The impact that COVID-19 has had on our daily lives has made the past year one of the hardest we’ve had to endure. Maintaining distance and staying home has become part of the new normal. While tough days may still be ahead, new research reveals that our appetite to explore the world remains undiminished and after months of restrictions, travelers are finally starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to the roll-out of vaccines and the development of other break-through medical advances in the battle against COVID-19.
With a mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, leading digital travel platform Booking.com reveals insights from more than 28,000 travelers across 28 countries and territories to uncover what travelers feel most hopeful about as it becomes safe to travel again, and what support they believe the travel industry needs to get back on its feet.
Travelers’ optimism returns as vaccines fuel hope
Despite knowing that the pandemic finish line hasn’t been reached just yet, two thirds of global travelers (66%) feel more hopeful about traveling in 2021 due to the unwavering commitment of the scientific and medical communities and the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines. The same number of global travelers (66%) state that not being able to travel extensively in 2020 has made them yearn for travel even more in 2021.
The trust in vaccines runs deep, with over half (59%) of global travelers stating that they won’t travel internationally until they have been vaccinated, which rises to 68% among those 55+ years old, while 55% of global travelers will only travel to countries that have implemented vaccination programs. But there still is some hesitation, with two fifths (41%) remaining sceptical as to whether a vaccine will truly help make travel safer.
Travel Wins in Post Pandemic Priorities
Despite feeling mostly optimistic, global travelers acknowledge that not being able to travel in 2020 like they used to in previous years has had a significant effect on their well-being, with 48% reporting a negative impact on their mental health and 47% having felt imprisoned in their own home due to travel restrictions.
64% say travel is more important to them now than it was before the pandemic. So much so that almost three quarters (71%) of travelers would even go so far as stating that they would rather go on a vacation in 2021 than find true love. Meanwhile 66% would prioritize traveling over success at work, preferring to go on vacation than get promoted.
Over half (53%) of travelers have used the increased time at home to plan future travel while almost half (45%) have banked more vacation days, so are excited about the potential of taking longer vacations in 2021. When dreaming about their next vacation, six in ten (61%) feel confident that they’ll be able to hit the beach by summer 2021, and 23% say a relaxing beach or spa trip will be the first type of trip when it’s safe to do so . After an exhausting year only 6% will book an active trip and just 5% say a city break is a priority.
A joint effort for a common goal
To help travelers safely rediscover the destinations they long for, there appears to be a consensus that governments, travelers and the wider travel ecosystem need to work together.
Following the impact that COVID-19 has had on the travel industry, 95% of global travelers think the industry needs to be supported to get back on its feet. Two thirds (66%) believe that government financial stimuli are now needed to help travel’s recovery and over half (56%) worry that the industry won’t survive unless it is supported with government grants. In terms of more practical regulations, 72% state that wider access to pre-travel COVID-19 testing is needed, and 70% say that governments should collaborate with travel associations and providers to set more consistent standards.
But with 62%** of accommodation providers expecting to see an increase in interest for travel for 2021, they continue to do their part to ensure travelers feel safe, with almost 70%** having increased health & safety measures and improved cleaning processes.
Accommodation providers are not the only ones willing to roll up their sleeves, with 60% of global travelers willing to accept only being able to travel if they could prove they have been vaccinated. Meanwhile 73% would accept having to wear a face mask when traveling, with 64% going as far as supporting a ‘no mask no travel’ ban (unless exempt). Two thirds (66%) would be willing to only travel in small groups of 2-6 people.
To support the travel industry more directly, 17% of global travelers plan to use travel credits / vouchers from cancelled trips instead of requesting a refund and the same number will buy vouchers for family and friends for them to use when it’s safe to travel again. Meanwhile 31% plan to choose less frequented destinations and 27% want to book independent accommodations or accommodations in or near their hometown to support local businesses (20%).
Arjan Dijk, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Booking.com comments:
“Booking.com remains optimistic that at some point in the not-so-distant future, everyone may once again be able to travel and experience the world together. As we start to see a light at the end of the tunnel, we remain committed to supporting everyone on their journey to getting back to travel, as it’s safe to do so, working together with all those in the travel industry to ensure its recovery for a better, brighter future. And with our mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, when the time is right to discover the places, cultures and experiences we’ve all been dreaming of, we will make sure you can find them on Booking.com.”