The world welcomed 2021 with a collective sigh of relief. We have survived 2020 and all the turmoil that came with it. While many countries remain under lockdowns, struggling to contain the spread of Coronavirus, there is hope on the horizon. As the vaccines are being rolled out in many parts of the world, there is a glimmer of optimism. That optimism plays a massive role in influencing travel trends for 2021 and beyond.
In 2020, travel came to a standstill, planes were grounded, borders closed, and many tourism businesses were decimated. The golden age of unlimited travel came to an end fast and furious. Destinations that suffered from overtourism were suddenly devoid of travellers. Restaurants, hotels, tour operators, travel companies and airlines lost revenues overnight. It was a harsh and painful lesson.
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Travel in a post-Corona world
A virus that brought the whole travel industry to its knees also altered our travel habits. What are travellers looking forward to in a post-Corona world? Well, several things will be top of mind for travellers from now on.
- Flexibility – Booking vacations far in advance is not going to be the norm. Travellers will be looking for flexibility with travel bookings and changes, cancellations and fees.
- Cleanliness and safety – Travellers will be especially concerned about staying safe while travelling. Cleaning measures, contactless check-ins and guest safety considerations will be top of mind and determine where travellers will choose to go.
- Value – Unsurprisingly, travellers will be looking for more value. The pandemic left many in precarious positions, so those travelling will be more demanding when it comes to deals, packages and offerings. Companies wanting to woo travellers will have to step up their promotional offers, deals and discounts.
- Technology – Travellers will be more reliant on technology to plan travel and while travelling. Contactless check-ins, apps for ordering food and making reservations online will be preferred to avoid face-to-face interactions.
10 Travel trends for 2021
A year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has not diminished our passion for travel. According to the Amex Trendex trend report, travel in 2021 is top of mind for many across the U.S., U.K., Australia, Japan, Mexico, India and Canada. Travel and travel-related gifts (vouchers, trips, excursions, etc.) topped many wish lists.
The report also found that 62% of consumers plan to focus on their finances in 2021 and are saving for big purchases such as travel (22%), home improvement (17%) and a car (14%). So, what does this mean for travel trends? Let’s take a look.
1. Staycations are here to stay
Staycation became one of the buzzwords of 2020. While it wasn’t a new concept, it became the norm when international travel restrictions closed many borders. It’s one of those travel trends that will be top of minds for many as people set out to explore their own backyards.
Staycations might become the norm out of necessity, not just by choice. As travellers cannot travel internationally, they will be looking past exploring their cities and going further afield in their own country. The tourism industry will have to refocus its efforts at attracting new types of customers just as travellers will have to adapt to the new way of travel.
2. Road trips and the rise of RV travel
As more people will be exploring closer to home, more of them will opt for road tripping in their cars as opposed train travel. As car travel offers more flexibility and exploration options, more people will opt for longer road trips further afield. Spending extended periods of time on the road is better when you have more room and comfort. That’s where RVs and van life living become very attractive to many.
With road trips becoming all the rage, there are many options for those opting for this type of travel. According to a report by RVshare, the world’s first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace, RVs became a preferred way to travel in 2020. Despite the pandemic, RV rentals rose during 2020, with 75% of RV owners reporting higher rental income in 2020 than in 2019. Whether travellers opt for buying their own or renting, RV travel is here to stay.
3. Wellness travel
As far as travel trends go, wellness travel is not a big surprise. With many people cooped up in their homes for months, we saw increased stress levels and diminished mental health. Travellers will be looking for more opportunities that offer stress relief and focus on wellbeing.
While the pandemic has done a lot of damage, there is no denying its effect on our overall health. We are likely to see its long-term impact for years to come. While many people focused on maintaining physical health while in lockdown, they will be looking at wellness travel to heal their mental health.
4. Transformative travel
Transformative travel is one of the travel trends gaining steam. The Transformational Travel Council refers to it as “intentionally travelling to stretch, learn, and grow into new ways of being and engaging with the world.” It’s not just about travelling to places, but instead focusing on connecting with the locals and making a difference in others’ lives as you transform your own.
Think hands-on classes to learn a new skill, live with monks, or volunteer with an organization focused on wildlife and/or nature conservation. These experiences are about self-reflection, discovery and personal growth. They add purpose and significantly impact both the traveller and the host. It’s a natural progression in a post-pandemic world and in line with other travel trends.
5. Slow travel
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s the appreciation for the little things in our lives—the need to slow down and enjoy life around us. Take nothing for granted. It’s not surprising that many are looking forward to laid-back holidays while taking in everything around them.
Slow travel is one of those travel trends that has been around for a while, but thanks to the pandemic, it has taken a fast ride to the top. Travellers will be looking for more personalized experiences that immerse them in local culture for longer.
6. Nomadic travel and working remotely
Another one of the post-pandemic travel trends is the rise of nomadic travel. The restrictions and lockdowns showed us that many jobs could be done remotely. As companies re-examine their physical office space needs, many workers see working remotely as a permanent solution.
As many countries implement digital nomad visa programs to attract remote workers, more people will be looking at swapping their existing home offices for other locations. Why live and work in a tiny apartment in the city when you can be living in a small European town or the beach?
7. Sustainable travel and the focus on the environment
Climate change rose to the forefront of many in 2019. A report by Bookings.com revealed that over half of global travellers were more determined to make sustainable travel choices than they were in the past. A global pandemic has only highlighted the importance of sustainable travel choices.
As travellers will be choosier about their travel options and destinations, they will also be looking for companies and destinations that reflect their beliefs. Those that can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability will score big with eco-conscious and ethically focused travellers. However, sustainable travel isn’t just about the environment. It also focuses on making positive impacts on the local cultures, peoples and economies.
8. Wilderness and outdoors exploration
There is nothing like being stuck indoors to make you appreciate the outdoors. With travel restrictions and social distancing dominating our lives, more people have opted to explore the outdoors. In a world of chaos, upheaval, and rising stress levels, people started to appreciate nature’s tranquillity and freedom.
Parks, lakes, forests and gardens offered many an escape from being stuck at home. This isn’t likely to change. People will be seeking out rural and remote destinations away from the crowds. Mountains, beaches, forests and lakes will be major attractions for travellers looking for an escape and to improve their wellbeing.
9. Visiting less-travelled destinations
Tying in with the other travel trends, tourists will likely be looking for the less travelled destinations. Popular tourist destinations with loads of visitors might not be as appealing in a world of social distancing as they were in the past. Travellers looking for more in-depth cultural experiences are more likely to choose less known and not touristy places to visit.
While many will still opt to travel to touristy hotspots, these destinations are not likely to see the same numbers of visitors as they had in the past. How the destination has handled the pandemic might also play a role in whether tourists choose to go there. As many will be looking for deals and discounts, destinations will have to rethink their offerings to attract tourists.
10. Out-of-the-box travel
In 2020, we saw many destinations and companies get creative with how they market themselves. Virtual tours, cooking classes and online presentations became all the rage. That’s not likely to completely disappear once travel resumes. While many are putting travel on top of their wish lists, not everyone will travel to all the destinations on their list. Exploring them virtually is often a great way to satisfy travel withdrawal and experience destinations from afar.
Virtual reality is another out-of-the-box travel solution that is gaining steam. If you can’t travel to a destination, bring the destination to you. From underwater exploration to touring historical monuments and experiencing the beauty of faraway lands, the VR offerings are improving with technology.
For many, it’s not just travel withdrawal that companies are trying to capitalize on. Sometimes it’s the journey itself. With some airlines planning “flights to nowhere,” those missing travel can buy a ticket without a destination. If sitting on a plane is something you desperately miss, this could be for you.
Future travel trends in conclusion
If 2020 taught us anything is that nothing can be taken for granted. One thing that became abundantly clear is that travel will always be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Whether you are a seasoned traveller, occasional vacationer or a global wanderer, exploring the world is something we all crave.
As travel trends show, people are looking forward to travelling and will do so once travel restrictions are lifted. Those that have been planning their dream trips are likely to move them up. Those that missed travelling to celebrate milestones will be making up for the missed time. Travel restrictions, testing and quarantine requirements will also play a role where people choose to travel.
It might take some time for travel to get back to the pre-pandemic levels, but one thing is for sure -it’s not going to stop. What travel trends do you see in the future? Where do your travel plans fit in on this list?