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NEED TO KNOW: Top 8 booking trends for travel in 2021

Travel.
  1. 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 holiday 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.

Over a third (37%) of travellers have already considered booking somewhere to stay in order to work from a different destination, while 40% 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.

2. WANDERMUST

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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%) of travellers reported being excited about traveling again, while 61% indicated they are more appreciative of travel and will 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 (March 2019 – March 2020). 

What’s more, over a third (38%) 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%) intend to rebook a trip they had to cancel.  

3. VITAL VALUE

The financial legacy of Coronavirus will inevitably see people demand more bang for their buck in the future. 62% of travellers will be more price conscious when it comes to searching and planning a trip in the future and 55% 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%) stating they want travel booking platforms to increase their transparency about cancellation policies, refund processes and trip insurance options. Furthermore, 46% consider refundable accommodation a must-have for their next trip, as do almost half (36%) when it comes to the flexibility to change dates without being charged.  

4. 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. 47% of people still plan to travel within their own country in the medium term (7-12 months’ time), with 38% planning to do so in the longer term (in over a year’s time). When it comes to local travel, 43% plan to explore a new destination within their home region/country and 46% will take the time to appreciate the natural beauty of their home country, while – locally or not, half (50%) intend to travel somewhere they’ve already been previously for its familiarity.

5. SAFETY CLEANS UP 

Global travellers (79%) 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. 59% of travellers will avoid certain destinations (rising to 67% of Baby Boomers), and 70% expect tourist attractions to adapt to allow for social distancing. At the same time, 70% will only book a particular accommodation if it’s clear what health and hygiene policies it has in place, with three quarters (75%) favouring accommodations that have antibacterial and sanitizing products.

6. IMPACT AWAKENING

With over half (53%) 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%) 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%) and overcrowding (48%). This desire also means that 63% 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%) 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.

7. 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%), clean air (50%), nature (44%) and relaxation (33%) on Booking.com have increased since the start of the pandemic***, while research shows that over two thirds of travellers (69%) will look to appreciate more simple experiences such as spending time outdoors or with the family while on vacation. Over half (56%) will seek out more rural, off-the-beaten-track experiences to immerse themselves into the outdoors.

8. SPONTECHNAITY

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% say that accommodations will need to use the latest technologies to make travellers feel safe. More than half (53%) will want tech options to make last-minute restaurant reservations and almost a quarter (21%) will want more self-service machines instead of ticket desks. More than half (55%) 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.

Booking.com has combined research from more than 20,000 travellers across 28 countries* with insights from proprietary search and endorsement data as well as over 20 years’ of travel expertise to reveal nine predictions for the future of travel – in the coming year and beyond.

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Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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