By Nadine Mellor, New Hotels Editor

We’ve been around the travel business a good while now. Trends come and go but it’s gratifying when the quintessential i-escape property – small, stylish, usually owner-run, and representing good value for the design and substance delivered – swings back into focus again. Time and money can be rare commodities, so it’s worth investing those wisely, in places where authenticity, quality and sustainability are championed.

Read on for some musings as to where we’re heading in 2023.

1 More bang for your buck

i-escape blog / i-escape Travel Trends for 2023 / Little Agave
Little Agave, Cabo de Gata, Spain

Regardless of a cost of living squeeze, the days of careless spending seem out of fashion. We want our money to go further this year. Luckily there are plenty of options for those seeking style on a budget.

Head to airports served by low-cost flights and avoid car hire costs, such as Barcelona or Girona, Lisbon or Faro, Rome or Crete.

i-escape blog / i-escape Travel Trends for 2023 / Cocorico Guesthouse
Cocorico Guesthouse, Porto, Portugal

And go for gorgeous guesthouses offering insider info over larger hotels, such as glamorous Lume in the heart of Siracusa, elegant Cocorico Guesthouse within walking distance of all Porto’s must-see sights, welcoming off-grid Little Agave in the deserts of Cabo de Gata, and boutique B&B Chateau d’Olmet in rural Languedoc.

Self-catering will often reduce costs further, and shopping locally is a great way to discover more about your chosen destination.


2 Sustainability is here to stay

i-escape blog / i-escape Travel Trends for 2023 / Azul Nomeolvides
Azul Nomeolvides, the Yucatan, Mexico

Eco-travel is more than a buzzword these days. Finding ways to make travelling more sustainable, both for the climate and for the benefit of local communities, is crucial.

You can consider the journey to your destination and let the train take the strain; continental Europe is increasingly well connected by rail – see here for no-fly suggestions for UK travellers.

Or go for places which have sustainability baked in, such as Zen-minimalist Es Raco d’Arta in Mallorca, where wastewater is treated on site, heating and power come from geothermal and solar energy, everything is 100% organic, and the salt-water pool is cleaned by ionisation.

Further afield, off-grid solar-powered jungle hideaway Azul Nomeolvides lies beside Lake Bacalar near Mexico’s border with Belize; A-frame cabanas of local materials including grass roofs minimise any environmental impact, waste water is recycled, food is mostly plant-based.

i-escape blog / i-escape Travel Trends for 2023 / Vigilius Mountain Resort
Vigilius Mountain Resort, Italian Alps

In the Italian Alps, vigilius Mountain Resort is constructed from renewable resources, powered by biomass using local wood chips, fully insulated (triple-glazed picture windows) and is designed to merge with its surroundings.

Here in the UK, pioneering, great-value Wiltshire farm Helen Browning’s Royal Oak offers guided farm safaris, rewilded hedgerows, waste and water recycling, and organic hampers.

Social sustainability is also a factor. Back-to-nature hideaway Baba Ecolodge, on a blissfully undeveloped island 2.5 hours from Phuket, employs 98% of its staff from the local village.


3 Wining and dining in Southern England

i-escape blog / i-escape Travel Trends for 2023 / Tillingham
Tillingham, Sussex, UK

Recent headlines that a British sauvignon blanc has been crowned best in the world underline southern England’s growing reputation for viticulture.

Vineyards are now a familiar sight in the South East, as seen first-hand at Tillingham, an award-winning organic wine estate set in rolling Sussex hills with a strong sustainable ethos. You can base yourself near a cluster of wineries, for example north of Brighton, perhaps at high spec two-bed rental The Sussex Black Shack, and indulge in a bit of wine tourism.

i-escape blog / i-escape Travel Trends for 2023 / The Bull Hotel
The Bull Hotel, Dorset, UK

If you prefer your vino to come to you, we recommend The Terrace Rooms & Wine in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, which does exactly what it says on the bottle, with a wine cave and a stunning all-glass terrace overlooking the sea.

And of course, locally grown food is also a draw. Port Hotel in Eastbourne, a refreshing take on the English seafront hotel, only features produce from within a 30-mile radius; while colourful inn The Bull Hotel, in the heart of Bridport, has delineated its menus into Land, Sea or Field, all locally sourced.


4 The rise of marvellous makeovers

i-escape blog / i-escape Travel Trends for 2023 / Colegio Charm House
Colegio Charm House, Algarve, Portugal

Properties with a history, especially a chequered past, always float our boat. It’s pleasing to see an old relic brought back to life in a stylish and thoughtful way. And it’s a sustainable means of expanding the hotel market, too.

We especially admire the incredible transformations our ever-ingenious partners come up with.

Almaria Ex-Libris is a former newspaper building and bookstore in Lisbon converted to beautifully equipped apartments. Wonderful new Tavira hotel Colegio Charm House used to be a palace and boys school.

i-escape blog / i-escape Travel Trends for 2023 / Aethos Saragano
Aethos Saragano, Umbria, Italy

In southern Puglia, cool new villa The Salento Manor House began life as a fortified medieval tower. Aethos Saragano is an exquisite hilltop hotel created from a 1000-year old Umbrian village. And over in Provence, Lou Calen is a masterful reworking of a smattering of rural buildings into a rustic-luxe country estate.

Closer to home, vintage-chic inn The George and Heart in Margate was once a run-down Indian restaurant, while gastro-pub The White Hart Inn is a bold reimagining of a faded old boozer on the wild Essex coast. And a shout out has to go to the fabulous recent renovation at iconic hostelry turned top-notch hotel The George in Rye.


5 Wanderlust is still with us

i-escape blog / i-escape Travel Trends for 2023 / Malabar Hill
Malabar Hill, southern Sri Lanka

The pandemic revealed to many how vital travel is for the soul, especially when it comes to those very special once-in-a-lifetime memory-making experiences. Bucket lists are back in vogue.

Our long-haul favourites this year include Sri Lanka, for its incomparable rich mix of beach, jungle, history and culture, which delivers for couples and families alike. Now is the time to visit – the country is firmly back on the safe list, but many tourists haven’t yet returned. Our recent discoveries here include grown-up escape Malabar Hill, just inland from south-coast surf-tastic Weligama, with long views across tropical treetops and a knock-out infinity pool. Or there’s eco-retreat Gal Oya Lodge in the east of the country, where you’re paired with an expert naturalist to explore the forested national park on boat safaris.

i-escape blog / i-escape Travel Trends for 2023 / kizikula
kizikula, Zanzibar

If you’re bringing the kids, how about stunning South Africa (no jet lag for European travellers!) for safaris on land, dynamic cities and adrenaline adventures? Many begin in iconic Cape Town, maybe based at recently refurbed More Quarters, a chic apart-hotel in trendy Tamboerskloof. Newly opened coastal hideaway Coot Club, 2 hours SE from Cape Town, has spectacular mountain views, land and water-based activities (from kayaks to fat bikes), and stylish boathouses. Mosquito-free Marataba Safari Lodge is in a private park in the north-west, and has plush family tents, twice-daily game drives, river cruises, and an excellent kids club.

And for romantics, island life can’t be beat. You may go for charming, well-priced retreat Mvuvi Boutique Resort or chic architecture-designed eco-hotel kizikula, both set on those fabulous white sand beaches in Zanzibar. Or opt for a back-to-nature tropical hideaway at Castara Retreats in Tobago, set in lush rainforest above a golden crescent bay.

Don’t forget we work with local operators who can deliver your wildest dreams in Sri Lanka, South Africa and Tanzania.