Four trends that breathe new life into travel
Decius Valmorbida, President, Travel at Amadeus shares with us a column where he reveals his vision on the future of the tourism industry
If 2020 was the year freedom to travel froze, this summer will begin the gradual thaw in some parts of the world. Given the vast difference in circumstances between the continents, it is clear that the recovery will be mixed and fragmented.
But despite all the uncertainty, we remain optimistic about the long-term future of travel. Amadeus hospitality data shows that traveler confidence is growing, with a 60% increase in net bookings since the beginning of the year.
As in all sectors, the key factor is innovation. Many people's lives have changed in ways few would have imagined, even for everyone who works in the travel industry. No, we won't be back to "normal" anytime soon. However, there is a new normal, which adapts to the reality of the pandemic.
Among our families, friends, colleagues and clients, we have witnessed extraordinary resilience and inventiveness. The travel industry - which had already undergone gradual evolution in previous years, driven largely by technology - has reinvented itself in a matter of months.
From bubble resorts and travel corridors to the rise of work vacations and a new class of sustainable-conscious consumers, the current map is almost unrecognizable between 2019 and 2020.
Predicting the future is harder than ever. However, by drawing on a large amount of data at our disposal, we have been able to identify some general trends. Although the results could evolve, there are clear indicators of what could be expected for the remainder of 2021 with the continued deployment of vaccines.
Looking to rebuild travel, here are four trends that we believe will shape travel this upcoming holiday season, June through August, whether it's summer in the northern hemisphere or winter in the south.
How the Travel and Tourism Industry Facilitates Travel Safety
With bureaucracy tangling across borders, how do you travel abroad safely in a pandemic? Think bubbles. We are not talking about your favorite holiday cocktail, but the fundamental framework that allows people to travel between countries.
These bubbles vary significantly in size, from individual Covid-safe properties to resorts, and, on a larger scale, safe travel corridors between nations. Recently, a bubble has formed between Australia and New Zealand.
Meanwhile, individual hotels are promoted as bubble resorts that allow guests to travel in groups and enjoy a vacation together as long as they have a negative Covid test. The Maldives are one such example, as the country's geography, made up of hundreds of isolated islands, allows for physical distancing amid some of the most impressive sights in the world.
We have seen a 66% increase in searches from around the world for two-week trips to the Maldives compared to the same period in 2019.
Travel agencies are also playing a key role in creating the perfect bubble pack for travelers. Amadeus data shows a slight increase in packaged trips, both online and offline, especially for people traveling together as families or groups with children. TUI's Friedrich Joussen, for example, said "we are optimistic for the summer" and added that he expected to operate up to 75% of his usual schedule.
The bottom line is that safety comes first. People in nations that have managed to contain the pandemic are more comfortable traveling to countries with a similar track record.
With ongoing uncertainty, the growth of Bubble Travel has major implications for health passports. A recent Amadeus study revealed that more than 90% of travelers would be comfortable using a digital health passport for future travel.
In Australia, the demand for finding international routes has been largely replaced by domestic and bubble routes between June and August. The former Sydney to London route was replaced by the Sydney to Melbourne route, while demand for the Sydney-Auckland bubble route grew 77% over the same period compared to 2019.
This trend is especially important for New Zealand. Before the pandemic, the 1.5 million Australians who visited New Zealand each year accounted for 40% of all international visitors, a percentage that is sure to increase.
The cruise industry is also heading for a revival, thanks to strict regimes that will require all passengers to be vaccinated before departure, followed by regular tests throughout their journey. Given the difficulties this sector of the travel industry is experiencing, these measures will provide a welcome and much-needed boost.
The increasing viability of a flexible and nomadic working life
If the way of working has been changing in recent years, the process has been accelerated by the combination of a global pandemic and the rise of video conferencing. No more than for the new generation of digital nomads who have left the office behind for a work-from-anywhere model.
Some call it bleisure (individuals who combine leisure with professional obligations when abroad), but we prefer to talk about the rise of workcations. The concept of telecommuting from a coffee shop or bar is not new, but the last year it has been more common.
A recent Harris Poll poll revealed that 74% of Americans would consider taking a vacation from work. And while a few adventurers used to leave the familiar behind to work at a beachside hotel or long-term rental home in the mountains, our data shows that many are already doing so.
Quick getaways to the Caribbean - a popular work vacation destination - plummeted compared to 2019, as searches for day stays fell 79%, while longer stays of more than 14 days increased 43 %.
Globally, there was a 41% increase in the number of searches for 30-day stays, although the regions varied significantly.
In the United States, for example, the increase was more moderate, with an increase of 2% for trips of more than 14 days. In France and Spain, however, there was an increase of 75% and 52%, respectively, in searches for stays of 30 days.
This trend cannot but widen, as countries come out of their strikes and tired workers release the pent-up desire to get away for some fresh air.
The logic of working vacations is compelling, as they allow travelers to book flights at times of lower demand, saving money and stress. And for those whose lifestyle allows it, it's hard to ignore the lure of calling the office from sunny idylls in Barbados, Anguilla, and Croatia (all of which have launched plans to attract nomadic workers).
A renewed thirst for travel drives consumers to book more indulgent trips
If there was an advantage to being confined to virtual house arrest for much of the past year, it was the inability to spend big. Big meals, vacations, and even weddings were cut back or canceled altogether. Cabin fever is at an all-time high.
Amadeus data shows that some of the more booked trips clearly lean toward indulgence. Inhabitants of Paris and Los Angeles top the leaderboard, heading in large numbers to high-end beach resorts.
The French prefer the Caribbean paradises of Martinique and Guadeloupe, while their American cousins head to Cancun, Mexico and Hawaii. Next on the list are the citizens of Moscow, flying en masse to the sun-kissed Black Sea.
It should be noted that Cancun (Mexico) has gone from being among the 50 most sought after destinations to occupying the fourth place in the world, eclipsing heavyweights with strong border restrictions, such as Paris and Bangkok.
Such is the frustration at being confined to our homes during the pandemic that some have coined the term "Revenge Trip" to summarize this phenomenon. We prefer to call it "indulgent travel" because all indications point to travelers making the most of their trip.
A recent survey by The Vacationer revealed that 25% of Americans intend to travel more frequently after the pandemic to make up for lost time.
Our own data indicates that travelers are starting to look for their vacations much earlier - 27% - this year. In Hong Kong, for example, the early search period increased by 23%, and travelers began their searches two weeks earlier than in 2019.
And while cruises from around the world were limited to docks, Quantum of the Seas sails from Singapore since December. Viking Cruises, meanwhile, has just launched the first Chinese-flag luxury cruise from the port of Qianhai (Shenzhen).
How travelers are looking for more sustainable and conscious travel options
Our data indicates that people are researching their travel 27% earlier than they did in the same period of 2019. This shows that travelers are thinking a lot about the planning your next trip, both in terms of safety and environmental and social awareness in your choices. We call this conscious travel.
When it comes to personal security, Amadeus data shows a triple-digit increase in travel insurance purchases for bookings heading into the summer. This indicates that travelers are more aware of their safety while traveling. Airlines and airports have responded to this "great security awakening" with more contactless technology and off-site check-in options. At Amadeus, we are facilitating this through our Safe Travel Ecosystem.
Equally interesting is the increase in demand for car rentals. Amadeus mobility experts suggest that this could be the result of travelers wanting more personal safety and choosing to travel by private car to their destination. This increase has put pressure on car rental companies, which last year, in the midst of a pandemic, reduced the number of vehicles available to reduce overhead.
Traditionally, car rental has been a last minute option, behind hotels and airline tickets. Amadeus data on car buying shows that this continues to be the case, with more than a quarter of car rental searches occurring within seven days. Travelers should be aware of this car shortage and plan rentals well in advance this summer. In fact, the shortage is so extreme in some destinations that tourists are renting cargo vans and trucks instead of rental cars.
When it comes to being more environmentally and socially aware, Amadeus research shows that a third of millennials would like to see more availability of sustainable travel options and ways to reduce their carbon emissions when traveling. The story is similar across all ages and markets worldwide, with one in four sharing this commitment to conscious travel.
Many airlines are embracing the wave of sustainability that appears to have accelerated amid the pandemic. Earlier this year, travel industry associations proposed a plan to achieve net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050 in European aviation. Hydrogen-powered aircraft and sustainable aviation fuels are in the sights of airlines and we expect some travelers to modify their travel options based on these improvements.
This places the travel industry in a position of great responsibility. Consumers are looking to make more conscious and sustainable choices, and as travel recovers, there will be more pressure on the industry to identify exactly what is being done to protect the planet and understand how travel is positively impacting local communities.
Governments are also doing their part, offering incentives to encourage greener travel, such as discounts on rail fares. The Spanish railway company Renfe is an example of this, since it recently announced that it will lower rates during the summer. Furthermore, the European Union has declared 2021 as the European Year of Railways.