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Tourism Australia’s 2021 Travel Trends

Tourism Australia is working hard to ensure travelers can be welcomed back safely once again in the future. 

The events of 2020 undoubtedly changed the landscape of travel – from how tourism businesses operate, to what travellers prioritize when planning a holiday. But what remains is the passion that travellers around the world maintain for exploration and unforgettable holiday experiences. With more than 300,000 Australian businesses whose livelihoods depend upon tourism, Tourism Australia is working hard to ensure travelers can be welcomed back safely once again in the future. 

There’s no doubt that the next 12 months will hold challenges and the road to recovery for our industry will continue to be bumpy. The first step will be having all of our state borders open again for seamless interstate travel. Having Australians travelling around their own country and providing a crucial boost to operators will help ensure that our industry is in a good position to welcome back international travellers, which is a milestone that we’re very much looking forward to. While it’s difficult to predict exactly what tourism will look like in the future, there are some key travel trends that we’re expecting for 2021 and beyond:

Trend 1: Desire for wide-open spaces and remote destinations

One of the significant changes that we have seen in consumer behaviour as a result of COVID-19 is, unsurprisingly, a heightened awareness around health and physical distancing. The desire to seek out less crowded destinations and nature-based experiences is something that naturally follows from this and is a trend that Australia is well placed to benefit from. Some of our key strengths include our outdoor lifestyle, spectacular nature, clean air and wide-open spaces, and our reputation for safety will stand us in good stead as the world starts to travel again. Tourism Australia’s consumer research, the Consumer Demand Project (CDP), highlights that destinations boasting wide-open spaces feel safer for travellers – and after spending more time at home last year than ever before, people have a new appreciation for being out in nature.  

Trend 2: Safety is key

Globally, Australia has always ranked highly in terms of safety. However, off the back of our relative success in managing the COVID-19 pandemic, this positive perception has risen over the last year and Australia is now the country most associated with safety and security in the eyes of international travellers, moving ahead of Japan (CDP 2020). This shift highlights that what were once perceived as Australia’s barriers – our relative isolation and a large sparsely populated land – are now more desirable amongst travellers post COVID-19, which is a trend that we expect to continue.

Trend 3: Travel as a force for good

Today’s travellers are increasingly seeking out brands and experiences that are not only good for them, but good for the world around them. This can take many forms and can be as simple as supporting local businesses by shopping big at a local winery, bakery or butcher; to getting hands-on with bushfire restoration efforts through recovery tours and experiences such as planting a tree to help re-establish koala habitats. Tourism Australia’s consumer research supports this ‘force for good’ trend, with 91 per cent of international respondents saying they like to travel to become more open-minded and knowledgeable about the world, while 74 per cent are actively seeking out travel experiences that allow them to give back to a destination (CDP 2020).

Trend 4: Indigenous experiences on the rise

Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a rich, living culture that dates back at least 60,000 years. Each year, more and more travellers actively seek out authentic Indigenous tourism experiences that allow them to connect with, and learn more about Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. From red desert and saltwater country to traditional ceremonial practices and world-class contemporary arts, the story of the Indigenous Australians resonates the world over. In 2019 alone, around 1.35 million international visitors took part in an Indigenous experience on their holiday.

Trend 5: Travel to regenerate

Following the turbulence of 2020, the desire to use travel as a moment to reconnect with ourselves and our environments, and create meaningful experiences with loved ones will likely increase. Experiences like multi-day walks and wellness retreats have been growing in popularity over the past few years, and the pandemic has only amplified the desire for this style of holiday. 

Trend 6: Local produce taking center stage

Good food and wine is one of the key drivers of travel globally, and the rise of agritourism is helping to give visitors an authentic taste of a place and an insight into the culture of destinations. Australia has long been renowned for its top quality food and drink, but new experiences are raising the bar and giving visitors the opportunity to experience a whole new side of Australia’s flourishing culinary scene. Whether this is visiting farms, overnight farm stays, tasting local produce, experiencing country life and interacting with animals, agritourism is more popular than ever.

Managing Director - Tourism Australia | + Articles

Ms. Phillipa Harrison was appointed to the role of Managing Director of the nation’s global tourism marketing agency, Tourism Australia, in September 2019.

Previously, Ms. Harrison was Tourism Australia’s Executive General Manager International, and was responsible for leading the organisation’s international operations for Asia, the Americas, Europe and New Zealand as well as Global Distribution and Partnerships.

Prior to joining Tourism Australia in February 2017, Ms Harrison spent six years working for Hamilton Island Enterprises and before that held a variety of senior sales, marketing and product roles at Viator Systems (Sydney), Base Group (Sydney), STA Travel (London), Contiki Holidays (London), and Trailfinders (London).

Ms. Harrison holds a Bachelor of Arts (Mass Communication and Psychology) from Macquarie University and an MBA from AGSM at the University of NSW.