At the end of each year, the travel sector looks ahead to the next 12 months and predicts trends that will help innovate the industry. However, it’s impossible to talk about 2021 trends in the travel and hospitality sector without mentioning Covid.
The travel industry found itself against the ropes in 2020, with flights grounded and holidaymakers embracing the staycation. And yet, despite the limitations caused by the pandemic, there’s plenty to look forward to in 2021: one of the biggest trends will surely be the fact that people can travel freely again.
But what does the next year or so hold for travel brands and merchants who want to ensure they lead the way and capitalise on the public’s desire to travel? Staying on top of new trends will be necessary to connect with customers and provide a high-level service in 2021. Which is why we’ve put together this list about what the travel industry can expect for the year ahead.
Clean is serene
There is no doubt that hygiene will be a focal point of 2021. As some form of normality resumes, staying safe through ultra cleanliness will continue to play an essential role in helping people feel comfortable as they travel around the world again.
Instead of thinking about brand loyalty through points and rewards, travellers will be more inclined to use companies who adhere to stringent hygienic measures. Hygiene will be the new currency for brand trust, with 40% of travellers opting to use airports, airlines and hotels with excellent health and safety standards.
The “vaxication” will also take front and centre stage. Travellers could be required to show proof of their vaccinations before travelling, which means having a record of successful vaccination jabs when checking in at the airport.
Getting back to nature
Outdoor holidays will be a major trend of 2021, thanks to their low-risk factor in spreading covid. Activity holidays, such as hiking, camping and being in remote areas, will appeal to those still mindful even after a vaccine is available.
Camping holidays surged during 2020, as people looked for alternatives to city breaks to avoid the large populations in dense areas. The social distance element of outdoor-focused holidays shouldn’t be underestimated, and it will still play a major role in many people’s holidays this year.
It may even be a case that travellers are happy to fly to different destinations but choose to spend their holidays in remote areas abroad rather than typical hotspots. It looks like 2021 will be the year where we all embraced getting back to nature.
Flexibility will be key this year, especially while some form of uncertainty remains around travelling. An increasing number of people will opt for holidays where they can spread the costs of their payments, which will create more straightforward and manageable getaways.
During the pandemic, the number of “buy now, pay later” services rose as demand increased for flexible payment options. This year will see similar expectations for flexi holidays – especially in the travel industry, where high-price getaways will be more attainable thanks to the ability to spread the cost.
Another trend centred around flexibility – one that emerged in 2020 – is that of travel itineraries. Providers will continue offering flexible holiday options, allowing holidaymakers to book with added security in the event of quarantine restrictions or no-fly bans coming into place – at least in the first half of 2021.
Close to home holidays
There’s optimism that travel will mostly be back to normal by the end of 2021. Yet, the first half of the year could look more like the one it precedes, which means more people going on a staycation. Staying in the same country for your break is becoming a form of the “new normal”.
There was a growing interest in domestic travel even before the pandemic: holidays close to home rose by 8% during 2019. Covid has supercharged interest in domestic breaks, and we thoroughly expect the trend to continue well into 2021.
Instead of heading off to far-flung destinations, people will venture to towns, cities and coasts in their home countries. The result will be a boost in tourism revenue for domestic travel, which will be a welcome addition after the decrease in international travellers.
Socially conscious travel
Even before Covid, people were becoming more aware of their social and ecological footprint. As a result, the travel industry should evolve further to become more responsible for the environment.
Eco-friendly hotels will be all the rage, while other types of accommodation should follow suit and adapt their practices to provide more environmentally friendly setups. Flying will also play its role, with the International Civil Aviation Organization scheme starting this year. It aims to limit net carbon emissions of international flights between participating countries by 2035.
The socially conscious traveller isn’t going anywhere, and will in fact play an even more important role this year. It’s over to travel brands to continue rising to the challenge and create sustainable initiatives that encourage holidays with environmental benefits.
This will be the year when the travel industry aims to get back to the “old normal”, just with a few tweaks to improve things even further. Hopefully, by the end of 2021, international travel will be something we all do again without much thought. The lessons learned from Covid should create an even better travel landscape for travellers, brands, and merchants. And it all starts with booking that dream trip.
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