Travel Trends 2021: Starting The Year With The Latest Industry Insights

January 25, 2021
Lucas Ennis
6 min read

As we glance forward to catch sight of what the road to recovery might look like for tourism, it is inspiring to be part of an industry that has been working together over the last few months to adapt and innovate.

2021 will be a transformative year for travel as the Coronavirus disrupts what was considered the ‘normal’ way of doing things. Now it is time for tourism companies to prepare their business for the time when travel resumes.

To help our audience stay in touch with the direction where travel is heading, we have compiled insights from leading industry publications, journalists, and experts. Here is our list of travel trends to keep in mind for 2021.

Travel Trends 2021: Insights For Tourism Companies

Flexible Policies, Shorter Booking Lead Times

2021 Travel Trends

According to Booking.com, 74% of respondents want travel providers to be more transparent about cancellations, refunds, and trip insurance options.

In addition to that, refundable accommodation is a must-have for 46% of respondents, while 36% expect to be able to change dates without being charged.

Airlines and hotel groups are responding to this, with many offering free changes on domestic flights or allowing guests to change or cancel at no charge up to 24 hours before arrival.

Trip organizers are doing the same. Contiki, for example, now has a Book With Confidence policy, which gives travelers more flexibility. They can transfer their deposits and make more last-minute changes.

Also, as destinations phase through lockdown, there will be windows of opportunity for travel. In some cases, travel providers could see shorter lead times from the date of reservation to travel as travelers take advantage of these.

Takeaway: Rules and restrictions change from one day to another and one location to the next. Travelers will expect greater clarity around your policies and more flexibility in your booking terms in 2021. With these assurances, they will feel more confident to go ahead and book.

Safety Is Loyalty

How To Demonstrate Safety To Travelers

Amadeus’ research found that 40% of travelers would support airlines, airports, and hotels with high health and safety standards. This figure was higher for Booking.com respondents, where 70% would only book accommodation if the health and hygiene policies were made clear.

The Arival Guide Travel Trend Report for 2020/21 iterated the focus on safety in activities. Travelers are currently leaning towards small-group and outdoor activities that limit interaction and minimize the risk of exposure.

Takeaway: Travel providers will have to demonstrate their commitment to high safety and hygiene standards to earn the loyalty of travelers in 2021. Information on the measures that you are implementing should be made available with assurances around duty of care obligations issued proactively rather than reactively.

Technology Has A Part To Play In Recovery

84% of Respondents in a Censuswide survey indicated that technology would make them feel more confident to travel this year. It addressed concerns around clear and instant communication, contactless payments, and boarding transport.

Takeaway: Going forward, it will be even more important to have a strong online presence. Travelers expect their travel providers to be readily available, to communicate electronically with timely information, and to offer touchless payments to lower the risk of exposure.

Travelers Will Turn To The Experts

Travel Agents In 2021

Anyone who had to cancel or postpone a trip in 2020 will know how much easier their lives can be when booking through a tour operator or travel agent. These professionals streamline the process and jump up to the plate if anything goes awry.

Travel trends in 2021 will see travelers look toward the experts even more. Travel agents and operators are a valuable source of up to date information, can provide personalized recommendations, and help to minimize disruptions if they occur.

Takeaway: As a travel provider, position your brand to earn trust with travelers and win customers when travel resumes. Your expertise and ability to access timely information will be invaluable when dealing with the uncertainties ahead.

Breathe Life Into Bucket List Trips

If the adventurous traveler is booking a trip this year, whether it’s for travel in 2021 or beyond, they won’t be holding back.

2020 was the year that everyone stayed at home. They had time to dream up their ideal bucket list trip, and 2021 might be the year they go all out and bring it to life.

Surveys conducted by Amadeus in the latter half of 2020 which explored traveler sentiments in light of COVID-19 found that:

  • 55% of travelers said they would travel for 14 days or more
  • 60% now only expect to take a few trips this year

This could mean that travelers will be looking to make their holiday time count.

Takeaway: Travel providers can expect a rise in searches around longer stays, unique experiences, and uncrowded destinations. Be prepared to pull out the stops and offer something that checks off bucket lists.

The World Is Your Office

Remote Work Views

2020 saw an irreversible shift in the way we work. It won’t be easy to get everyone back in the office again now that they have experienced some of the benefits of working from home and remote working.

As we look forward into 2021, more people will be looking to book those longer trips and take their work with them. Having a wifi-connection and enough working hours in the day will make it possible to swap the regular view for a more scenic one.

To boost tourism again and in response to this, many accommodation providers are now launching long-stay packages. There are also countries offering long-term digital nomad visas. Barbados was one of the first, and several countries, including Mexico, Costa Rica, Croatia, Georgia, Estonia, the Cayman Islands, and Dubai, have followed suit.

Americans have been researching The Maldives, Mexico, and The Caribbean for trips longer than 21 days, according to insights from Skyscanner. While Booking.com research found that 37% of travelers have already considered booking a trip to work from a different destination. 40% would quarantine if they could work remotely.

Takeaway: As a travel provider, you can meet this demand by highlighting your destination’s travel and/or visa requirements, amenities to suit remote working, packaged or discounted long stays, and so on.

Emphasis On Sustainable Travel

Sustainable Travel In 2021

Leading up to the global hard lockdowns, there was an increasing awareness of the impact, both positive and negative, that tourism had on the environment and host communities.

As the world hit pause, there was then time to think about how people move around the planet and what this means for tourism going forward.

Travel trends in 2021 show that the Coronavirus has prompted people to think about how to travel more sustainably and with a lighter impact. To make greater connections and become immersed in the destination rather than remain an observer.

Illustrating this, Contiki has seen a lot of interest in their travel experiences that support the hosting communities and position travelers close to the people and culture.

Adventure Student Travel reported an uptick of interest in Eco-Friendly travel. Travelers are embracing eco-friendly, carbon-neutral means of travel. They are also applying this focus to the hotels they stay at and the food they eat in-destination.

53% of respondents to the Booking.com survey referenced above wanted to travel more sustainably in the future. And 69% expect travel providers to offer more sustainable travel options.

Peak season travel and overcrowding also drew opinions, with 51% and 48% of travelers respectively saying they would visit alternative destinations to avoid these.

Takeaway: Help the mindful traveler travel with a lighter footprint in 2021. Utilize local partner networks, buy from local businesses, and work towards having a positive impact on the host destination.

Above All, Travel Will Resume

Will Travel Resume In 2021

Travel can connect and inspire people, and we have missed that for most of 2020.

Although it is not yet certain when travel will resume, there is hope on the horizon for the industry in 2021. Widespread vaccine distribution may take a while but they have sparked hope. Eager to step up to the plate, tourism businesses are doing all they can to create a safe and enjoyable experience for their employees and travelers when the time is right.

Above all, travel will resume, and we look forward to the time when #wetravelagain. COVID has not dulled the desire to explore. Instead, it has caused us to adapt and innovate, with travel trends in 2021 focusing on safety and sustainability.