Nine predictions for the future of travel

With few facets of our lives and world unchanged by the unparalleled impact of the coronavirus pandemic, travel too will be forever re-shaped by this extraordinary moment in time.

Innovation within the travel industry will accelerate faster than ever to respond to marked shifts in travel expectations and behaviours.

Travellers will look for a heightened level of travel safety and more sustainable travel offerings, as well as evolve their preferences for where and with whom they travel.

Newfound appreciation for doorstep delights will endure alongside an abiding love of the far flung, and travellers will find new ways to blur the lines between work and travel.

All of which will catapult a demand for deeper value from the trips we book in the future.

Now website Booking.com has combined research from more than 20,000 travellers across 28 countries, and more than 20 years’ of travel expertise of its own, to reveal nine predictions for the future of travel – in the coming year and beyond.

With more than half (53 per cent) of global travellers responding that they won’t be comfortable traveling until a coronavirus vaccine or treatment is in place, it may be a long time before we experience the world as freely as we did previously, but the industry will continue to adapt at pace, satiating our appetite to travel whenever it’s safe to do so.

 

BYE BYE 9 TO 5

Working remotely has irreversibly entered the mainstream during the pandemic, with the knock-on effect that people will look to take longer trips in the future that more effectively combine work and pleasure than ever before.

No longer confined to five-days-a-week in an office and desperate for a change of scene from Working From Home (WFH), we’ll see a significant rise in the “Workcation”, with travellers looking to extend their vacation experience in new locales by staying an extra week or two to work remotely – or conversely factoring holidays around a stint of remote working.

Expect laptops to become even more of a mainstay in luggage than ever before, and an attractive spot on which to rest  them a must-have when choosing where to stay.

More than one third (37 per cent) of travellers have already considered booking somewhere to stay in order to work from a different destination, while 40 per cent would be willing to quarantine if they could work remotely.

Travel platforms and places to stay will prioritise showcasing home office facilities and Wi-Fi speed in an attempt to attract this new wave of digital nomads. Likewise, the world of corporate travel will see increasing demand for privacy, cleanliness and longer stays among those traveling for business, requiring alternative accommodations to seriously up their ‘work-friendly’ game.

While companies will undoubtedly reassess their approach to business travel in the future, workers will continue to maximise the trips they do take, with more than half of travellers (52 per cent) saying they would take the opportunity to extend any business trips to also enjoy leisure time at the destination.

 

WANDERMUST

Amidst new waves of travel hiatuses, restrictions and continued uncertainty, our innate human desire to travel has not been dampened.

During recent lockdowns, two-thirds (65 per cent) of travellers reported being excited about traveling again, while 61 per cent indicated they were more appreciative of travel and would likewise not take it for granted in the future.

Travellers also report that they plan to take a similar number of trips both domestically and internationally in the 12 months after travel restrictions are lifted in their country, as they did in the year pre-pandemic

Our time at home has made us crave the world outside more than ever, with more than half (53 per cent) of respondents asserting a heightened desire to see even more of the world, and 42 per cent wanting to travel more in the future to make up for time lost in 2020 (rising to 51 per cent for Gen Z and 49 per cent of Millennials).

What’s more, more than one third (38 per cent) intend to plan a trip to make up for a celebration missed due to coronavirus, such as a milestone birthday or wedding, while two fifths (40 per cent) intend to rebook a trip they had to cancel.

With this, we can expect travel companies to get creative in 2021 with new itineraries and recommendations designed to capture the imaginations of travellers who missed out on trips in 2020, and who will be looking for somewhere stunning to explore to make their next trip more meaningful.

 

VITAL VALUE

The financial legacy of coronavirus will inevitably see people demand more bang for their buck in the future. In all 62 per cent of travellers will be more price conscious when it comes to searching and planning a trip in the future, and 55 per cent are more likely to hunt down promotions and savings, behaviours that we predict will last years.

But the value consumers expect will go beyond price tags, with three-quarters (74 per cent) stating they wanted travel booking platforms to increase their transparency about cancellation policies, refund processes and trip insurance options.

Furthermore, 46 per cent consider refundable accommodation a must-have for their next trip, as do almost half (36 per cent) when it comes to the flexibility to change dates without being charged.

And while travellers were keen to support the industry in its recovery (70 per cent) and wanted their future bookings to help rebuild communities around the world (67 per cent), they will expect a lot more from the travel industry in return.

The industry will need to come together to respond inventively to offer deeper value, better choice, increased flexibility and transparency, as well as more thoughtful experiences for tomorrow’s travellers as they scrutinise spend in 2021 and beyond.

 

FAMILIARISTS NOT TOURISTS

In a new coronavirus world, local travel has risen to the fore as it remains easier, safer and happily often more sustainable.

Looking ahead, staying closer to home and becoming familiarists rather than tourists will continue to be at the forefront of travel agendas. In all 47 per cent of people still plan to travel within their own country in the medium term (seven to 12 months’ time), with 38 per cent planning to do so in the longer term (in over a year’s time).

When it comes to local travel, 43 per cent plan to explore a new destination within their home region/country, and 46 per cent will take the time to appreciate the natural beauty of their home country, while – locally or not, half (50 per cent) intend to travel somewhere they’ve already been previously for its familiarity.

Doorstep delights offer both cost and time savings to which destinations and accommodations will respond by offering more historic and cultural heritage tours to educate and entertain visitors, as well as vying for tourists’ affections through original offerings such as guest chefs and bespoke cocktails.

With use of Booking.com’s ‘pet-friendly’ filter more than doubling since the start of travel restrictions, new and furrier breeds of travellers will also increasingly need catering for as we look ahead.

All this in turn will fuel a Renaissance of road trips to explore forgotten local gems, a renewed passion to support local business and communities as they seek to rebuild, and inspire a new-found sense of pride in the history and beauty that’s just around the corner.

Travellers will not write off the love of long-haul getaways, though. Appreciation for familiarity will sit alongside enduring love and anticipation of longer-haul travel as almost a quarter (21 per cent) of people intend to travel to the other side of the world by the end of 2021, compared to only six per cent by the end of 2020.

 

SEARCH ESCAPISM

Our appetite to consume travel content, get creative with our travel plans and share our travel dreams with each other will continue to grow over the coming year.

Seeking comfort and distraction during weeks in lock-down, the overwhelming majority (95 per cent) of travellers spent time looking for vacation inspiration, with more than one third (38 per cent) looking at potential travel destinations as often as once a week.

As restrictions continue to ebb and flow, we can expect destinations and accommodations to come up with even more inventive ways to capitalise on travellers’ heightened desire to escape reality and connect them with the experiences that await – from accommodations revamping their social media presence by leveraging content created by influencers who visited pre-lockdown, to local tourist boards creating inspiring Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) content to visually showcase the best these places have to offer.

Yet, social media is not the only source of inspiration for global travellers when day dreaming about their next trip, with 36 per cent also opting to have a good old-fashioned chat with friends and family to spark their travel creativity.

In addition, one third (32 per cent) of people felt nostalgic looking through old photographs from previous holidays to help them decide on a future trip.

While we will see heightened mindfulness about how, where and when we share our traveling experiences in a more restricted and evolving environment, the benefits we derive from exchanging stories, when it’s been safe to travel, will fuel new trends in sharing and connecting.

Think fab new takes on vintage holiday pictures and seamless, innovative ways for travellers to share tips for their entire trips with interactive, shareable itineraries for their friends and families.

 

SAFETY CLEANS UP 

Global travellers (79 per cent) will take more precautions due to coronavirus and will look to the travel industry to help them gear up for this new normal.

Governments, travel associations and providers will have to work cohesively to set consistent standards to help keep travellers safe, and with expectations heightened, some destinations and businesses will need to work harder to regain travellers’ trust.

In all, 59 per cent of travellers will avoid certain destinations (rising to 67 per cent of Baby Boomers), and 70 per cent expect tourist attractions to adapt to allow for social distancing.

At the same time, 70 per cent will only book a particular accommodation if it’s clear what health and hygiene policies it has in place, with three quarters (75 per cent) favouring accommodations that have antibacterial and sanitizing products.

Short-term there will also be a change in transport preference and provisions, with almost half (46 per cent) opting to avoid public transport for fear of contracting coronavirus. This will cause a longer-term shift in how people will travel to and around their holiday destinations, with more people choosing to rent or drive their own car.

The ‘new normal’ will also see travellers prioritise and adhere to increased health and safety measures, with many becoming second nature sooner than we think.

Just as we have become accustomed to traveling without liquids in our carry-on luggage and removing shoes to go through airport security, two-thirds (67 per cent) will accept traveling to destinations that have health spot checks on arrival, and 62 per cent will accept wearing a mask in public.

Quarantine measures will remain less popular, with far fewer (27 per cent) travellers willing to accept these in order to travel to a particular destination.

 

IMPACT AWAKENING

With more than half (53 per cent) of global travellers wanting to travel more sustainably in the future, we expect to see a more eco-conscious mindset in 2021 and beyond, as coronavirus has amped people’s awareness about their impact on the environment and local communities.

More than two-thirds (69 per cent) expect the travel industry to offer more sustainable travel options and travellers will consequently visit alternative destinations in a bid to avoid traveling during peak season (51 per cent) and overcrowding (48 per cent).

This desire also means that 63 per cent will stay away from crowded tourist attractions, indicating that destinations will need to adapt new, smart crowd management measures to appease travellers visiting their country.

Additionally, the impact of coronavirus has inspired more than half (53 per cent) of travellers to consider reducing waste and/or recycling their plastic when traveling once all travel restrictions are lifted, showing that people are not just committed to protecting themselves, but also the places they visit.

Travellers believe that the industry must adapt to this sustainable mindset for the long-term by offering more attractive off-season travel packages (46 per cent) and proposing alternative destinations to prevent overcrowding (36 per cent).

There are also strong signals for travel operators to be more transparent about how travellers’ money is being used to rebuild a community, paving the way for more regenerative tourism.

Two-thirds (67 per cent) of respondents indicate that they want their travel choices to also support the destination’s recovery efforts, and more than half (55 per cent) want to see how their money is going back into the local community.

 

SIMPLE PLEASURES

As we learn to live with the consequences of the pandemic in 2021 and beyond, travellers will be keen to embrace a new and stripped-back way of experiencing the world. So much time spent in our own homes with our loved ones has given birth to adjusted travel priorities and a desire to enjoy more of our natural resources.

Use of simple pleasure-related endorsements such as hiking (94 per cent), clean air (50 per cent), nature (44 per cent) and relaxation (33 per cent) on Booking.com have increased since the start of the pandemic, while research shows that more than two thirds of travellers (69 per cent) will look to appreciate more simple experiences such as spending time outdoors or with the family while on holiday.

More than half (56 per cent) will seek out more rural, off-the-beaten-track experiences to immerse themselves into the outdoors.

Considering the renewed emphasis on privacy, sufficient space and personal control over cleanliness and hygiene, it is not surprising that we will see travellers look for accommodation ‘closer to home’ with 42 per cent preferring to stay in a holiday home or apartment rather than in a hotel, contrasting 2019 when 64 per cent of travellers favoured staying in a hotel.

Almost half (46 per cent) will opt to eat in more as opposed to eating out at restaurants, so a well-equipped kitchen will be essential for any vacation rental in the future.

Relaxing trips will also be high on the travel agenda in the ‘new normal’, with more than half (51 per cent) saying it was their preferred type of trip, followed by beach breaks (40 per cent) and city trips (29 per cent).

 

SPONTECHNAITY

Tech innovation will play a crucial role in rebuilding traveller confidence and we will see the accelerated use of tech to adapt to a new type of traveller.

Tech will help us regain the spontaneity, confidence and ease of times past, while at the same time help people travel safely and responsibly. Already, 64% of travellers agree that technology will be important in controlling health risks when traveling, and 63 per cent say that accommodations will need to use the latest technologies to make travellers feel safe.

More than half (53 per cent) will want tech options to make last-minute restaurant reservations, and almost a quarter (21 per cent) will want more self-service machines instead of ticket desks.

More than half (55 per cent) are also excited about tech’s potential to further personalize their travel experiences in the future.

This reliance on technology will only continue to grow as tech proves its worth and becomes more and more ingrained into our travel experiences.

The innovations we’ll see next will bring even more change, with enhanced online experiences influencing future travel behaviour and planning.

More than a third (36 per cent) would feel more comfortable about going to an unknown destination if they could scout it out beforehand by using virtual reality (VR).

That being said, the real thing reigns supreme with only 30 per cent expecting to participate in more virtual/online experiences run by tourist attractions, local tours and workshops, proving that while we trust technology implicitly to bring us more convenience, personalisation and peace of mind, its prime role will reside in being a conduit for, rather than a replacement (yet), for seeing, feeling and tasting it for yourself.

Arjan Dijk, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Booking.com, said: “2020 has been a year like no other, and while it will be some time before travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, all signs point to the fundamental and enduring role that travel plays in all our lives.

“It continues to bring moments of joy and inspiration to people across the globe during times of uncertainty, whether through dreaming and planning, or cherishing the trips we have been able to take.

“Enhancing our understanding of one another and our common desire to explore beyond the horizon, I believe that travel has a unique potential to come back stronger than ever in the years ahead as a primary driver of growth, equality and prosperity for people everywhere.

“In the meantime, with our mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, we will be there for our customers, offering the widest choice, great value and the easiest experience from anywhere and on any device so travellers can enjoy all of the unforgettable experiences this world has to offer.”

For a deeper dive into Booking.com trends for the future of travel, click here.


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