Its Q1 Travel Recovery Trend Report identifies trends in consumer behavior as the travel and tourism industry is on the road to recovery.
Expressions such as “pandemic,” “COVID-19,” “travel bubble” became a part of our vocabulary as travel and tourism struggle to cope with, and mitigate the impact of a virus that brought activity to a halt.
By tapping into more than 300 petabytes of Expedia Group traveler intent and demand data (One petabyte holds 1024 terabytes or 1,125,899,906,842,624 bytes), Expedia shares what it calls a snapshot of the latest quarterly trends we are seeing through its exclusive access to Expedia Group first-party data and custom research. The Travel Recovery Trend Report starts with five trends statements.
—Global Vaccine Rollouts Spur the Return of Travel: After a turbulent year for the travel industry in 2020, the start of 2021 saw travel turn a corner with monthly search volumes showing strong growth throughout Q1. The increase in searches and traveler demand is linked with growing momentum for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and travel guidelines.
—Global Search Window Remains Short: Continuing a trend seen throughout much of last year, the majority of global Q1 2021 searches fell within the 0 to 21 days search window, as uncertainty around global travel saw travelers opt for more opportunistic, short-term trips, often close to home. This trend seems to be strengthening for domestic trips, while longer search windows for international trips appear to be growing.
—Making Up for Lost Time with Longer Trips: To make up for lost time, travelers are finally using their full vacation days and taking advantage of more flexible working conditions with “flexcations” – a longer stay mixing work and play. This is resulting in longer trips, as well as a strong increase in vacation rental demand quarter-over-quarter. Travelers are booking more stays of at least seven nights at Vrbo vacation homes this summer, exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
—Domestic Travel Here for the Foreseeable Future: Even with COVID-19 vaccine distribution ramping up, many travelers are continuing to take trips closer to home – opting for beach and city destinations – and choosing car travel as their preferred mode of transportation. As travelers look ahead to late spring and summer travel, road trips will continue to eclipse air travel and other transportation methods.
—Health & Hygiene Expectations Continue to Evolve: Since the start of the pandemic, health and hygiene-related factors have grown in importance for travelers. However, as consumer confidence continues to grow, there are signs that travelers are prioritizing more traditional decision-making drivers, such as cost and convenience.
Selected notes from the rest of the 2021 first quarter Travel Recovery Trend Report by Expedia Group Media Solutions:
⦁ After a sluggish start in January, 2021 turned a corner on 2020 with stronger monthly search volumes in February. March saw even higher volumes of at least 20 percent month-over-month in some cases. The increase in searches and traveler demand is linked with growing momentum for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and travel guidelines around the world, as well as travel “bubbles” and corridors for safer air travel between countries.
⦁ As confidence from American travelers built throughout the quarter, monthly search volumes continued to trend upward in Q1 2021.
⦁ In week-over-week searches, the week of March 15 saw the largest spike in searches – an increase of 30 percent – following the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) release of guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals. Interestingly, the U.S.-based guidance also drove spikes in traveler searches in other regions, following a similar trend line.
⦁ According to the recent Expedia Group Travel Outlook, the CDC news made 43% of Americans feel more comfortable traveling — or drove them to book an upcoming trip.
⦁ Around 55 percent of married couples and city dwellers are more willing to travel as soon as vaccines are widely available (Expedia Group 2021 Trends Report).
⦁ Widespread vaccine rollout in the U.S. is also spurring vaccine vacations: 1 in 3 Americans plan to or have already taken a vacation to celebrate getting vaccinated.
⦁ Continuing a trend seen throughout much of last year, the majority of global searches fell within the 0 to 21 days search window, as uncertainty around global travel saw travelers opt for more opportunistic, short-term trips, closer to home.
⦁ A growing momentum toward booking travel further out dovetails with pent-up consumer demand and an increasing desire to make up for lost time, resulting in “revenge shopping.” Whether domestic or international, or planning for an immediate or future trip, travelers are ready for new experiences.
⦁ Around six in ten travelers had a planned leisure trip cancelled due to COVID-19 last year (See Traveler Sentiment & Influences).
⦁ Many travelers are making up for lost time this year by taking longer trips, planning to fully use vacation days and continuing to work remotely while traveling with “flexcations” – that is longer stays that include work and play. Sixty-seven percent of families in the U.S. who took a “flexcation” would take a similar trip again (See Vrbo 2021 Travel Trends Report), so … expect to see this trend throughout the year.
⦁ Travelers continue to prioritize domestic over international travel, though we are starting to see international search demand begin to return. Travel shoppers are currently showing preference to travel domestically, indicated by our first party Expedia Group data and custom research, however, there are some variances in consumer sentiment around travel based on country/region.
⦁ Along with the vacation rental market, road trips appear to be another beneficiary of the domestic travel trend. Insights from Expedia Group’s recent Traveler Sentiment Study further highlight the car travel trend. The research found that for both domestic and international travel to a neighboring country during April to September 2021, travelers consider driving their own car or a rental car safer than other modes of transportation. 62 Sixty-two percent of global travelers took, or would be willing to take, a road trip during the pandemic.
⦁ Analysis of Expedia Group guest review data from the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 shows a steep spike in the percentage of guests mentioning cleanliness in their reviews. Since then, roughly over a third of all guest reviews mention cleanliness.
⦁ This trend is reinforced by recent Expedia Group research, which reveals that 4 out of 5 travelers expect to make accommodation decisions based on implemented pandemic measures.
⦁ While Expedia research indicated that aggregated annual data were dominated by health- and hygiene-focused considerations such as overall safety, cleanliness and crowding, it notes that in the last quarter, “we saw these topics drop from the top of the list and replaced with more prosaic considerations, such as cost and the ability to change flights, indicating that travelers are becoming less focused on health and hygiene related issues, and more focused on financial peace of mind and convenience.”
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