Domestic trips catapulted to a whole new level after Covid, a trend that remains solid as the world exits a four-year downturn in 2025. But international travel is like a stubborn flame because bucket lists are alive and well, albeit reimagined. Demand for long-term stays emerges from the rising crop of conscious travelers.
In January 2021 we released our annual travel industry trends forecast, Skift Megatrends
. Because of the havoc that the pandemic triggered, we wrote Skift Travel Megatrends 2025 as a vision of how travel industry dynamics could play out five years from now. You can read about each of the trends on Skift, or download a copy here.
Leisure travel as a whole in 2025 is close to surpassing historic 2019 levels. However, the global and regional patchwork responses in public health protocols and border restrictions back in Covid times means that this peak remains uneven across the world. It’s true that domestic tourism has taken on a sexier allure for the past five years, as travelers continue to invest part of their vacation time in backyard tourism. Less-stringent health requirements, such as the absence of domestic vaccine mandates or digital health passes, help push this local travel demand.
Travelers seek out coastal drive-to destinations, as well as wellness and outdoor-oriented rural areas, and bespoke cultural experiences within 100 miles of home. Domestic tourism isn’t a new concept for regions such as Europe, Asia and Australia, but it sits on a more solid pedestal there, as well.
In the United States, tourism offices have built a more collaborative relationship with local communities as a result of having to seek revenue sources beyond international tourists. As seen in the chart on the left, trips to beaches and national parks were sought-after domestic destinations coming out of the Covid crisis.
Political instabilities around the world ranging from racial-justice protests to trade tensions further cement this domestic leisure travel trend. The ravages of climate change in coastal areas have also contributed to dissuade international travel. Not least among factors is the heightened sense of community that emerged from pandemic times. Many travelers are more conscious of buying locally and splurging in their own backyards to support small businesses, which continue to recoup from an historic four-year downturn.
Counterpoint: Foreign cities in far-flung destinations have not lost their allure. If anything, the pent-up global travel demand from years of Covid backyard confinement continues to manifest itself, even surpassing domestic travel demand. That’s a relief to many destinations because domestic travel often lacks the power of international tourism to generate revenue.
Cities, in particular, bounced back in 2025 quicker than what many predicted. Public health concerns pushed some cities to rethink mobility while tackling pollution and climate issues. They lured new travelers and enticed residents to return with enhanced urban living spaces, improved air quality, and technology innovations.
For example, Paris decided to eliminate 75,000 parking spaces and convert them into public recreational spaces. Milan’s Open Streets Plan prioritized cyclists and pedestrians, as did Bogotá and London, among others. Addis Ababa engineered a green turnaround with a slew of outdoors parks that double as entertainment venues.
Way back in 2020 at the Skift Short-Term Rental and Outdoor Summit, Sonder Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Banker predicted rightly that “urban travel is going to bounce back in a big way and that the demise of the city argument is overrated.” Indeed, as Banker pointed out, “cities have been hubs of activities for thousands of years.”
Skyscanner’s search results immediately following the multiple Covid vaccine announcements in late 2020 and Skift’s Recovery Index at the close of that Covid-laced year were predictive as well, pointing to big international city searches such as Munich, Madrid, Paris, and Amsterdam, and showing an early rebound in travel to United Arab Emirates and Latin American destinations, respectively.
Preferred Destination Types Post COVID-19 by U.S. Consumers, Jul – Dec 2020
Those who crave far-flung outdoor adventures, the arts, food, and local flavor know that cities are hotbeds of cultural exchange, and give their countries distinct attributes. Cities in 2025 recaptured many former residents who had escaped to the suburbs or less-populated areas after Covid, but were eager to experience all the amenities that only cities offer.
Flexible refund policies and a wide availability of travel specials fed globe-trotters’ urge to return home with epic memories of the Maldives or South Africa. That couldn’t easily be snuffed out. Nor could the hunger for offbeat experiences to look back on later in life. “The fact that we saw people being unruly in their desire to travel [during Covid] — because people were actually taking risks in order to travel — that tells us something about the nature of travel now,” said Simón Suárez, former president of the Caribbean Hotel Tourism Association and head of institutional relations at Grupo Puntacana.
What has changed when it comes to international bucket lists, however, is the desire to stay longer and explore slower than in the past. The slow travel movement comes with an increase in consciousness about climate change and environmental impact from both the travel industry and travelers, in addition to continued vigilance about health and safety precautions.
Long-haul travel has become more seamless as airports continue to go contactless. Technology advances in immigration processing run the gamut from facial recognition to e-visas, including in regions that were once technologically challenged, such as the Caribbean.
Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch