THE MAJOR TRAVEL TRENDS SET TO SHAPE 2021
As we say farewell to a challenging year for the hospitality and travel industry, we look to 2021 and the predicted trends that will shape the new era of travel. 2020 caused unprecedented disruption to travel plans, but now, albeit currently in another lockdown but with vaccinations well underway, what will 2021 bring as we approach the light at the end of the tunnel?
During recent lockdowns, two-thirds (65%) of travellers reported being excited about travelling again, with 42% wanting to travel more in the future to make up for time lost in 2020. Demand for ‘staycations’ has spiked as well as a preference for self-catering private accommodation. Undeniably travellers are more safety conscious than ever, with a greater emphasis being put on hygiene standards.
Environmentalism and sustainability continues to be at the forefront of people’s minds with an increased appreciation for nature and ‘doing good’, which we will undoubtedly see influence travel in 2021. Likewise, social media and technology will continue to dominate the way the travel industry connect and engage with their consumers; e-commerce in the UK having been set to have reached €222.5 billion by the end of 2020.
Here are six of the major travel trends developing as we enter 2021.
Ethical and Sustainable Travel
2020 saw a dramatic rise in consumer ‘awakenings’ when it comes sustainability and our environmental impact. The urgent need for a shift in the way we live has become more apparent than ever, with Covid-19 in particular forcing us to re-examine the interdependent relationship between people and nature.
David Attenborough’s latest documentary ‘A Life on Our Planet’ has been named by Forbes as the most important documentary of the year with the Chief Executive of the Association of British Travel Agents attributing the boom of eco-tourism to the show’s popularity.
Interestingly, the number of Britons adopting a vegan diet was set to double to 2.2 million by the end of 2020 , something the travel and hospitality industry will be expected to cater for. This is down to a rising consumer awareness of the health consequences of eating animal products, as well as the ethical and environmental impact of animal agriculture. Many restaurants have recognised this demand and food chains such as Domino’s Pizza and KFC have permanently introduced vegan menu options.
Hotels are starting to follow suit in order to not fall behind on consumer demands. The Good Hotel Guide revealed that on the list of top 10 complaints that customers had about hotels, there not being a menu for vegans came in at number 7.
According to a report by booking.com more than two-thirds (69%) expect the travel industry to offer more sustainable travel options. Ethically-sourced products, a more serious approach to recycling and waste management and increased catering to plant-based diets are no longer optional and are now essential expectations for the modern traveller.
Due to the pandemic, hygiene and cleanliness has become increasingly important for travellers. The majority of hotels will need to continue to prove increased cleaning and disinfectant measures, not just to satisfy guests but as a government requirement. It is predicted that a venues cleanliness rating is likely to be a deciding factor in the customer booking decision throughout the new year. A report by Expedia found that cleanliness was the primary concern for travelling Brits above all else.
The emphasis on safety and cleanliness is likely to stick long after the pandemic is over, with consumers having become increasingly educated on the transition of bacteria and viruses. A requirement that will become the new normal.
The UK’s ‘Good to Go’ certification programme via VisitBritain is one of the ways hospitality businesses can show they have met the government and industry guidelines for Covid-19 compliancy. Whilst it is hoped that life will start going back to normal after the vaccination roll-out has made significant progress, Covid-19 is likely to continue to dominate travel considerations in the first half of 2021.
The Rise of the Staycation
With travel restrictions and uncertainty around last-minute border closures, many turned to ‘staycations’ rather than international travel in 2020. This trend is likely to continue throughout 2021 with many preferring not to risk being stranded abroad or losing holiday deposits. The growing interest for domestic travel has meant areas such as Cornwall and the Lake District have seen huge volumes of Brits looking for a scenic getaway closer to home. Whilst this has not been enough to off-set the loss of international visitors and lockdown restrictions, the shift in demand for domestic breaks is something the travel industry will need to adapt to.
Travel influencers have helped spike the trend of being a ‘tourist in your own country’, with many hotel chains and independent brands partnering with social media personalities in order to showcase the best of Britain. With the continuation of border restrictions and uncertainties, it is likely we see a sustained desire to explore the UK’s hidden gems and beauty spots.
In addition to a preference for road-trips above air-travel, booking.com have found consumers are more price-conscious when it comes to searching and planning a future trip. They found 55% are more likely to hunt down promotions and savings, behaviours they predict will last years. Focus on flexibility will also remain at the forefront, with 46% of travellers considering refundable accommodation a must-have for their next getaway.
Overseas travel won’t be as easy as it once was, with testing and government regulations making it harder to just hop on a plane for a long weekend. This coupled with a lasting change in attitude towards travelling will likely result in a continued preference for domestic holidays, particularly amongst the older generation.
Despite the prevailing demand for staycations, there are still many who will opt for an overseas holiday at the first chance they get. 2020 has taken its toll mentally by restricting our freedom of movement which could result in a ‘Carpe Diem’ attitude towards travel in 2021. Whilst many will favour more local trips, those who had to cancel their 2020 travel plans will be looking for opportunities to re-book. Reports show that over a third (38%) intend to plan a trip to make up for a celebration missed due to Coronavirus, while two-fifths (40%) intend to rebook a trip they had to cancel.
Perhaps 2021 will see a surge in holidaymakers wishing to make up for lost time, whether it be engagements, birthdays or other cancelled events. It was estimated in April 2020 that 64% of weddings would have to be postponed or cancelled , due to recent lockdowns the figure is likely to now be much higher.
Airline and travel industries will be working hard to entice travellers to go abroad again, and many consumers will be inclined to take that well deserved overseas getaway after a challenging 2020. Seclusion and privacy being top consideration when choosing accommodation.
Will 2021 see a demand for luxury holidays? As borders gradually start to open later in the year, it is predicted that those willing to go abroad will seek the ultimate in pampering and adventure. After a challenging year of lockdowns, a change of scenery will be much needed escapism for people’s mental wellbeing.
With an increased interest in outdoor activities and nature, hiking and rural experiences will be highly sought after. As the volatile nature of restrictions is likely to continue, booking behaviour is likely to be very last-minute with the expectation for flexibility and free cancellation options. This spontaneous approach to off-the-cuff getaways is reflected in the flight booking window decreasing by about 15% heading into 2021.
Working from Paradise
Remote working has become the norm for many companies and the trend of ‘working from paradise’ will continue to rise. Professionals in 2020 sought to trade their home-office for a work space with a view, whether it be local or abroad. Hotels are wisely adapting their meeting spaces and bedrooms to cater to remote workers, ensuring the technology and environment can suffice as a working space. Whether the view is quintessential English countryside or an exotic beachfront, both beat the four walls of a dining room or home study.
Environments have a significant impact on our productivity and creativity. A survey of 2,000 workers by Huawei found 10% have worked from a holiday destination or holiday home already, and more than half said being able to choose where they work had a positive impact on their mental health.
Work staycations can give professionals a fresh perspective as well as an escape from home distractions. A trend we will see continue through 2021 and beyond.
With so much time being spent online, social media continues to dominate. During closures, hospitality venues have utilised social media as a way of staying in touch with their audiences, fostering loyalty and upholding their brand awareness. Likewise, consumers have turned to social media even more than usual for entertainment with adults spending an average of over four hours a day online.
Video continues to dominate as the most engaging form of content, and consumer-generated content is more prevalent than ever, with brands that are showcased by their consumers being the most trusted and sought after.
Social media influencers are particularly active during this time and are a great way for businesses to gain in-expensive exposure. With the rise of staycations, preference is being given to influencers with a large domestic following opposed to previous strategies that aimed to reach more diverse audiences.
The lack of footfall in towns and cities has meant more traditional forms of marketing such as billboards and taxi advertising are much less effective. Brands are shifting their marketing spend to online channels in order to ensure stronger reach and ROI. Most categories of consumer goods and services are now ‘majority digital’, with more consumers shopping by e-commerce than shopping solely at brick-and-mortar stores. Research by McKinsey projects that virtually every consumer category will experience 15-45% growth in permanent online shopping.
2020 has certainly seen significant change to life as we know it, and many of these changes are predicted to continue beyond 2021, shaping the ‘new normal’ when it comes to travel. Businesses are having to adapt to a model of ‘post-pandemic patience’ and managing expectations through a new business prism. Too fast, too soon is a recipe for new disasters, quality being the recipe for longevity. Reorienting everything patiently to long-term thinking is the best step for recovery; remembering that change is constant.
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