COVID Vaccine availability will help—One out of every two travelers is optimistic about taking a trip in the next 12 months, Expedia tells us in new research. In what is possibly the most-listened to report of its kind—among the annual outlooks, the annual reviews, the annual summaries, etc. that come out this time of year—the Expedia Group’s research report that coincides with the company’s annual partner conference and is taken seriously by everyone in the global travel and tourism industry. (The Expedia Group is No. 1 on Travel Weekly’s Power List of travel agencies that do business in the United States, with 2019 sales of $107.9 billion.)
For the research that produced the report, Expedia used an amalgamated group of best-in-class panels in October 2020 with 11,000 travelers across 11 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the UK, and the U.S. The respondents, said the company, “represent a variety of generations and demographics for a broad and inclusive understanding of what travelers consider when making destination, transportation and/or accommodation related trip decisions.”
The study results were released at about the same time as the first shots of COVID-19 vaccines were received by people in different parts of the globe and timed to coincide with the partner conference (for more information, visit explore ’20 (exploreexpediagroup.com).
Pent-up Demand is Significant: “As the world keeps a watchful eye on vaccine news, and people continue to crave a change of scenery or opportunity to catch up with loved ones, we know the pent-up demand for travel will grow,” the report declared. “As the world keeps a watchful eye on vaccine news, and people continue to crave a change of scenery or opportunity to catch up with loved ones, we know the pent-up demand for travel will grow.”
The research reveals that:
—One in two travelers feel optimistic, the research revealed—that is, comfortable or even excited—about taking a trip in the next 12 months. Though consumer confidence in travel varies by country and generation, the importance of hygiene measures, flexibility, and financial peace of mind is more universal.
—Three-quarters of travelers said measures such as mask enforcement, contactless services, and flexibility, including easy refunds or cancellation policies, will inform where they visit on their next trip.
—Yes, travel was down throughout the world. Globally, two-thirds of travelers had a planned trip cancelled due to COVID-19 and only a third of travelers have taken a trip during the pandemic. Of those who took a trip, eight in 10 traveled for rejuvenation—to enjoy a change of scenery or different weather, or to see family or friends.
More Highlights from the Expedia Research:
Traveler trends in the Next 12 months
• Globally, travelers are more likely to take trips between April and September 2021. Brazilian, Chinese, and Mexican travelers show a higher likelihood to travel even earlier, between January and March 2021, which aligns with the positive traveler sentiment also seen in those markets.
• Globally, Generation Z and millennial travelers are 1.5 times more likely than other generations to take a leisure trip in January to March 2021.
• Fifty-seven percent of travelers said they would be comfortable traveling if a vaccine is widely available, which is promising given that this sentiment was captured in October, prior to the recent positive vaccine news.
• Seven in 10 travelers will look for flexibility, such as travel insurance and trip protection, full cancellations and refunds on transportation and accommodations. Expedia.com’s lodging data shows that travelers booked refundable rates 10 percent more often in 2020 than the year before, and the new research indicates this trend is likely here to stay.
Factors Influencing Transportation and Accommodation Decisions
• Travelers want reassurances that travel providers and brands are following and enforcing pandemic protocols. Mask use and enforcement (50 percent), cost (47 percent) and easy refunds or cancellation policies (45 percent) will be the leading factors in future transportation decisions, though the importance placed on each varies by mode of transportation.
• For future air travel, six in 10 travelers would be most comfortable traveling if social distancing measures are in place.
• Proper COVID-19 hygiene protocols will inform future accommodation decisions for more than half of travelers, and this is the leading factor across all types, from chain and boutique hotels to vacation rentals to staying with family or friends. Additional considerations include contactless room service and takeout (24 percent) and contactless check in options (23 percent).
• Travel providers, as well as destination organizations, need to clearly communicate health and hygiene measures, pandemic protocols and flexibility to reassure and attract travelers.
Inspiring future travel
• Travelers are turning to online travel agencies for information and travel planning 24 percent more than pre-pandemic, while destination websites saw a 20 percent increase in use as a planning tool.
• Pictures and informative messaging in travel advertising are 20 percent more influential than pre-pandemic, along with travel organizations and experts. This is reflective of the shift in traveler priorities – with hygiene measures and flexibility overtaking experiences and activities – and the increased importance of credible, up-to-date information from trusted sources.
For further insights on traveler attitudes, motivations and influences that will drive future travel decisions, download the full global Traveler Sentiment and Influences study.