Trip.com Group and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) have published a new report that has found pandemic-induced changes to traveller preferences in three clusters – booking trends, consumer considerations and consumer profiles.
Titled Trending in Travel: Emerging Consumer Trends in Travel & Tourism in 2021 and Beyond, the study was commissioned to uncover the global trends for consumer travel by evaluating the booking data analysis and consumer survey responses acquired by the Trip.com Group’s platforms as well as those from industry sources, in a bid to better understand the changing consumer behaviour as a result of Covid-19.
Sustained domestic rediscovery
As international travel continues to face persisting limitations or restrictions, travellers remain compelled to search for travel experiences within their home countries. Therefore, the report identifies that domestic travel will continue to lead the recovery of the travel and tourism sector, especially in the short to medium-term.
In particular, the concept of staycations may continue to be in demand and more so for countries with prolonged restrictions on outbound travel.
Globally, the report found that more than half of global travellers plan to travel for a domestic holiday in the next 12 months. Trip.com data analysed a surge in overall global domestic hotel bookings in 2021 as compared to previous years, with an increase of over 200 per cent for 2021 compared to 2019.
Particularly for Asia-Pacific markets, including Singapore, there has been a sustained increase in demand for local staycations. The report indicated that this growth and demand would also be attributed to the respective governmental policies for each country. Singapore, for example, introduced the SingapoRediscovers Vouchers (SRV) scheme to boost domestic demand. The scheme grants locals, above the age of 18, S$100 vouchers for use on hotel stays, tours, and at attractions.
The report noted that domestic travel may slow proportionally as international travel returns, but added that the trend in rediscovering domestic destinations is likely to linger in the long-term.
Preference for longer stays
This year has seen pent-up demand for extended stays, with approximately one in four global travellers preferring longer stays of over 10 nights, as they attempt to make the most of trips taken.
In addition, the pandemic has incited an appetite for hybrid models of travel, which combine work and school with leisure travel. Termed ‘bleisure’, in the form of ‘workcations’ or ‘flexcations’, this form of travel is also a key force in aiding the recovery of the travel and tourism industry.
In Asia-Pacific, a majority of Thai (69 per cent), Vietnamese (57 per cent) and Chinese (54 per cent) respondents indicated that remote work during quarantine and travel would encourage them to stay longer during their trips.
A new wave of travellers
The report uncovered that travellers today value flexible bookings for travel products. This has led to the need for the industry, including airlines, hotels and travel providers, to adapt and review cancellation policies to accommodate changes that may affect traveller itineraries.
Global data from Trip.com also identified shorter booking windows for hotels and flights made on the site. Flight booking windows shortened by 56 per cent to 23 days while that of hotel bookings shortened by 22 days to 10 days in 1H2021, compared to the same period in 2019.
With the prolonged periods of isolation facilitated by Covid-19, travellers are showing a preference to travel to less crowded and even unfamiliar destinations, with an increased interest in exploring secondary destinations and nature.
According to Ctrip data for Asia-Pacific, there has been a rise in nature-related attraction bookings – a 264.5 per cent spike in 1H2021 compared to 1H2020.
Travellers today are opting for more sustainable and wellness-driven options. The report identified an increase in travellers, notably 94 per cent of travellers in Thailand, who plan to reduce and recycle waste when visiting a destination.
Virus prevention measures are also crucial in the making of travel plans. In particular, a majority of Asia-Pacific consumers (72.8 per cent) prioritise clear health and safety precautions above price (36.8 per cent) and location (46.3 per cent).
Looking ahead, there is no doubt that travel will recover, with the WTTC projecting a rise in travel and tourism GDP by 30.7 per cent in 2021 and 31.7 per cent in 2022.