After a year of limitations, lockdowns, and groundings, the international travel industry is looking ahead to recovery throughout the second half of 2021.
Expedia Group Media Solutions’ recently launched its Travel Recovery Trend Report, outlining the latest Q1 2021 data and research to indicate what we can expect in the coming months on how travel is returning.
“Insights from our custom research and more than 300 petabytes of exclusive global Expedia Group travel intent and demand data clearly indicate that people are eager to start traveling again,” said Wendy Olson Killion, senior vice president, Expedia Group Media Solutions. “As our industry begins to recover and rebuild, these trends point to opportunities to drive awareness, consideration, and demand as travelers are quickly deciding on trips.”
With hope on the horizon, here, SkiftX breaks down the report’s key insights to an industry hungry for guidance and information, honing in specifically on how the sector can capture rising demand as it navigates the uncertain, but promising, post-pandemic era.
Vaccines Are Spurring Travel RECOVERY
A major trend from the first quarter of 2021 was a strong upsurge in monthly search volumes, especially in North America and Latin America, indicating that travelers are eager to get moving again. This surge correlated directly with the coronavirus vaccination drive — week-on-week search stats peaked with each major vaccine announcement from the U.S. government and CDC.
Though these searches spiked higher for domestic travel, search stats for international travel followed a similar pattern.
This dovetails with findings from the recent Expedia Group Travel Outlook, indicating that 43 percent of Americans are either more comfortable traveling, or inspired to make a trip booking, as a result of the vaccine announcements, with one in three planning to take, or have already taken, a vacation to celebrate getting vaccinated.
Global Search Windows Are Still Short
Given the uncertainty around global travel, the majority of global searches fell within a zero to 21 day search window in the first quarter, meaning travelers are still opting for short-lead, domestic trips throughout travel’s recovery — a trend likely to strengthen over the coming year.
As confidence builds and travel restrictions lift, longer windows will no doubt emerge, with renewed focus on international travel.
Vacation Rentals Are Seeing More Demand and Longer Trips
Though around 60 percent of travelers cancelled their planned vacations in 2020, they made up for it by merging leisure and work and taking ‘flexcations.’
Of the American families that took flexcations, 67 percent reported they would take a similar trip again in 2021. These travelers are likely to make up for lost time by booking longer trips, while continuing to seek alternative accommodation options.
Data from the Vrbo 2021 Travel Trends Report shows that the global average length of stay for summer vacation rentals jumped 30 percent quarter-over-quarter, with 75 percent of travelers more likely to book a stay of at least seven nights, and 33 percent less likely to book a three-night stay.
Domestic Travel Is Here to Stay
Though there are signs of interest returning for international travel, travelers are still choosing domestic, a trend likely to sustain through the year ahead. In the first quarter of 2021, beach and city destinations made up the top 10 booked destinations around the world, and within each region.
As with vacation rentals, car travel is also likely to see a sustained increase through the summer. Citing it as a safer option, 62 percent of global travelers report taking, or willing to take, a road trip during the pandemic, either domestically or to a neighboring country.
Safety and Cleanliness Will Continue to Drive Decisions
Since the beginning of the pandemic, travelers’ concerns have steadily grown around health and hygiene measures — four out of five travelers are making their accommodation decisions based on how well safety and cleanliness measures are being implemented.
Safety, cleanliness, and crowding ranked highly in searches over the past 12 months. However, the last quarter saw the return of more traditional search topics, such as cost, convenience, and booking flexibility. As consumer confidence builds, these ‘pre-pandemic’ decision drivers will likely become a greater consideration, with cleanliness and safety still top of mind.
“This report spotlights the latest data and trends to help destinations, travel brands, and operators develop strategies, messaging, and content that aligns with what travelers want — and need — to book their next trip,” continued Olson Killion. “We will continue tracking progress and sharing our Expedia Group insights in these quarterly Travel Recovery Trend Reports quarterly, as we all rebuild together.”