Our travel experts weigh in on the top travel trends for 2021. Get the inside scoop on the best way to plan your next journey.
Author: Lucia Novara
The data is in: everybody in the world wants to go somewhere.
While that may be a slight exaggeration, a recent American Express Travel report found that 76% of people around the world are actively planning the trips they will take when they can.
“We know that there will be incredible pent-up demand once travel restrictions are lifted,” said Alex Metzler, CFO & Co-Founder of Enchanting Travels. “We expect travel to gradually normalize in the second half of 2021.”
Over the past year our leadership team, both at Enchanting Travels and our parent company, Travelopia, have closely monitored COVID-19’s impact on the travel industry. It has been a very hard time for this tight-knit industry, with many layoffs and shuttered businesses. The good news is that we took this time to regroup, adapt, and even launch new destinations for our guests to explore in the post-COVID world. As vaccines become more widely available and restrictions start to let up, we wanted to share the insights and travel trends for 2021 that we’ve gathered over the past few months.
Flexibility and Support
Raise your hand if you had a terrible time trying to get a refund for your canceled travel plans in 2020.
Too many of us struggled with inflexible refund policies and overwhelmed customer service lines. Accordingly, the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) reports that the most frequently asked question by travelers who made new bookings last fall was about the cancellation or refund policy, ahead of health protocol questions. The travel industry as a whole has responded to those issues with a shift to more flexible booking policies, better refund terms, and bolstered customer support options.
Research shows customers are prioritizing the companies that offer the most flexibility and support. According to a recent Travelopia survey, 60% of consumers value flexibility over price, which is a major change from pre-pandemic times. At Enchanting Travels, we’ve responded to this shift with our Carefree Guarantee, which allows you to rebook your trip free of charge up to 30 days before departure at the same price as your original trip. If travel is not possible due to COVID-19 government-imposed travel restrictions at 30 days before departure, you can choose between rebooking your trip free of charge or receive a full cash refund (some exclusions apply).
We have always provided 24/7 support for our guests on the ground. Our Trip Coordinators are available around the clock to handle any issues that may arise on your trip, from a lost passport to a dinner reservation. We’re proud to now offer the ability to arrange a COVID-19 test for you prior to your departure home.
Simple economics point to the inevitability of travel costs rising as more people around the world are vaccinated. The U.S. Travel Association reports 50% of American consumers have put away money this year and there’s a savings dam for travel that’s about to burst. Jan Freitag, a National Director for Hospitality Analytics, told CNN that hotel demand and occupancy will go up again soon.
Other travel experts also reported to CNN that airlines aren’t likely to return to all of their pre-pandemic routes immediately, so demand could outweigh supply and drive up ticket costs. Many experts are predicting fares rising by 20-30%, with pent-up demand driving less price sensitivity. Enchanting Travels’ Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, Florian Keller, recommends booking this spring to avoid surging airline and hotel prices in the fall and 2022.
We can confidently say that booking now will result in significant savings on hotel prices and airfares and allow you to take advantage of the more flexible policies many companies are currently offering.
Many organizations and countries around the world are working on versions of a “vaccine passport”. These mostly digital applications aim to streamline health information so it can be securely shared across borders. Some forms of electronic travel passes are in the works from the World Economic Forum and the International Air Transport Association. The European Commission has proposed a Digital Green Certificate to allow movement within the EU. Countries including Iceland, Poland and Portugal are all working on vaccine passports as well.
While we hope this goal can be achieved to improve travel rebounds and reduce the spread of the virus, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed. Forgery could be widespread, restricting some populations and not others could cause equity issues, and healthcare privacy laws would vary greatly across countries. For example, in Israel, a “green pass” from the Ministry of Health is required to participate in some everyday activities but that idea has received heavy backlash in the United States as a violation of healthcare privacy.
We can confidently predict that there will be some form of COVID-19 vaccination documentation that will facilitate the return of international travel access. However, time will tell what that documentation looks like and which parts of the world will adopt it fully.
Moving on to the fun part: actually planning a trip again!
Some very clear travel trends for 2021 are emerging for our post-pandemic world:
- Road Trips: More and more people are satisfying their wanderlust by getting in the car and hitting the open road. A recent Airbnb survey shows 56% of Americans prefer domestic or local destinations versus just 21% who want to visit someplace international and farther away. Not only does a road trip remove buses, airports, and air travel from the safety equation, they also provide an opportunity to explore at your own pace. Planning an exciting road trip can be tricky and we recommend working with a destination expert who can help plan the best route and activities to help you make the most of your trip.
- Last-Minute Getaways and Short-Haul Escapes: We’re seeing an increase in the number of last-minute bookings as recently vaccinated people decide now is the time to make their travel dreams come true. We’re also seeing many new bookings in short-haul destinations. For our European guests, that may mean a last-minute long weekend in Greece, or an Iceland adventure. In North America, we’re seeing a lot of demand for Mexico and Costa Rica, both of which currently allow Americans to enter with a simple temperature check.
- Group Travel and Private Homestays: The same Airbnb survey shows that visiting with family and friends is the type of travel people have missed most and that this is currently the most important to them. There’s no doubt that as family members are vaccinated, there will be many joyful reunions in our future. Many people are choosing to explore private villas for these trips as they provide privacy from other guests, room to gather together, and often excellent amenities such as personal chefs or on-site spa rooms. Explore our choices for some of the top luxury villas around the world.
- Responsible Travel: There’s a saying going around the travel industry lately which we simply love: Build Back Better. It means instead of only trying to regain pre-pandemic numbers we think about ways in which we can provide the same level of service and pricing in a more responsible way and positively impact the communities we work in. Responsible Travel is more than a travel trend for 2021, whether that means carbon offsets for airline miles, promoting sustainable hotels, encouraging wildlife conservation, or choosing destinations that prioritize the health and safety of locals. It’s an entire philosophy for our team members to embrace as we work to create journeys of a lifetime for our guests.
Gain some inspiration for outdoor, authentic, and responsible travel journeys by browsing our Experience 2021 destination guide.
You can also watch this video from our Founder & CEO, Parik Laxminarayan, for an update on how we have weathered the storm over the past year, where we’ve launched new destinations, and what we see coming for the next year.
This year has taken a lot from us, from people we love to time with family and friends to the feeling of freedom. It has taken the livelihoods from our partners around the world who rely on sustainable tourism for income. But it has also given us an opportunity to appreciate the world around us with fresh eyes and drink in new experiences with a renewed sense of wonder. We can’t wait for that first sniff of ocean breeze, to get delightfully lost in a new city, and to sit quietly with a friend watching an elephant approach our camp at sunset.
We hope to see you out there as well.
Explore the world again