Five Travel Trends for 2021

January 28, 2021

It’s tough to think of travel trends for 2021 when travel is so, well rare. Still, with headlines touting successful vaccines making it into the arms of people worldwide, hope is on the horizon that we can feed our wanderlust soon.

As we wrap up this very long frustrating year, let’s tease that appetite with a little amuse-bouche to get the senses tingling again. Before you know it, we’ll be feasting our way through destinations worldwide, but the best meals take time, so until then, here’s a run-down of what trends our travel research is adding to the shopping list.

The Rise of Family Travel
According to DCI’s new Insights into the Path to Purchase for Canadian Travelers study, Canadians continue to prioritize family time. Representing 56% of responses, family vacations are clearly their most-popular type of international leisure vacation, followed by beach and romantic-themed getaways.

In fact, the need for human connectivity is stronger than ever in both the U.S. and Canada. Family pod and group travel are expected to grow even more in 2021, allowing families, multi-families, and small groups of friends to travel together and reunite safely through renting a private accommodation. Family and mini adventure tours have also become popular, as families look for exciting opportunities to get out of the house on an excursion that is safe, fun for all, and close to home.

The New Staycation
The concept of a staycation, or working from home remotely, is evolving as people are working from home for a longer time than expected. In fact, Airbnb recently released 2021 travel trends, highlighting how the staycation will be redefined as relocation enters the mix. Among the findings, 83% of remote workers are interested in relocating, 60% of parents are considering working remotely if schools continue to operate remotely, and 20% of remote workers have already temporarily or permanently relocated during the pandemic so they can live where they want. Gen Z’s and Millennials are the most likely to move to a new location to work or study remotely, with many opting for rural or suburban areas.

With work offices likely not reopening until a vaccine is generally available to the public in 2021, people are more open-minded to relocating to enjoy an improved quality of living and lower costs of living. People living in large urban centers are continuing to consider moving, whether to be near existing family, start their own family, invest in real estate, save finances, or to find a change in scenery. In some situations, it may even be a temporary residence for a year or so, like with the Barbados Welcome Stamp, whereas in other situations it may be a longer move.

Sustainable Tourism – More Than Just Green Scenery
Sustainable tourism is expected to increase by 25% year over year, starting in 2021, according to Travel Market Report’s Wellness Travel Outlook 2020-21, based on the voice of the Travel Advisor. Adventure travel, spa and wellness, beauty treatment, fitness packages, retreats, voluntourism, animal welfare, spiritual/transformative missions, and even energy-efficient accommodations will prove popular add-ons in the leisure tourism industry.

As travelers are now more conscientious of health and safety, they are reminded to be mindful on how their travel habits influence their personal mental health and the overall wellbeing of the environment. This can be observed in new campaigns, like Ireland’s Slow Adventure experiences, which embrace this mix of mindfulness and ecological awareness.

With the ability to work remotely, relaxation, fresh experiences, and new memories are the primary travel motivators. In 2017, the top motivator was disconnecting from day-to-day life, but this now seems more impossible than ever in the given environment. This major shift in motivating factors is driving the growth of sustainable tourism across North America.

Less Popular Destinations Will Stand Out
When travelers become more comfortable with international travel, travelers are going to head to less popular places that have low COVID-19 counts, are safe, and are off the beaten path with less crowds. They are less likely to share the location on their social media pages, only sharing a “whisper” to close networks to prevent overpopulation, according to PBS’ Darley Newman.

This should come as no surprise, especially when major destinations like New York, Paris, and London have all but repelled travelers throughout 2020. Rebuilding the confidence to travel to these places will be a long road, but one that will also lead these smaller destinations to stand out more than ever.

A New Norm: Flexible Travel Options
Even with a vaccine available, things will never go completely back to the way they were pre-pandemic. We still take our shoes off at the airport, and 9/11 happened almost 20 years ago. A key travel trend, according to Airbnb’s study, not just in the tourism sector, will be to live, work, and connect safely outside the home.

With that, new niche market segments are predicted to form with different sets of needs and are expected to last. To meet the demands of everyone and to remain competitive, there will be a greater emphasis than ever on creating new innovative products and services and extending flexible options on existing ones – from contactless digital services to aftermarket offerings, [such as cancellations and insurance] to hybrid meetings and events, etc. For example, a study conducted by Virtuoso showcases flexible cancellation and rebooking policies as the most important motivators in international travel.

How quickly these trends in 2021 play out worldwide depends on how quickly we get COVID-19 under control, but following the research is the only way to be able to see the next step.

Excited about seeing travel trends in 2021 come to life in your destination? We can’t predict everything, but our 60 years of experience and research into the travel industry does indicate that we have reason to be hopeful. Get in touch with Robyn Domber at [email protected] to learn more about how our placemaking agency can help you cash in on the trends that we’ll be seeing once travel resumes full force again.