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COVID-19 vaccinations and international travel rank highly on list of travel trends for 2021

While travelers want to see the world again, they’re not throwing caution to the wind

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Photo (c) Virojt Changyencham - Getty Images
When the world gets back to traveling for fun again, consumers will have plenty of things to watch and hope for.

In a recent report by Tripadvisor, experts analyzed first-party search data and coupled that with traveler sentiment across six major travel markets -- the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Japan, and Singapore. They found that consumer confidence toward international travel -- particularly in the second half of 2021 -- is a key trend and is already showing up in the majority of hotel clicks on its platform. 

The most eager of the bunch to venture abroad are German and U.K. travelers. In the first week of January, 85 percent of hotel clickers on Tripadvisor in those countries were planning an international break for later this year. 

The trends

Besides international travel, the other four trends Tripadvisor says to keep an eye on are:

COVID-19 vaccinations: Of all the game-changing situations COVID-19 vaccinations impact, one of the largest will be confidence. Not only will the widespread rollout of vaccines impact travelers' confidence to travel, but it will also have some serious sway on where leisure travelers are prepared to go. 

Globally, the report found that 69 percent of American travel hounds are likely to travel internationally if they receive the vaccine, and 80 percent prefer to travel domestically. In other countries, travelers are a bit itchier to go abroad, with 77 percent wanting to get outside their borders compared to 86 percent who want to stick to domestic travel. 

Making sure they’re extra safe, more than a quarter (26 percent) of respondents globally say that they would only travel to destinations that required visitors to be vaccinated before travel, with U.S. travelers being the most likely to expect destinations to attend to this safety precaution (30 percent). 

In an email to ConsumerAffairs, the U.S. Travel Association dropped an extra vaccine-related hint that now is a terrific time to plan and book a trip. 

“Favorable offers and flexible cancellation policies abound throughout the travel industry right now—and they won’t last as more and more Americans get vaccinated and travel begins to pick up,” a spokesperson said.

Domestic vacations remain high on travelers' wish list: Tripadvisor says not to misread the tea leaves that say international tourism will be the travel category champ in 2021. To that point, it says domestic travel will likely be popular regardless of vaccine status.

In the first week of January, nearly 70 percent of hotel clickers on Tripadvisor were booking future domestic trips. While further out, May through August is still proving to be the most popular months for domestic vacations.

On the global picture, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of survey respondents say they plan to take at least one overnight domestic leisure trip sometime in 2021, and 34 percent say they’re planning to go somewhere in the U.S. three or more times this year. 

The joy of vacation planning will be stronger than ever as travelers: It’s not as simple as get-out-of-Dodge in 2021. Because travel plans were pretty much wiped out in early 2020, many people have been putting extra effort into contemplating their next big vacation. 

Three-quarters of travelers surveyed globally (74 percent) and two-thirds of travelers in the U.S.  (65 percent) say they will spend more time researching and choosing a destination this year. Upwards of 64 percent will spend more time poring over reviews, selecting their accommodation, and investing more time to find things to do. 

Consumers can't wait to eat out again, but their taste for takeout is not going away: The pandemic may have forced people out of sit-down restaurants, but carry-out and delivery will continue to modify the dining behavior of consumers worldwide.

The numbers in that category break out like this: Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents globally say they plan to dine in-person at restaurants more often this year than in 2020, but a considerable 27 percent say they plan to order more takeout meals. At home in the U.S., 54 percent of respondents plan to dine in-person at restaurants more often in 2021, and 38 percent plan to order more takeout.

"Despite the fact that many countries around the world are still grappling with high infection rates of COVID-19, many travelers are feeling optimistic that they will be able to vacation abroad this year, particularly coinciding with the roll-out of a vaccine. Consumer appetite for travel is as strong as it has been since the start of the pandemic and, as our data shows, many people are already actively planning their next big trip - even for trips more than four months out," said Shibani Walia, senior research analyst, Tripadvisor

"For destinations, brands, and tourism operators, it is so important that they act now to attract this early booking demand, or else they risk missing out to the competition."

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