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4 trends sparking new life into travel

Author: Theodore Koumelis / Date: Tue, 06/01/2021 - 06:27

Amadeus hospitality data shows that traveler confidence is growing with a +60% increase in net reservations since the beginning of the year.

If 2020 was the year when freedom to travel was put on ice, this summer will see the onset of a gradual thaw in some parts of the world. Given the wildly differing circumstances between continents, it is clear that recovery will be varied and fragmented.

But for all the uncertainties, we remain optimistic about the long-term future of travel. Amadeus hospitality data shows that traveler confidence is growing with a +60% increase in net reservations since the beginning of the year.

As in all sectors, the key factor is innovation. So many people’s lives have changed in ways few would have imagined, including for all those who work across the travel industry. No, we will not be going back to ‘normal’ any time soon. Yet there is a new normal, adapting to fit the reality of the pandemic.

Among our families, friends, colleagues and customers, we have witnessed extraordinary resilience and inventiveness. The travel sector – which had already undergone a gradual evolution in the preceding years, largely driven by technology – has reinvented itself in a matter of months.

From bubble resorts and travel corridors to the rise of workcations and a new breed of sustainably conscious consumers, the current map is almost unrecognizable from that of 2019 and 2020.

Predicting the future is more challenging than ever. But by calling on large swathes of data at our disposal, we have been able identify some high-level trends. While the findings could evolve, there are clear indicators of what might lie in store for the rest of 2021 with the continued rollout of vaccines.

As we look to rebuild travel, here are four trends we see shaping travel this upcoming holiday season from June to August – whether that be summer in the northern hemisphere or winter in the southern.

Bubble Travel

How the travel & tourism sector is facilitating safer travel

With red tape tangling up the borders, how do you travel abroad safely in a pandemic? Think bubbles. We’re not talking about the tonic in your favorite holiday cocktail here, but the fundamental framework allowing people to jet between countries.

These bubbles vary significantly in size, from individual Covid-safe properties to resorts – and, on a grander scale, safe travel corridors between nations. Most recently, a bubble was formed between Australia and New Zealand, while a similar arrangement is slated for Hong Kong and Singapore in May.

Meanwhile, individual hotels are promoting themselves as bubble resorts allowing guests to travel together in groups and enjoy a holiday together as long as they have a negative Covid test. The Maldives are a case in point, with the country’s geography of hundreds of secluded island resorts allowing for physical distancing amid some of the world’s most breathtaking views.

We have seen a 66% increase in searches from around the world for two-week trips to the Maldives compared to the same period in 2019.

Travel agencies are playing a key role in creating the perfect bubble package for travelers, too. Amadeus data shows a slight increase of packaged travel, both online and offline, especially for people traveling together as families or groups, with children. Friedrich Joussen from TUI, for example, said “We are optimistic about the summer” and expected to operate up to 75% of its normal schedule.

The bottom line here is that safety comes first. People from nations that have been successful in containing the pandemic are more comfortable traveling to countries with a similar record.

With uncertainty ongoing, the growth of Bubble Travel has significant implications for health passports. A recent Amadeus study found that more than 90% of travelers would be comfortable using a digital health passport for future trips.

Down under in Australia, search demand for international routes is largely replaced by domestic and bubble routes for June through August. The once top Sydney to London route fell out of the top spot, replaced by Sydney to Melbourne, while demand for the Sydney to Auckland bubble route grew by 77% over the same period compared to 2019.

This trend is particularly important for New Zealand. Before the pandemic, the 1.5 million Australians who visited New Zealand each year accounted for 40% of all international visitors – a percentage which is sure to increase.

The cruise industry is also set for a revival, thanks to strict regimens which will require all passengers to be vaccinated before departure, followed by regular testing throughout their journey. Given the difficulties experienced by this sector of the travel industry, these steps potentially will provide a welcome and much needed boost.


The increasing viability of a flexible nomadic working life

If the way we work has been changing for some years now, the process was turbo-charged by the combination of a global pandemic and the rise of video conferencing. None more so than for the new generation of digital nomads who have left the office behind for a work from anywhere model.

Some call it bleisure (“individuals who combine leisure with professional business obligations when abroad”) but we prefer to talk about the rise of the workcation. The concept of working remotely from a coffee shop or a beach bar is not new, but the past year has democratized the dream.

A recent Harris Poll found that 74% of Americans would consider taking a workcation. And while it used to be an adventurous few who left behind the familiar to work in a beachside hotel or long-term home rental in the mountains, our data shows that plenty are already doing it.

Quick jaunts to the Caribbean – a popular workcation destination – took a nosedive compared to 2019 with searches for one day stays falling by 79%, while longer stays of more than 14 days increased by 43%.

Globally, we saw a 41% increase in the number of searches for 30-day stays, though the regions varied significantly.

In the US, for example, the increase was more moderate, with a 2% increase for trips over 14 days. In France and Spain, however, we saw an increase of 75% and 52%, respectively, in searches for 30-day stays.

We can only see this trend expanding, as countries emerge from lockdowns and more weary workers release a pent-up desire to step away for a breath of fresh air.

The logic of workcations is compelling, as they allow travelers to book flights at times of lower demand, saving themselves both money and stress. And for those whose lifestyles allow it, it is hard to ignore the allure of dialing in to the office from sunny idylls in Barbados, Anguilla and Croatia (all of which have launched schemes to attract nomadic workers).

Indulgent Travel

How a renewed thirst for travel is seeing consumers book more indulgent trips

If there was one benefit of being confined to virtual house arrest for large chunks of the past year, it was the inability to spend big. Big meals out, holidays and even weddings were either scaled down or cancelled altogether. Cabin fever is at an all-time high!

Amadeus data shows that some of the most booked trips clearly lean towards the indulgent. Topping the league table are the denizens of Paris and Los Angeles, heading for high-end beach resorts in large numbers.

French travelers’ preference is for the Caribbean havens of Martinique and Guadeloupe, while their US cousins are heading for Cancun, Mexico, and Hawaii. Next on the list are the citizens of Moscow – with Muscovites flying in droves to the sun kissed Black Sea.

It is notable that Cancun, Mexico skyrocketed from outside the top 50 most searched destinations to number four globally, eclipsing heavyweights with tight border restrictions, like Paris and Bangkok.

Such is the frustration at being confined to our homes during the pandemic, some have coined the term ‘Revenge Travel’ to sum up this phenomenon. We prefer to call it Indulgent Travel because all the signs point to travelers making the absolute most of their journey.

A recent survey by The Vacationer found that 25% of Americans intend to travel more frequently after the pandemic, to make up for lost time.

Our own data indicates that travelers are beginning their holiday search much earlier – by 27% - this year. In Hong Kong for example, advance search period increased by 23%, with travelers starting their searches two weeks earlier than they did in 2019.

And while cruise ships around the globe were confined to docks, the Quantum of the Seas has been sailing from Singapore since December. Viking Cruises, for their part, have just launched the first Chinese-flag luxury cruise ship from the port of Qianhai, Shenzhen.

Conscious Travel

How travelers are looking for more sustainable and conscious travel options

Our data indicates that people are researching their trips 27% earlier than before, than they did in the same period in 2019. This shows travelers are putting a lot of thought into planning their next trip – in terms of safety as well as being environmentally and socially conscious about their choices. We call this Conscious Travel.

When it comes to personal safety, Amadeus data shows a triple digit increase in travel insurance purchases on bookings leading up to summer. This indicates that travelers are more conscious about their safety while traveling. Airlines and airports have responded to this ‘great safety awakening’ with more touchless technology and off-site check-in options. At Amadeus, we’re facilitating this via our Safe Travel ecosystem.

Equally interesting is the surge in demand for car rentals. Amadeus mobility experts suggest that this could be a result of travelers wanting more personal safety and choosing to travel privately by car to their destination. This surge has put pressure on car rental companies that scaled back the number of vehicles on hand to reduce overhead last year at the height of the pandemic.

Car rentals have traditionally been an afterthought, behind hotels and air tickets. Amadeus car shopping data shows this continues to be the case with more than a quarter of all searches for car-rental pickups happening within seven days. Travelers should be conscious of this car shortage and plan rentals far in advance this summer. In fact, the shortage is so extreme at some destinations that tourists are renting cargo vans and trucks in lieu of rental cars.

When it comes to being more environmentally and socially conscious, Amadeus research shows that one third of millennials would like to see more availability of sustainable travel options and ways to reduce their carbon emissions when traveling. It was a similar story across all ages and global markets, with one in four sharing this commitment to Conscious Travel.

Many carriers are embracing the sustainability wave that seems to have accelerated amid the
pandemic. Earlier this year, travel industry associations proposed a plan to reach net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050 for European aviation. Hydrogen powered aircraft and sustainable aviation fuels are top of mind for carriers and we expect some travelers to modify their travel choices based on such improvements.

This puts the travel industry in a position of great responsibility. Consumers are looking to make sustainable and more conscious choices and as travel picks up, there will be more pressure on the industry to identify exactly what is being done to protect the planet and understand how travel is positively impacting local communities.

Governments are also doing their part, offering incentives to encourage greener travel, such as discounts on rail fares. The Spanish government-owned train company Renfe is one such example, recently announcing that it will lower rates for the summer. Also, the European Union named 2021 the European Year of Rail.


These travel trends are supported by data analysis conducted from April 26th to May 11th, 2021 of searches for departures from June to August. Anonymized, aggregated data was examined from GDPR compliant Amadeus solutions.

This was supported by desk research and information from trusted industry partners. Amadeus Air Search Travel Data is the most complete suite of air data in the travel industry and includes shopping transactions performed by +2,500 customers including the world’s top travel agencies. It consists of consolidated data generated by daily transactions. 

Amadeus Demand360® is the only business intelligence solution that provides actual forward looking occupancies for hotels and selected competitive sets. Occupancy information represents actual rooms sold, including market segment and channel statistics.