reality (57%), and switch off and experience life with only the bare necessities (50%). Travellers are also keen to use travel in 2023 as an opportunity to learn survival skills (64%) including how to source clean water (56%), light a fire from scratch (45%), forage for food in the wild (44%) and even prep for an apocalypse (46%).

7. Peaceful Pilgrimages

 Travel is set to take ‘mind, body and soul’ wellness to the next level in 2023 – a fully immersive, no holds-barred approach to attaining peace and pleasure including less conventional ways to feel bliss. Seeking to recentre the mind, meditation and mindfulness getaways are ever popular with APAC travellers (53%), while more than two in five (49%) aim to find peace at a silent retreat and over half (52%) are keen to go on a health hiatus that focuses on mental health, transformative health or that helps with life milestones such as menopause or pregnancy.

Link to originial article here