What would you give up to be able to travel now that pandemic conditions are easing in many places in the world? A new phone or tech toy? Sports? Your online shopping habit?
Excursions may have been put on hold in 2020 when the COVID-19 outbreak changed the plans of travelers all around the world. However, the desire for travel is high this year, with 41% of respondents in a recent survey saying that they would give up watching sports, 39% would stop online shopping, and 37% would cut social media for one month in exchange for a vacation.
Also, three-fourths of travelers said vacation would make them happier than a new smartphone.
Early this year, domestic and international searches began to increase, according to the Expedia Group, the company behind sites like VRBO, Travelocity and Hotwire. The study searched for insights shaping post-pandemic travel decisions, including emerging behaviors on searching and booking to new expectations on transportation and on-property experiences.
The research, called “What Travelers Want in 2021,” surveyed 16,000 respondents in eight markets. The research was first launched in 2020 and tracks traveler preferences presenting new data year-over-year.
“Year-long lockdowns have created pent-up demand, and travel is expected to surge mid-year, as many will take the summer vacation they could not take last year," said Melissa Maher, senior vice president of Marketing and Industry Engagement at Expedia Group. "As our industry continues to rebound, it is critical to stand out to travelers when they are looking for new experiences on their accommodation options.”
Here are some of the other research takeaways released this week:
• Nearly half (45%) of travelers were considering a beach vacation in the next 18 months, while more than a third (36%) would prefer a major city, and a third (33%) would prefer a small town.
• Regardless of the type of destination, a top decision factor for respondents is a “drivable destination somewhat close to home.” After the preference for nearby destinations, travelers are also likely to choose a longer stay, outdoor tours or activities and to travel to a “once-in-a-lifetime" destination for their next vacation.
• Cleanliness was the top factor shaping booking decisions among the respondents. Nearly half (42%) of travelers said cleanliness guidelines were important to them. The flexibility factor saw the most dramatic rise in importance from 2020 to 2021. Nearly two-thirds (60%) of travelers said they were unlikely to book a non-refundable room in exchange for a reduced rate. This was a near-complete shift from 2020, when two-thirds (66%) of travelers said they were likely to book a non-refundable room.
• The research also revealed how travelers’ expectations for on-property experiences impacts booking decisions. While more than eight in 10 travelers said, “there is room for improvement among ‘kid-friendly’ hotels,” nearly three-fourths (71%) said they would return for another stay if the hotel “got ‘kid-friendly’ right,” and more than a third (34%) would stay longer.
• Additionally, nearly all travelers (94%) saw room for improvement among “pet-friendly” hotels. Delivering a “pet-friendly” experience is a clear opportunity for properties: more than half (60%) say they would stay again, nearly half (42%) would stay longer, and almost a third (31%) would pay more per night.
• More than three-fourths (77%) of travelers said accommodations must have key technology amenities if they are to book a stay, while one in three travelers would be willing to pay extra for high-speed internet. Streaming services are especially important to: Generation Z (38%) and millennials (42%), those who travel with children (42%) or their in-laws (40%), and respondents in Mexico (61%).
• The research also revealed the importance that travelers place on trust. Properties who communicate clearly are likely to see fewer cancellations, happier guests, and better reviews. 40% of travelers say reviews are more important today than before the pandemic. Almost all travelers (91%) say property owners and managers should reply to negative reviews.
“Although travelers are excited to get away this year, how people search, book, travel, and stay has shifted. We want to better understand what it takes to make travelers feel confident in post-pandemic travel,” Maher said. “If we are willing to listen and respond to what travelers want, we can all usher in a swift, safe, and exciting new chapter in the travel industry.”
Download the full “What Travelers Want in 2021” report here.