One in two travellers optimistic about taking trips in 2021

US: At its annual partner conference, explore ’20, Expedia Group this week revealed key considerations shaping travel decisions in 2021 and demonstrated technology enhancements to help travellers and partners make informed decisions and complete tasks.

Expedia Group is sharing insights and tools to help the global travel ecosystem adapt to the shift in traveller expectations to restore confidence in the wake of Covid-19. The research from Expedia Group Media Solutions, the advertising organisation of Expedia Group, shows that travellers need reassurance in critical areas such as flexibility, cleanliness, and communication to consider travel now and in the future.

Findings from the Traveller Sentiment and Influences study  revealed that one in two travellers feel optimistic about taking a trip in the next 12 months.

Though consumer confidence in travel varies by country and generation, the importance of hygiene measures, flexibility, and financial peace of mind is more universal. Three-quarters of travellers said measures such as mask enforcement, contactless services, and flexibility, including easy refunds or cancellation policies, will inform where they visit on their next trip.

Globally, two-thirds of travellers had a planned trip cancelled due to Covid-19 and only a third of travellers have taken a trip during the pandemic. Of those who took a trip, eight in ten travelled for rejuvenation – to enjoy a change of scenery or different weather, or to see family or friends.

Monya Mandich, vice president of global marketing, Expedia Group Media Solutions, said: “As the world keeps a watchful eye on vaccine news, and people continue to crave a change of scenery or opportunity to catch up with loved ones, we know the pent-up demand for travel will grow. Covid-19 has driven a seismic shift in traveller preferences and influences, and understanding these changes is critical to recovery efforts and future marketing strategies.

“The new research provides insights into the steps travel brands can take to reassure and connect with travellers as they begin researching, planning and booking again,” she added.

Traveller trends in the next 12 months

  • Globally, travellers are more likely to take trips between April and September 2021. Brazilian, Chinese and Mexican travellers show a higher likelihood to travel even earlier, between January and March 2021, which aligns with the positive traveller sentiment also seen in those markets.
  • Globally, Generation Z and millennial travellers are 1.5x more likely than other generations to take a leisure trip in January to March 2021.
  • 57 percent of travellers said they would be comfortable travelling if a vaccine is widely available, which is promising given that this sentiment was captured in October, prior to the recent positive vaccine news.
  • Seven in ten travellers will look for flexibility, such as travel insurance and trip protection, full cancellations and refunds on transportation and accommodations. Expedia.com’s lodging data shows that travellers booked refundable rates ten per cent more often in 2020 than the year before, and the new research indicates this trend is likely here to stay.

Factors influencing transportation and accommodation decisions  

  • Travellers want reassurances that travel providers and brands are following and enforcing pandemic protocols. Mask use and enforcement [50 per cent], cost [47 per cent] and easy refunds or cancellation policies [45 per cent] will be the leading factors in future transportation decisions, though the importance placed on each varies by mode of transportation.
  • For future air travel, six in ten travellers would be most comfortable travelling if social distancing measures are in place.
  • Proper Covid-19 hygiene protocols will inform future accommodation decisions for more than half of travellers, and this is the leading factor across all types, from chain and boutique hotels to vacation rentals to staying with family or friends. Additional considerations include contactless room service and takeout [24 per cent] and contactless check in options [23 per cent].
  • Travel providers, as well as destination organisations, need to clearly communicate health and hygiene measures, pandemic protocols and flexibility to reassure and attract travellers.

Inspiring future travel 

  • Travellers are turning to online travel agencies [OTAs] for information and travel planning 24 per cent more than pre-pandemic, while destination websites saw a 20 per cent increase in use as a planning tool.
  • Pictures and informative messaging in travel advertising are 20 per cent more influential than pre-pandemic, along with travel organisations and experts. This is reflective of the shift in traveller priorities – with hygiene measures and flexibility overtaking experiences and activities – and the increased importance of credible, up-to-date information from trusted sources.

Key insights and marketing takeaways

  • Rejuvenate and recharge: Pandemic fatigue is setting in and pent-up demand continues to grow as people seek leisure travel to rejuvenate and recharge. Inspire travellers who are still dreaming and engage those who may be ready to travel with content and messaging highlighting rest and relaxation.
  • Hygiene and flexibility: Travellers want to minimise risk to their health and protect themselves and their loved ones from financial setbacks. Information on pandemic measures should be at the forefront of brand communications, supported by reservation flexibility or full refunds to provide travellers with financial peace of mind.
  • Reassuring content: Use multiple channels—including news media, travel sites and advertising—to share reassuring content and imagery, such as messaging and imagery demonstrating social distancing or reduced capacity, contactless services, mask enforcement policies, and heightened hygiene measures.