With strikes, staff shortages, cancellations, delays and lost luggage seeing travellers’ foreign holiday plans dashed or rearranged at very short notice, domestic travel was back on the map last year as visitors enjoyed staycations and breaks closer to home. Scotland’s tourism industry benefitted with the country topping wish and bucket lists and 2023 looks like it will be another busy year for travel north of the Border.
From the Scottish Borders topping Lonely Planet’s Best In Travel guide for 2023 to the Highlands being named one of National Geographic’s ‘Best of the World’ destinations of 2023, it looks set to be busy at home as the cost of living crisis bites and the trend for staycations continues. Expect accommodation ranging from cabins and campsites to turreted luxury hotels and resorts to be busy but there is something to suit every budget for those holidaying close to home.
When planes are disrupted, walking is the way forward and the West Highland Way, John Muir Way and Fife Pilgrim Way are just some of the waymarked options that will be popular on the tourist trail this summer while cyclists can explore multiple routes including the 7Stanes mountain bike centres in the Borders or further north at Gravelfoyle for stunning views of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Those who prefer to take to the waves can also learn to sail with or without the kids during July and August with sailing tuition courses with the Rosneath Castle Sailing School at Rosneath Castle Park in Argyll.
Wilderness breaks are to the fore with the likes of The Bracken Hide Hotel on the Isle of Skye, a new luxury, wilderness offering opening its doors in March 2023, with ensuite cabins, a Nordic Sauna and a wild swimming pool and that other w that Scotland majors in, whisky, will have another big year with distilleries upping their offerings and the opening of the new Port of Leith Distillery in Edinburgh following on from the launch of The Cairn Distillery, the first new distillery to be built in the Cairngorms National Park, in October. Port of Leith will be Scotland’s first vertical distillery and will have guided tours, tastings and a rooftop bar with panoramic views, matched only by those at the rooftop bar at the long awaited W Edinburgh opening in the winter in the St James Quarter, one of several new hotels to open or upgrade in Scotland this year.
Meanwhile, for those who dream of sunshine and sunsets fringed by palms, far flung destinations will still be popular, with the Maldives as ever topping bucket lists for honeymooners and families alike, but other countries are seeing a surge in enquiries too.
Morocco will capitalise on its World Cup presence with short haul flights making it accessible for some winter sun and new hotel openings, while Japan is back after re-opening its borders in October. Those who spent lockdown entranced by its animation will be delighted by a visit to the new Ghibli Park with fantasy-filled exhibitions in the town of Nagoya, while new hotels are keeping Tokyo at the top. Greece is also seeing a surge in bookings and popular destinations include the north west where blue flag beaches and a sense of seclusion in places such as Parga Beach Resort are a draw, while Turkey, Spain and the Algarve hold their own with a loyal repeat visit following.
For snow fans, Norway is always a good bet for a covering in the winter season with new resorts in lesser-known destinations such as Myrkdalen opening to cater for demand and those who enjoy a culinary flavour to their icy adventures can enjoy Nordic cuisine while others will be enticed to the Alps, where upmarket gastronomic destinations are appealing to travellers’ taste buds too.
Other trends will see green credentials and positive impact holidays more important than ever as travellers seek to reduce their carbon footprint and multi-generational family breaks will be popular as tourists take the opportunity to catch up with their extended family and friends once more, whether it’s an epic California road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles or a more affordable glamping staycation in the Highlands or the Western isles.
Not surprisingly with stress levels soaring, searches for ‘wellness retreats’ have increased and breaks with a health bonus are booming, with the EcoYoga Centre and Gleneagles keeping Perthshire popular and easing the strain of having to travel too far.
Culture vultures will be heading off to Europe’s capitals, such as Amsterdam for the Vermeer exhibition or Copenhagen to view the famous light festival and Paris has the Musée d'Orsay’s exhibition Manet/Degas from 28 March among its many attractions.
Let’s not leave out London, always a bucket list destination and maybe a safer bet in terms of travel, with music lovers being lured by the likes of Mamma Mia!, 11-time Tony Award winning hit Hamilton and Rodgers & Hammerstein's OKLAHOMA!.
And not forgetting all the lockdown puppies who are now part of the family which means being included in holiday plans as accommodation providers increasingly make them welcome and cater for their canine needs, including SCHLOSS Roxburghe Hotel & Golf in Kelso which won the title of Top Luxe Property in this year’s PetsPyjamas Dog Friendly Travel Awards for pooches who like to travel in style.
With travel still a priority for many, the trick is to plan ahead, take advantage of deals and if all else fails, there’s always the expanding metaverse where increasing numbers of avatars are having the holiday of a lifetime even if you’re still stuck at the departures gate.