The Year in Travel: Kiwis' travel trends for 2023 and predictions for 2024 unveiled by Flight Centre NZ

A New Zealander who splashed over $17,000 on last-minute, first-class tickets to Paris for the Rugby World Cup semi-final showdown between the All Blacks and Argentina has been named Flight Centre's 'Keenest Traveller' in their annual Year in Travel report.

Flight Centre New Zealand released the report on Tuesday, revealing top trends in travel for the past calendar year as well as the travel agency's predictions for the year ahead.

2023 marked the country's first full year of open borders since 2019 and despite the ongoing cost of living crisis, typical seasonal trends have largely returned worldwide, with airline capacity back to around 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels, Flight Centre NZ's general manager Heidi Walker said.

"Though prices are still not back to 'golden era' levels, we are starting to see some sharp deals come to market and as capacity continues to increase and demand normalises further, we're expecting to see prices come down even more towards the end of 2024," she added.

Other notable 'Keenest Travellers' covered in the report included a customer who went on holiday to Bora Bora and ended up breaking a world record for the fastest time swimming around the French Polynesian island. Another honourable mention was a solo traveller who spent 37 nights at a hotel in Ibiza, Spain - the greatest number of nights spent at a single hotel from a Flight Centre NZ customer.

Trends observed by the travel agency this year included an overall increase in premium economy, business and first-class flight bookings compared with the prior year, and the growing use of safety nets such as Flight Centre's 'Captain's Pack' - which includes baggage tracking, a travel insurance discount and zero cancellation fees - doubling in popularity between 2022 and 2023. Additionally, just over 30 percent of customers added insurance to their bookings with Flight Centre this year, an increase of 5 percent.

"It's no secret that there have been a few teething issues as airlines and airports around the world worked hard to recruit and re-train staff to keep up with high demand once borders reopened," Walker commented. "Unfortunately, in some cases this has had a negative impact on the customer experience with lost luggage and last-minute cancellations.

"It's positive to see more travellers taking action to avoid these situations including adding baggage tracking and insurance to their bookings."

Thirty percent of Flight Centre's 2023 bookings were made by those travelling solo with an average age of 53, with the most popular destinations being:

  1. London  
  2. Brisbane  
  3. Sydney   
  4. Melbourne   
  5. Manila   
  6. Perth   
  7. Nadi   
  8. Bangkok   
  9. Apia  
  10. Singapore.  

"Most of our solo customers are in their 50s. They're at a point in their life where they're independent and are happy to spend their well-earned money to tick destinations off their list that they may have dreamt about for some time, even if that means going alone," Walker said.

Twenty-seven percent of Flight Centre's 2023 bookings were made by couples, with an average age of 55. The top destinations for Kiwi couples were:

  1. London  
  2. Brisbane  
  3. Sydney  
  4. Nadi  
  5. Singapore  
  6. Rarotonga  
  7. Melbourne  
  8. Gold Coast  
  9. Denarau  
  10. Paris.  

"Most of our couple customers are in their 50s. They are often empty nesters with more disposable income to spend on things like travel. Romantic, adults-only resorts at warm destinations like Fiji or Rarotonga are always popular with this demographic, though we are seeing plenty take off to destinations further afield as well. The United Kingdom is often a first stop for this demographic before heading off to explore Europe," Walker added.  

Meanwhile, 9 percent of Flight Centre's bookings for the year were made by families, with an average age of 43. The top destinations for Kiwi families were:  

  1. Nadi  
  2. Gold Coast  
  3. Brisbane  
  4. London  
  5. Denarau  
  6. Rarotonga  
  7. Manila  
  8. Coral Coast  
  9. Sydney  
  10. Los Angeles.  

Seven percent were made by small groups, also with an average age of 53, with the top three destinations for group bookings being London, Nadi and Brisbane.

Travel predictions for the year ahead include the normalisation of prices, more cruising - particularly river cruises in Europe - prioritising the exchange rate, and more Kiwis heading to Europe for sporting events.

"There are a couple of big sporting events in 2024 which are likely to attract Kiwis overseas - the Paris Olympics starting in July, as well as the America's Cup in Barcelona, starting in August. We have no doubt that we'll see Kiwis heading over to Europe around this time to support Kiwi athletes, and most likely tag-on additional Europe travel to this too."