Expedia Group Media Solutions’ Q3 Travel Recovery Trend Report features the latest research and key data on how travel is returning, with actionable insights to help guide the industry as it captures new demand.
If the travel industry has learned anything over the past 20 months of restrictions and lockdowns, it’s that unpredictability has become a routine part of doing business. The third quarter of 2021 witnessed the emergence of the Delta variant, which raised questions about travel’s recovery — but the industry has seen many positive signs showing a bright return ahead as we enter 2022.
In the third quarter of 2021, global search volumes were steady, business travel began to bounce back, and more travelers planned trips for their Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year celebrations than last year. There’s no question that there has been a strong turnaround since Q3 2020.
Expedia Group Media Solutions’ Q3 2021 Travel Recovery Trend Report covers the latest quarterly trends in the industry and explores changing traveler behaviors and attitudes to help travel brands and operators find an actionable path to recovery.
“It’s really encouraging to see that the growing momentum of the industry’s recovery hasn’t been derailed by setbacks like the Delta variant. And this gives us comfort as we look towards potential challenges still to come as other variants emerge. We always knew that demand for travel was building throughout the pandemic, and as soon as conditions allow, it would be difficult to stop that pent-up demand from being released,” said Jennifer Andre, global vice president of Expedia Group Media Solutions.
SkiftX unpacks the positive trends seen in the third quarter of this year, highlighting Expedia Group’s data to assist travel marketers with insights to inspire travelers and continue their path forward into the new year.
Global Search Volumes Are Holding Steady
Global search volumes were strong in the first half of 2021 and held steady in Q3, despite factors like the emergence of the Delta variant and changes in testing and quarantine requirements. After a slight dip, searches globally began to lift in September following travel easements across several regions.
While global searches lengthened in Q2 as travelers started planning ahead, the sweet spot became the zero-to-30-day search window in Q3, with close to 70 percent of global searches falling within that range. By the end of the quarter, though, the 61-plus day search window for international travel was higher than it was early in the quarter across all regions, indicating an increasingly positive outlook even amidst a still unpredictable climate.
Even considering lingering uncertainty, this search behavior means that travel brands and operators can start feeling more secure in their ad and marketing investments to take advantage of this uptick.
New Travel Destinations Are Emerging
Between Q2 and Q3, there was considerable movement in the top 10 booked destinations globally. New cities and vacation spots emerged, with an emphasis on international travel and cities.
New York topped the list for both global bookings and for North American travelers. Additionally, U.S. cities that weren’t present in previous quarters, like Boston and Denver, cracked the North American top 10 booked destinations in Q3. Las Vegas, on the other hand, has remained a top-booked destination among North American travelers throughout the year and has risen in the rankings for travelers internationally.
Compared to vacation rental properties, hotels gained a greater share of global demand — specifically, gaining 5 percent more of total demand than during Q2. Looking at that general lodging demand, London grew more than any other destination in Q3: The city saw 90 percent quarter-over-quarter growth.
As in Q2, big cities are growing more popular with travelers as they begin to feel safer, so as more regions loosen restrictions, travel campaigns can give a destination an edge among potential visitors.
Holiday Season Travel Is Up
Last year, many celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve at home. By the third quarter of this year, travelers were ready to make up for lost time. Compared to the same period in 2020, Q3 searches for November and December trips saw triple-digit growth.
This momentum has been building for some time. Vrbo data from July 2021 shows that travelers were already booking December vacation rentals in sunny destinations across Mexico, the Caribbean, the southern U.S., and Hawaiian destinations over the summer. Hotels have also seen strong booking demand: Q3 room night demand for trips in November and December saw triple-digit growth across most regions, and the global average daily rate (ADR) grew by about 25 percent on average since Q3 2020.
The rise in holiday travel bookings is twofold: Travelers want to take warm-weather vacations they might not have been able to last year, and they’re also feeling safer and more confident now to spend time with family and friends, wherever they might live.
As the end of the year approaches, there’s no better time for destinations to focus on driving demand among travelers who haven’t booked a holiday trip yet.
Business Travel Is Coming Back
In many parts of the world, the third quarter of 2021 saw many people return to the office and in-person events. It might not exactly be business as usual, but as things slowly get back to normal, people are starting to travel for work again.
According to Egencia data, business travel demand was up 40 percent globally between Q3 and Q2 and more than 110 percent compared to the same quarter in 2020. During this year’s third quarter, New York, London, Chicago, and Paris were the top-booked destinations worldwide for business travelers.
Andre said, “Although Covid-19 is still with us, and further unpredictability is to be expected, there are so many encouraging indicators for the global travel industry going into Q4, and 2022 beyond that. We look forward to seeing the positive trends identified in Q3 extended, and joined by others prompted by developments such as new Vaccinated Travel Lanes in Asia-Pacific and the opening of U.S. borders.”