Trends shaping travel decisions
Expedia Group raises optimism with release of new research
For those wondering about what’s going to be driving the decision making of travellers in 2021, there is new research that sheds some light on what the industry needs to watch for in the coming year.
The research, by Expedia Group Media Solutions, reveals key considerations shaping travel decisions in 2021 and demonstrating technology enhancements to help travellers and partners make informed decisions and complete tasks.
The insights – and tools – are being shared to help the global travel ecosystem adapt to the shift in traveller expectations to restore confidence in the wake of COVID-19.
According to the research, travellers need reassurance in critical areas such as flexibility, cleanliness, and communication to consider travel now and in the future.
Expedia Group Media Solutions found that one in two travellers feel optimistic – that is, comfortable or even excited – about taking a trip in the next 12 months.
It pointed out that though consumer confidence in travel varies by country and generation, the importance of hygiene measures, flexibility, and financial peace of mind is more universal.
The research found that three-quarters of travellers said measures such as mask enforcement, contactless services, and flexibility, including easy refunds or cancellation policies, will inform where they visit on their next trip.
Globally, Expedia Group Media Solutions’ research found that two-thirds of travellers had a planned trip cancelled due to COVID-19 and only a third of travellers have taken a trip during the pandemic.
Of those who took a trip, eight in 10 travelled for rejuvenation – to enjoy a change of scenery or different weather, or to see family or friends.
Monya Mandich, vice president of global marketing, Expedia Group Media Solutions, said that: “As the world keeps a watchful eye on vaccine news, and people continue to crave a change of scenery or opportunity to catch up with loved ones, we know the pent-up demand for travel will grow.”
Mandich continued: “COVID-19 has driven a seismic shift in traveller preferences and influences, and understanding these changes is critical to recovery efforts and future marketing strategies. The new research provides insights into the steps travel brands can take to reassure and connect with travelers as they begin researching, planning and booking again.”
In terms of traveller trends in the next 12 months, the research found that:
Globally, travellers are more likely to take trips between April and September 2021. Brazilian, Chinese, and Mexican travellers show a higher likelihood to travel even earlier, between January and March 2021, which aligns with the positive traveller sentiment also seen in those markets.
Globally, Generation Z and millennial travellers are 1.5x more likely than other generations to take a leisure trip in January to March 2021.
Fifty-seven percent of travellers said they would be comfortable travelling if a vaccine is widely available, which is promising given that this sentiment was captured in October, prior to the recent positive vaccine news.
Seven in 10 travellers will look for flexibility, such as travel insurance and trip protection, full cancellations and refunds on transportation and accommodations. Expedia.com’s lodging data shows that travellers booked refundable rates 10% more often in 2020 than the year before, and the new research indicates this trend is likely here to stay.
As for the factors influencing transportation and accommodation decisions, the research reveals that:
Travellers want reassurances that travel providers and brands are following and enforcing pandemic protocols. Mask use and enforcement (50%), cost (47%) and easy refunds or cancellation policies (45%) will be the leading factors in future transportation decisions, though the importance placed on each varies by mode of transportation.
For future air travel, six in 10 travellers would be most comfortable traveling if social distancing measures are in place.
Proper COVID-19 hygiene protocols will inform future accommodation decisions for more than half of travellers, and this is the leading factor across all types, from chain and boutique hotels to vacation rentals to staying with family or friends. Additional considerations include contactless room service and takeout (24%) and contactless check in options (23%).
Travel providers, as well as destination organizations, need to clearly communicate health and hygiene measures, pandemic protocols and flexibility to reassure and attract travelers.
As for inspiring future travel, the research noted that:
Travellers are turning to online travel agencies for information and travel planning 24% more than pre-pandemic, while destination websites saw a 20% increase in use as a planning tool.
Pictures and informative messaging in travel advertising are 20% more influential than pre-pandemic, along with travel organizations and experts. This is reflective of the shift in traveller priorities – with hygiene measures and flexibility overtaking experiences and activities – and the increased importance of credible, up-to-date information from trusted sources.
Reducing the friction
The research also shows that people will book travel if they are confident in their ability to change plans and stay safe.
Expedia Group is investing in technology that provides travellers and lodging partners with more choice in how they seek and receive support, while helping them complete tasks faster and make informed decisions.
Virtual agent enhancements: Expedia Group added new skills to its AI-powered virtual agent that helps resolve the most common enquires including cancelling or changing trips, receiving refunds, redeeming vouchers, and answering questions about safety measures. A recently added feature, one-click cancellation, allows travellers to initiate cancellations for each part of their trip. One-click cancellation works seamlessly for bookings across Expedia Group’s brands and adheres to cancellation policies of the travel partner. In the case of complex enquiries, the virtual agent connects travellers with human agents or directly with the travel partner. Expedia Group also extended its virtual agent to provide on-demand support for lodging partners including answering basic questions, providing additional resources, and quickly accomplishing tasks such as reviewing cancellation policies for a specific booking, editing cancellation policies, and finding Expedia Virtual Cards for payments and vouchers.
Informing travel decisions: Expedia Group brands including Expedia.com recently launched the COVID-19 Travel Advisor, an interactive tool powered by Sherpa, that helps travellers find up-to-date information about travel restrictions in the destination they plan to visit, such as quarantine, face mask and COVID-19 test requirements. Travellers can enter details such as their origin and destination, departure date and the country that issued their passport to learn more before their trip.
The study used an amalgamated group of best-in-class panels in October 2020 with 11,000 travellers across 11 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the UK, and the U.S. The respondents represent a variety of generations and demographics for a broad and inclusive understanding of what travelers consider when making destination, transportation and/or accommodation related trip decisions.