The travel industry is beginning to recover post pandemic, but it’s taking on an entirely new shape.
Read on for the second in our four-part series on changing traveler demand and how to be ready for what's next. And In case you missed the first part of the series, check out our article on the "next-gen" traveler.
Despite the ongoing challenges with the Delta variant impacting holiday plans, we are still seeing plans to travel for the 2021 holiday season. While consumers remain cautious, the industry is in a better place than it was a year ago, and travel marketers have much to look forward to as vaccination rates climb and travelers emerge from lockdown.
According to new research, 36% of the people around the globe are now participating in some sort of travel activity. And they feel safer doing it, with the perceived risk of taking a vacation down by 17% since January 2021.
With travel rebounding, marketers are now scrambling to meet demand: 67% of travel marketers expect their marketing budgets to increase moderately to substantially during the remainder of the year.
However, 73% recognize challenges in meeting traveler needs, and 88% report that some areas of their businesses aren't yet ready to meet customer expectations.
The key for marketers will be understanding (and responding to) the ways in which COVID-19 and the Delta variant have affected consumer priorities. Let's take a look at this shift in traveler mindset with three trends to expect for holiday travel this year.
1. Continued focus on safety and flexibility
With the pandemic and variants breeding uncertainty, confidence in booking has become more important to travelers than ever before. "Confidence came from knowing [travelers] were getting the best price, knowing that we're going to have a safe stay, knowing if they had to cancel for whatever reason they would have flexibility," explained Wyndham Hotel & Resort CMO Lisa Checchio, quoting Wyndham guest data.
Indeed, booking and cancellation flexibility ranks as the second most important factor influencing consumer holiday travel decisions in the U.S. and EMEA, behind price, deals, and discounts. Unsurprisingly there has been a 33% increase in consumers buying cancelable tickets, according to CBS News.
Meanwhile, health and safety beats out price in APAC as the most important factor and ties for second with flexibility in the US. According to Wyndham's data, guests took into account mask policies, social distancing, and cleaning protocols well in advance of arrival, and there's every indication that concerns over safety will continue to take priority.
2. Sticking close to home
Vaccine passports, border closures, mandatory quarantine – international travel is still replete with restrictions, which could be why so many travelers are choosing to stay within their own countries this holiday season.
Of those planning trips for the holidays, the percentage planning domestic travel follows:
- 40% in North America
- 40% in EMEA
- 55% in APAC
- 42% in Latin America
Moreover, 53% of those planning to travel within the next three months plan to travel only within their own state or province, while 55% will travel outside of their state or province but within their own country.
3. Ensuring travel is meaningful
As consumers look to make the most out of each trip, visiting friends and family will be the top reason to travel this holiday season. Broken down by region, the following percentages plan to visit loved ones:
- 50% in North America
- 30% in EMEA
- 27% in APAC
- 29% in Latin America
Travelers are also prioritizing their values as they seek out eco-friendly options: 72% of travelers think that companies should offer sustainable travel choices.
Many travel marketers, however, feel ill-prepared, with 42% saying their companies are not set up to offer sustainable solutions this year. But, for those with eco-conscious offerings, sustainability is a unique selling point that can put them one step ahead, along with offering family-friendly travel experiences.
Travelers are eager to take to the roads, rails, and skies again after more than a year of postponed plans.
The industry is struggling to keep up, but focusing on consumers' adjusted priorities will help travel marketers meet expectations.
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For more data and insights on what to expect this holiday travel season, check out this article on Think With Google.