Every year travel trends come and go, however, 2021 is set to be one of tourism’s most significant years to date. As the world slowly recovers from COVID-19 and borders gradually start to open, we expect travel to look a little different than it did pre-pandemic.
As the dark chapter that is the year 2020 comes to a close, the success of the travel industry hinges on our collective ability to adapt, innovate, and collaborate to make travel easier, safer and more seamless than ever before. Fortunately, the travel industry is chockfull of creative thinkers from all over the world, and our technological abilities have never been greater.
Here are some trends that will be shaping travel in 2021:
- Go Big (Near or Far) or Stay Home
Go big or stay home: that’s the theme we’re seeing with travelers in 2021. A recent Amadeus survey found that 55%1 of travelers said they would travel for 14 days or more, and 60%2 are now expecting to take only a few trips a year – which suggest that if people travel, they may want to go all out, whether near or far from home.
In 2020, we’ve all had more than enough time to fantasize about our next adventure from the comfort of our living room. 2021 is the year we’ll want to bring it to life.
To make up for lost time, travelers are likely to gravitate to ‘big idea’ or ‘bucket list’ trips that can vary from a three-hour road trip to an intercontinental flight. Whether it’s a horseback riding tour through Petra, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, scuba diving through Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, or hiking or rafting through the Grand Canyon, this is the year travelers will finally book that once-in-a-lifetime adventure they’ve been dreaming of since they first watched Indiana Jones.
After spending a year mostly cooped up indoors, travelers will be looking for unique experiences in far flung places. If they’re going to fly, they will stay longer, and invest more to make sure that one trip really counts.
- Nomadic Travel
Even once COVID-19 is largely under control, employers and employees have proven that remote work works, and a newfound employee perk is the ability to work from anywhere. If all we need is Wi-Fi and a web cam, why not have a beach or mountain view with our coffee or tea?
Barbados was the first country to strike on this opportunity: their “digital nomad” visa means you can work from paradise for a year. Bermuda, Anguilla, Georgia, Dubai, Estonia swiftly followed, and Aruba and Croatia are next.
As more and more hospitality companies change their focus to longer holidays – Airbnb has already shifted its entire business model to long-term stays – 2021 will be the year we re-define what it means to travel for work.
- The Loyalty Shift
With 40% of tourists saying they favor airlines, airports, and hotels with higher health and safety standards3, better service for all isn’t up for negotiation. Travel companies have been quick to act: Hilton Hotels offers contactless hotel stays; staff at the Marriott now clean with electrostatic sprayers; Accor introduced ALLSAFE for elevated cleanliness protocols and prevention standards; and IHG created a dedicated Cleanliness Council called ‘Commitment to Clean’; while Lufthansa is linking its tickets to COVID-19 tests.
This higher level of service extends to business travelers with employers around the world looking at how to meet their duty of care obligations in a COVID-19 world.
- Travel with an Impact
Pre-COVID, travelers were already grappling with the environmental and societal impact of tourism — both good and bad. The enforced pause created by the COVID-19 situation only gave people more time and space to notice how travel impacts the planet and local communities.
So it’s no surprise that the Faroe Islands announced that it was “closed for maintenance” but open for “voluntourists” last year. Meanwhile, the European Commission declared that 2021 will be the European Year of Rail to promote sustainable travel across the continent and support the delivery of its European Green Deal objectives.
Airlines have also heard the call: Norway committed to flying electric planes for all of its short-haul routes by 2040, while Canadian-based airline Harbour Air aimed to be flying electric flights between British Columbia and Washington State by 2021.
Travelers want to do good: a recent survey found that 68% of travelers want the money they spend on travel to go back into the community5. Demand for trips that actually help to regenerate a location will begin to soar in 2021.
Luxury Travel 2021, EuropeanLife Magazine