Slowly but surely, the travel and hospitality industry is finding its feet, despite lingering questions ahead. As recovery sets further in, and an increase in leisure travel bookings continues to drive momentum, operators are navigating new consumer behaviors and seeking to set themselves up for the demand to come.
Expedia Group Media Solutions’ Q2 2021 Travel Recovery Trend Report covers the latest growth trends in the industry, shining essential light on the “how” and “where” of travel’s return. “Although Covid-19 variants give rise to caution, the clear signs from our research are that travelers are keen and ready to explore again — including to places they weren’t considering earlier in the pandemic,” said Wendy Olson Killion, senior vice president, Expedia Group Media Solutions.
The report is the latest edition of Expedia Group Media Solutions’ widely embraced quarterly Travel Recovery Trend Report, following up the first version released in May 2021, which harnesses exclusive access to more than 300 petabytes of Expedia Group first-party data and custom research.
SkiftX unpacks the encouraging trends seen in the second quarter of this year, focusing on Expedia Group’s key data, to assist brands and operators industry-wide with actionable insights in order to captivate consumers and position themselves for the demand to come.
RISING SEARCH VOLUMES
A key takeaway from the report shows that search volumes across the board rose in Q2 2021, jumping up 70 percent from the first quarter of the year.
Travelers demonstrated their desire to make up for lost time and travel more throughout this summer and beyond, enabled by access to vaccines and the subsequent easing of border restrictions in many parts of the world.
This dovetails with the more optimistic attitudes around post-pandemic travel that travelers reported. Expedia Group’s Traveler Value Index further shows that 72 percent of travelers said they plan on traveling over the next 12 months, based on a survey of over 8,000 consumers in eight countries.
While questions around the state of the pandemic remain at the moment, brands and operators industry-wide ought to feel encouraged to bolster their marketing and analytics in order to make the most of the upward trend.
LENGTHENING GLOBAL SEARCH WINDOWS
During the height of the pandemic, travelers felt restricted, typically opting for short trips — often booked at the last minute — close to home. This behavior continued through Q1 2021 and was still a feature of the second quarter of the year, with half of global searches again having a 21-day search window or less.
Encouragingly, this trend appears to be changing. Searches with a longer window of 22 to 90 days in advance of travel dates accounted for more than 35 percent of searches in Q2, up nearly 25 percent compared to the first quarter of the year. This indicates that travelers are feeling more confident to start booking on the back of loosening global restrictions.
INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL GAINS STEAM
International travel diminished virtually overnight at the height of the pandemic. But in Q2 2021, these bookings appeared to be rising. Globally, searches for international destinations grew at a faster rate than those for domestic destinations during several weeks of Q2, correlating with a growing number of green list countries and fewer international restrictions. Additionally, while 60 percent of consumers reported that they will travel within their home country in the next 12 months, 27 percent also said they would do so internationally.
Interestingly, one in two Americans plan to take a dream vacation, or take more trips for longer, compared to before the pandemic, according to a recent Expedia Group survey. Bucket list destinations, such as Italy, Hawaii, and Mexico — as identified by the Media Solutions 2020 “Where Next?” campaign — have a unique opportunity to seize on this demand during travel’s rebound.
URBAN HUBS FOR THE WIN
Beach and city destinations made up the top 10 booking choices for destinations in Q2 2021. However, the preference for cities seems to be on the rise.
Cities that either entered the regional top 10 or moved up in ranking during Q2 include: Chicago and Atlanta among travelers based in North America; Seoul and Jeju City for travelers from Asia-Pacific; Copenhagen and Paris for those from the Europe, Middle East, and Africa regions; and Houston and Mexico City among travelers based in Latin America.
Hotels also saw an increase in demand, rising 10 percent between Q1 and Q2 2021 globally. This is a trend that will likely continue as more regions and destinations open their doors to a steadier flow of international traffic.
GROWING DEMAND FOR SUSTAINABLE CHOICES
Consumers also indicated a strong preference for more eco-friendly and sustainable products, with Expedia Group’s Traveler Value Index highlighting that more travelers are seeking to minimize their environmental footprint and negative impact on local communities.
Nearly three in five customers reported their willingness to pay more for these types of culturally and environmentally sensitive experiences. This was especially true for Gen Z and millennial travelers, two-thirds of whom said they’re more likely to consider eco-friendly travel, at least some of the time.
Hotels, operators, and travel brands in every sector of the industry would do well to deepen their commitments to eliminating single-use plastics, boosting recycling facilities, and making more use of electric car charging stations, LED light bulbs, and renewable energy — touchpoints which ranked especially high in the consumer feedback.
“The gradual recovery and rebuilding of the travel industry continued in Q2, and we’ll continue to track and publish these trends in the quarters to come,” Olson Killion said. “But what our research in Q2 also showed is that many travelers are looking for a changed travel industry to re-emerge after the pandemic — a message that all travel brands and operators should consider.”
To learn more about Expedia Group Media Solutions’ research, join Wendy Olson Killion, senior vice president, Expedia Group Media Solutions, for her presentation, “Building Back Better: Traveler Trends & Insights Driving Recovery,” at Skift Global Forum on September 22, 2021.