Travel trends for 2021

Our travel experts keep you up to date on the top travel trends for 2021. Find out the best way to plan your next trip.

7 min

Author: Lucia Novara

The dates are in: Everyone in the world wants to go somewhere.

While this may be a slight exaggeration, a recent report by American Express Travel found that 76% of people around the world are actively planning the trips they will take when they can.

“We know there will be incredible backlog when travel restrictions are lifted,” said Alex Metzler, CFO and co-founder of Enchanting Travels. “We assume that travel costs will gradually normalize in the second half of 2021.”

Over the past year, our leadership team at both Enchanting Travels and our parent company Travelopia have closely monitored the impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry. It was a very difficult time for this dense industry, with many layoffs and closed businesses. The good news is we took this time to group, customize, and even launch new destinations for our guests to explore in the post-COVID world. As vaccines become more widely available and restrictions wear off, we wanted to share the insights and travel trends for 2021 that we have gathered over the past few months.

Flexibility and support

Raise your hand if you’ve had a terrible time getting a refund on your canceled 2020 travel plans.

Too many of us have struggled with inflexible refund policies and overwhelmed customer service lines. Accordingly, the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) reports that the most frequently asked question from travelers who made new bookings last fall was about the cancellation or refund policy prior to health protocol questions. The entire travel industry has responded to these issues by moving to more flexible booking policies, better refund policies, and improved options for customer support.

Research shows that customers prioritize the companies that offer the most flexibility and support. According to a recent Travelopia survey, 60% of consumers value flexibility over price, which is a significant change from pre-pandemic times. At Enchanting Travels, we’ve responded to this postponement with our worry-free guarantee that allows you to rebook your trip up to 30 days before you travel for the same price as your original trip free of charge. If travel is not possible 30 days prior to departure due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, you can choose to rebook your trip for free or receive a full cash refund (some exclusions apply).

We have always supported our guests on site around the clock. Our travel coordinators are available 24/7 to resolve any issues that may arise on your trip, from lost passport to making dinner reservations. We are proud to now offer you the opportunity to arrange a COVID-19 test for you prior to your departure.

Meet Catherine, one of our travel coordinators in Africa.

Rising costs

Simple economic considerations indicate that travel costs will inevitably rise as more people around the world are vaccinated. The US Travel Association reports that 50% of American consumers have put money away this year and there is a travel savings dam that is about to explode. Jan Friday, national director for hospitality analytics, told CNN that hotel demand and occupancy will pick up again soon.

Other travel experts also told CNN that airlines are unlikely to return to all prepandemic routes immediately, so demand could outweigh supply and drive ticket costs higher. Many experts are forecasting tariffs to rise by 20 to 30%, with the pent-up demand leading to lower price sensitivity. Florian Keller, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of Enchanting Travels, recommends booking this spring to avoid rising airline and hotel prices in the fall and 2022.

We can confidently say that booking now will result in significant savings on hotel rates and airfare, and will allow you to take advantage of the more flexible policies many companies are currently offering.

Florian KellerCPO & Co-Founder, Enchanting Travels

Vaccination records

Many organizations and countries around the world are working on versions of a “vaccination pass”. These mostly digital applications aim to optimize health information so that it can be securely shared across borders. Some forms of electronic passport are in the works of the World Economic Forum and the International Air Transport Association. The European Commission has proposed a digital green certificate to allow movement within the EU. Countries like Iceland, Poland and Portugal are also working on vaccination certificates.

We hope that this goal can be achieved to improve rebounds while traveling and reduce the spread of the virus. However, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed. Counterfeiting could be widespread and restrict some populations, others could not cause equity problems, and health privacy laws would vary widely from country to country. For example, in Israel a health department “green passport” is required to participate in some everyday activities, but the idea has been heavily criticized in the US as an invasion of health care privacy.

We can confidently predict that there will be some form of COVID-19 vaccination documentation that will facilitate the return of international travel access. However, time will tell what this documentary looks like and what parts of the world it will completely take over.

Travel trends

On to the fun part: actually plan another trip!

Road trip adventureNorthern lightsExploring outdoorsIs It Safe to Travel to Mexico?  Learn moreEscape closer to homeExclusive private villas

For our post-pandemic world, some very clear travel trends are emerging for 2021:

  • Car trips: More and more people are satisfying their wanderlust by getting into the car and driving onto the open road. One recently Airbnb survey shows that 56% of Americans prefer domestic or local destinations, compared with just 21% who want to visit an international and more distant location. Not only does a road trip remove buses, airports, and air travel from the safety equation, but it also provides a chance to explore at your own pace. Planning an exciting road trip can be tricky. We recommend working with a destination expert who can help you plan the best route and activities so you can get the most out of your trip.
  • Last-minute short breaks and short-haul escapes: We are seeing an increase in the number of last minute bookings as recently vaccinated people now decide it is time to pursue their travel dreams. We are also seeing a lot of new bookings in short haul destinations. For our European guests, this can mean a last minute weekend in Greece or an Icelandic adventure. In North America there is a huge demand for Mexico and Costa Rica which currently allow Americans to enter with a simple temperature check.
  • Group travel and private host families: The same Airbnb survey shows that visits with family and friends are the type of trips people have missed the most, and that this is the most important one for them right now. There is no doubt that there will be many joyful reunions in the future when family members are vaccinated. Many people choose to explore private villas for these excursions because they offer privacy from other guests, space to be together, and often excellent amenities such as personal chefs or on-site spa rooms. Explore our picks for some of the best luxury villas in the world.
  • Responsible travel: There’s a saying in the travel industry lately that we just love it: Better take it back. Rather than just trying to regain the prepandemic number, we are considering how we can more responsibly provide the same level of service and pricing and positively impact the communities in which we work. Responsible travel is more than a 2021 travel trend, whether it means carbon offsetting airline miles, promoting sustainable hotels, promoting wildlife conservation, or choosing destinations that prioritize the health and safety of locals. It is a whole philosophy for our team members to engage with it as we work to create trips for our guests for their lives.

Find inspiration in our Experience 2021 travel guide for authentic and responsible outdoor travel.

You can also watch this video from our Founder and CEO Parik Laxminarayan to see how we weathered the storm last year, where we started new goals and what to expect for the next year.

This year has taken a lot from us, from the people we love, spending time with family and friends, to the feeling of freedom. It has taken the livelihood of our partners around the world who rely on sustainable tourism for income. But it has also given us the opportunity to appreciate the world around us with fresh eyes and drink new experiences with a new sense of wonder. We can’t wait to feel that first breath of sea breeze, get lost in a new city and sit quietly with a friend and watch an elephant approach our camp at sunset.

We hope to see you out there too.

Iguazu Falls in South America - Travel Trends 2021

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