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For Operators & Destination Partners

Tourism During COVID-19: February 2021

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Resources // Report // Tourism During COVID-19: February 2021

Introduction

This month’s dashboard is different from previous monthly dashboards in that it takes a step back from summarizing significant COVID-19 updates meant to support travel and tourism industry stakeholders in making the best decisions (though a brief summary is provided at the end of the report). Rather, it summarizes the numerous “trends” reports that have been published and circulated by major travel and tourism and other sector sources at the end of 2020/beginning of 2021 to help destinations, operators and travellers plan for 2021.

This month’s dashboard summarizes the top 21 trends, insights and predictions that those in the travel and tourism industry can expect in 2021.

2021 will be a year of slow transition. Barring any unexpected catastrophes and a continuation of vaccinations, individuals, the travel and tourism industry and society can slowly begin looking forward to shaping futures through a lens of innovation and opportunity.

This report focuses on the top 21 trends, insights and predictions from leading travel and tourism sources to support industry stakeholders frame the future of travel and tourism in 2021.

Top Trends for 2021

Embracing Working from Anywhere

With a wholesale shift to remote working and keeping in touch with the office via digital technologies, the world is now everyone’s office; 2021 will see an entirely new movement of “untethered” professionals – free from the constraints of offices, commutes and homes in the city – with the opportunity to temporarily relocate to places more beautiful, inspiring and for longer periods of time.

Travel with Intention and Impact

Sustainability will be more than a buzzword as people across the globe consider how to travel with a holistically green conscience; ‘Regenerative Travel’ continues to gain pre-COVID momentum with both companies and travellers seeking to minimise the negative effects of tourism on the planet while simultaneously making positive impact on their host destinations.

The Return of Consumer Confidences

Although travel restrictions forced 53% of surveyed U.S. travelers to cancel or rebook travel plans this past year, many added international destinations to their future travel wish lists; 43% of travelers have winter trips planned for early 21— with nearly half (44%) traveling to beach destinations and 24% to more remote ski spots.

Hygiene Over Fees

Travel decisions will be dramatically influenced by cleanliness standards; with increased scrutiny on hygiene due to COVID-19, search data cites that 45% of travelers included enhanced cleaning within their top three decision-making factors.

The Rise of Rural

Search data is already showing that nearly 90% of overall searches are for trips to rural areas; cabin rentals are expected to be especially popular, accounting for 33% of total accommodation searches in 2020, a drastic +143% increase from 2019

The Slow Travel Movement

After a year of international lockdown, travel agents predict that, overall, travellers have acquired a taste for a slower pace; slow travel aims to give travellers a rich understanding of life in their destination through interactions with local people and opportunities to experience a community on a deeper level. Especially important if the hassle of multiple COVID-19 negative tests are required and long quarantine periods the quick trip is far less likely.

Wellness Tourism

It’s time to embrace the future of wellness travel; the habits of travellers have changed, and more people are favouring a wellness staycation with demands for immunity boosting retreats, socially distanced trips, private jet journeys and personal health and fitness holidays.

Travel is a Luxury

Many countries around the world will require proof of a negative coronavirus test for all arriving international travelers; and may impose additional tests upon arrival or a few days later. Airports and hotels will add testing facilities, and airlines will enhance mobile apps with health features to prove negative tests. Testing may continue in spite of proof of vaccinations. And also in spite of proof of vaccinations and multiple negative tests, destinations may still require quarantine periods of up to 14 days.

Last Minute Bookings

When it comes to flexibility, more travellers are booking spontaneous last-minute trips; the average number of days between booking to check-in is now 50 days, down -37.5% from the average prepandemic lead time.

Travel Agent Value Surge

The mass chaos and confusion caused by COVID-19 has strengthened the travel manager’s resolve to significantly reduce, if not prohibit, unmanaged travel; with travellers less likely to leave home without one, travel professionals will grow their influence exponentially.

Younger Travellers

On the heels of a pandemic that posed the greatest threat to seniors and baby boomers, the average age of travellers has dropped precipitously across all categories; as age and generational demographics of travellers shift to Gen X and those younger travellers that follow, it’s likely that other consumer travel trends—such as experiences on offer, popular destinations, preferred accommodations and amenities—will follow suit.

Business Travel Will Resume, Responsibly

2021 will usher in the era of responsible travel, with a particular focus on business travel; those who must travel – members of the C-suite, salespeople and essential workers – will remain as early adopters with the expectation that travel providers may require disclosure of COVID-19 health status until a vaccine is widely adopted.

No Fee Trip Changes

With rules and regulations for travel changing on a daily basis, travellers will require the flexibility to change their hotel or flight booking at no extra cost to book with confidence; for some businesses, this will reinforce the other 2021 trend – doing more with less.

Supporting Local

With many borders still closed, and the potential of provincial quarantines looming, domestic locations in national parks, winter ski and beach towns will gain even more traction as preferred tourist choices; the focus on domestic tourism will continue to signal a massive departure from international and regular seasonal travel over the year to come.

Values-Driven Brand Authenticity

The intensity of the pandemic and the whole of 2020 has shed more light on the global issues faced by the collective; as we move into 2021 consumers will re-examine their values and seek the “new luxury” –brands with a conscious. The travel industry is no exception.

Digital Transformation

COVID-19 accelerated the digitization of every industry, including tourism; the capacity for tourism businesses of all sizes to evolve their business models, adopt digital technologies to effectively participate in global value ecosystems, and take up new ways of data-driven working will shape productivity, social and economic wellbeing in the future.

Cruise Control

The cruise industry has suffered losses in the billions from a catastrophic year; although the companies have developed stringent hygiene concepts, whether the cruise industry can truly recover in 2021 will depend, above all, on the effectiveness of vaccination.

“Vaxications”

Pent-up demand for travel, the promise of vaccines for the general public by summer, and border/quarantine restrictions potentially being lifted by internationally coordinated digital health passports will result in a rush of vaccine-enabled vacations.

Travel Testing, Proof of Vaccinations, and Quarantines?

Many countries around the world will require proof of a negative coronavirus test for all arriving international travelers; and may impose additional tests upon arrival or a few days later. Airports and hotels will add testing facilities, and airlines will enhance mobile apps with health features to prove negative tests. Testing may continue in spite of proof of vaccinations. And also in spite of proof of vaccinations and multiple negative tests, destinations may still require quarantine periods of up to 14 days.

Solo Travel Takes a Pause

Solo travel is taking a downturn in the year ahead; in 2020, the share of bookings for single accommodations on HomeToGo dropped by 44% compared to 2019, with most looking to travel with an average of six companions; that said, solo women travellers are predicted to be on the rise.

Destination Asia

As borders gradually open and more people are planning to travel in 2021, destinations within Asia are the most searched for international travel as revealed by the 2021 Expedia Travel Trends Report; with all the positive global media coverage around Asia’s early handling of the pandemic, it’s no surprise that many are looking east for a glimpse of recovery.

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