Just as TikTokers and social media frequenters have been opting to swap lux beauty products for viable drug store alternatives, travellers are choosing to buy tickets to lesser-known getaways, or “dupes” for popular spots – and experts say it could save their wallets.
The idea “dupes” was championed by Gen Z in their pursuit of affordable duplicates for high-priced products. The phenomenon took hold of the internet in 2020, when the pandemic forced communication and interaction online. Influencers were sharing insider knowledge with their audience, directing them to must-haves that wouldn’t break the bank.
Now, rather than spending money on trips to tourist hubs, Expedia’s 2024 Travel Report indicates an upward trend of travel to “dupe” cities or islands. Eager explorers seemingly wanting to avoid the crowds and costly airfares to Santorini are jetting off to Paros instead. Likewise, Liverpool is taking precedence over London, while Palermo is the new stand-in for Lisbon.
Speaking to CNBC, Jon Gieselman, the president of Expedia brands, emphasised the increased interest in this travel tactic of hitting “hidden-gem destinations over tried-and-true tourist hotspots.” And Expedia has the statistics to prove it.
According to Expedia’s data from 31 August 2022 to 31 August 2023, searches for “dupe” spots doubled internationally in 2023. For example, searches for Taipei, the apparent alternative for Seoul, saw a 458 per cent increase in the US and a 2,786 per cent increase internationally. At the same time, travellers’ searches for trips to Perth, Australia, the stand-in for Sydney, jumped 33 per cent in the US and 109 per cent globally. What’s more, Curacao, the “dupe” for St. Martin, saw a 228 per cent bump in searches from people in the US and a 185 per cent increase from around the world.
Lead economist at Hopper, Hayley Berg, spoke to CNBC about the financial benefit of selecting far-off locations that reflect the same sentiment in tourist-dominated spots.
“If you are looking to save money on your next trip, consider an alternate destination,” she said. “Oftentimes you can save on airfare and hotel rates by picking a destination off the beaten track.”
Berg noted how travel to Phuket, Thailand, an attractive island, amounts to $1,705 round trip. On the other hand, a flight to Bangkok is only $1,404. Hopper used the current average airfare prices derived from flights in December through March of 2022.
Google Trends data supports the popularity of the travel “dupe” hack, with search traffic for such destinations rapidly increasing in 2023 and most noticeably so in July.
In a conversation with CNBC, Sara Rathner, one of NerdWallet’s travel experts, pointed out how these “dupes” provide other financial benefits for hotels, food, and necessary transportation upon a traveller’s stay. In other words, people will not only save money on flights but add-on accommodations and warranted expenses as well.
All that said, Rathner encouraged travel research because some destination “dupes” may appear to save you money and provide a more relaxing experience, when they won’t. For US travellers, flights to Perth cost around $2,389, according to Hopper. But trips to Sydney cost $1,572. Still, occupancy factors may add to the overall expense if one opts for Sydney.
So, Rathner suggested looking up the infrastructure, amenities, and safety regulations of any “dupe” vacation spot and comparing it to others, as well as the more frequented locations.
The Independent has contacted Expedia, Berg, and Rathner for a comment.