Trends Likely to Impact Recovery of the Global Travel and Tourism Industry
By – Twenty31 Consulting
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. Twenty31 reviewed myriad sources, scenarios and predictions to devise this synthesized list, so you don’t have to.
1. EMBRACING WORK 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 – with the opportunity to temporarily relocate to places more beautiful, inspiring and for longer periods of time.
Key takeaways for destinations: Lines will be further blurred between DMO’s and economic development organizations in attracting the temporary visitor beyond the usual two-day to two-week vacationers. Loyalty programs and incentives will be required to attract the booming and competitive “workation” or “digital nomad” market.
Key takeaways for operators: the development and marketing of travel office packages that meet the needs of digital nomads represent a tremendous opportunity for new business. Long stay packages; hotel lobbies as shared workspaces, hotel and experience packages with shared workspace providers.
Key takeaways for travellers: with virtual workspaces blurring the line between work and leisure, opportunities to experience the world without using vacation time are limitless.
2. 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.
Key takeaways for destinations: clear sustainability goals, strategies and actions will be a required component of every destination marketing plan.
Key takeaways for operators: the ability to demonstrate alignment and contribution towards the destination’s sustainability initiatives will significantly impact business success.
Key takeaways for travellers: expect experiences to be more rugged, integrative and connected to communities, connected by a common thread of higher purpose and contribution to the greater good.
3. 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 travellers included enhanced cleaning within their top three decision-making factors.
Key takeaways for destinations: perceptions of cleanliness, health and safety will rank higher than any other value proposition. “Tourism health and safety certified” from sources like EarthCheck and others providing health and safety assurances for destinations may be a key destination differentiator and driver of destination choice and attract safety conscious travellers.
Key takeaways for operators: protocol and procedures will continue to evolve based on the recommendations of health authorities – expect more costs. Health and safety from “tourism certified” sources for destinations, may be a key differentiator for an operator and a driver of differentiation and choice.
Key takeaways for travellers: personal protective equipment will continue well into 2021, with the expectation that each person will do their part by complying with local health measures.
4. THE RETURN OF CONSUMER CONFIDENCE
Although travel restrictions forced 53% of surveyed U.S. travellers to cancel or rebook travel plans this past year, many added international destinations to their future travel wish lists; 43% of travellers have winter trips planned for early 21— with nearly half (44%) travelling to beach destinations and 24% to more remote ski spots.
Key takeaways for destinations: all tourism messaging will need to consistently reinforce and build confidence in target audiences.
Key takeaways for operators: marketing materials will need to consistently align with key destination marketing messages.
Key takeaways for travellers: with travel aspirations returning, deciding where to go, when and how will require deeper levels of decision-making as new factors related to COVID-19 have impacted every aspect of travel.
5. 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.
Key takeaways for destinations: there will be significant opportunities to re-develop the tourism industry in ways that can address historical challenges related to overtourism, environmental damage and unequal distribution of wealth.
Key takeaways for operators: entrepreneurial spirit, year-round offerings and new community partnerships will be key for business success.
Key takeaways for travellers: securing rural-based experiences will become increasingly competitive, and likely more expensive as overall demand increases.
6. 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.
Key takeaways for destinations: bringing existing wellness tourism infrastructure to the forefront of destination marketing strategy will be a key competitive advantage.
Key takeaways for operators: as wellness tourism has traditionally been positioned as a luxury experience, this new category of business could represent opportunities to build new, lucrative revenue streams.
Key takeaways for travellers: self-care travel options will grow exponentially, for
individuals, couples and families.
7. TRAVEL IS A LUXURY
As travel bans lift and borders open, travel will become one of the most valuable investments of time and money as people now see the ability to fly and explore our planet as a privilege; travel at any level will become more precious, more exotic and more adventurous.
Key takeaways for destinations: messaging related to “why travel here” will become increasingly competitive, with unique selling propositions (USPs) more important than ever before.
Key takeaways for operators: delivering value and building brand recognition through positive consumer experience will be paramount.
Key takeaways for travellers: travel experiences will require more time, money and planning on domestic and international levels.
8. 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 pre-pandemic lead time.
Key takeaways for destinations: the ability to predict and plan for high and low volumes of travellers will become increasingly complex; investments in new methodologies for data tracking will pay dividends in the years to come.
Key takeaways for operators: business models will need to be adapted to absorb high degrees of uncertainty and surge capacity.
Key takeaways for travellers: the traditional mindset of “planning the perfect vacation” will be replaced by the need to embrace travel from a place of being open-minded, adventurous and flexible.
9. BUSINESS TRAVEL WILL RESUME
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.
Key takeaways for destinations: quarantines need to be replaced with rapid testing programs to revitalize the business travel industry.
Key takeaways for operators: the best way planners can support the return to business travel is to listen to the concerns of companies, organizations and businesspeople, and to put new policies in place to help ensure that travellers
Key takeaways for travellers: business travel will become increasingly personalized, depending on the needs and comfort level of the individual; working with a travel planner could be the new normal for business as much as pleasure.
10. 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.
Key takeaways for destinations: both private and publicly held tourism businesses will continue to feel the financial strain of COVID-19, therefore economic relief will continue to be a necessity.
Key takeaways for operators: financial strain will continue, with pressure mounting on booking and rebooking policies and procedures.
Key takeaways for travellers: understanding the parameters of cancellation, associated fee and insurance options will increase in complexity.
11. 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.
Key takeaways for destinations: investing heavily in domestic tourism strategies will pay dividends in the longer term.
Key takeaways for operators: developing partnerships that reflect “loving what’s local” are a key step towards rebuilding economic stability.
Key takeaways for travellers: investing tourism dollars in the local economy is a direct opportunity to support regional recovery.
12. 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.
Key takeaways for destinations: investments in infrastructure to accommodate new “travel bubbles” could be essential in supporting travel trends over the years to come.
Key takeaways for operators: integrative, local and authentic experiences that reflect this new aspiration can be marketed at a premium.
13. 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.
Key takeaways for destinations: understanding the values of younger demographics, and being able to effectively communicate with them, will be paramount.
Key takeaways for operators: piloting new offers to meet the needs of Gen X and younger travellers in 2021 will form the basis of successful business in the years to come.
Key takeaways for travellers: those falling within younger demographics will see a massive increase in general targeted marketing, with older generations subject to much more bespoke, curated experiences that address their specific risks and vulnerabilities.
14. 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.
Key takeaways for destinations: digital engagement will become the foundation of any successful tourism strategy.
Key takeaways for operators: investment in new technologies – and the knowledge of how to use them – will drive business operations forward.
Key takeaways for travellers: from health passports to virtual experiences to travel-based apps, connection to destinations will be dramatically shaped by new technologies.
15. 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
Key takeaways for destinations: with travel professionals (re)emerging as strategic business partners, new mechanisms for communicating key information will need to be built into destination marketing sales funnels.
Key takeaways for operators: cultivating relationships with travel managers will become an essential component of every business plan and budget.
Key takeaways for travellers: the cost of working with an agent will need to be factored into a travel experience, but the investment will help to ensure a seamless, enjoyable trip.
16. 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.
Key takeaways for destinations: revenues from the cruise industry will continue to be minimal, if not obsolete, in the year to come.
Key takeaways for operators: cruise lines will need to continue working closely with health authorities to secure the future for the industry while simultaneously pivoting to embrace the younger demographic as the new primary target market.
Key takeaways for travellers: vaccinated individuals will likely be the first to return to cruising.
17. 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.
Key takeaways for destinations: now, more than ever, destinations will need to articulate their unique value propositions within the context of the new paradigm of health, safety, responsibility and equity and how these values align with those of their prospective visitors.
Key takeaways for operators: like destinations, operators will need to define and demonstrate their values in authentic ways with a focus on proving “consciousness” through positive impact.
Key takeaways for travellers: an influx of new opportunities and experiences will flood the market, repositioning what it means to travel–and where and help make destination and operator choices more clear.
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.
Key takeaways for destinations: destinations capable of accepting travellers visiting for the purpose of receiving the vaccine should prepare special packages to maximize spending during the trip (even if they may be required to remain in quarantine). Additionally, destinations should consider coordination and standardization of certifications. We have already seen examples of limited sources of vaccines being taken by visitors creating further animosity among residents for whom those vaccines were intended.
Key takeaways for operators: operators should work closely with their destination leaders to identify potential opportunities to cater to this new travel segment.
Key takeaways for travellers: although vaccines may open travel possibilities, their efficacy has not yet been fully proven, and other governments may not recognize them as legitimate. Travellers need to conduct full due diligence prior to making any trip decisions.
19. TRAVEL TESTING, PROOF OF VACCINATIONS AND QUARANTINES
Many countries around the world will require proof of a negative coronavirus test for all arriving international travellers; 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.
Key takeaways for destinations: harmonized testing protocols will need to be established and communicated, mirroring the international coordination of vaccine certification. This will take time to coordinate.
Key takeaways for operators: deep collaboration with government, health authorities and industry partners will be required to achieve alignment and consistency around health certification requirements.
Key takeaways for travellers: similar to how 9-11 and related security measures changed the experience of travel, COVID-19 testing will become a required step for arrivals and departures, sometimes at the travellers’ expense.
20. 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.
Key takeaways for destinations: understanding and countering the key benefits of the competition will enable stronger market position.
Key takeaways for operators: successful strategies in Asia can be adapted in other destinations moving forward.
Key takeaways for travellers: over the next year, opportunities to travel to and within Asia will significantly increase.
21. 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.
Key takeaways for destinations: investments in infrastructure to accommodate new “travel bubbles” could be essential in supporting travel trends over the years to come.
Key takeaways for operators: offers and packages will need to be reconfigured to support groups and the intrepid single female traveller.
Key takeaways for travellers: with the shift to group travel, securing individual experiences could become more challenging and expensive.