Travel Insights: Holiday Travel
Travel & Tourism
After nearly two years of paused travel plans and cancelled get-togethers, Americans are eager to venture out this holiday season. Over half of all Americans plan to travel for at least one holiday this year, signaling increased confidence in the safety of travel. Recent developments like the Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds and the opening of international travel to the U.S. will catalyze a more normal holiday season of traveling and gathering together and will increase travel throughout this winter.
1. COVID Considerations
Consumers are greeting this holiday season with a greater sense of confidence and excitement. There is a sense of determination – fewer travelers are willing to change their travel plans or adjust their holiday traditions due to COVID-19. Yet, COVID-19 is still a consideration – many consumers support vaccination verification as a travel requirement and are choosing destinations with minimal crowding and strong COVID protocols.
- People seem more determined to travel this year: just 49% say they would change travel plans if there was a COVID-19 spike where they are traveling to, which is down from nearly three-quarters of people who said they would change plans in 2020. – Vacasa Holiday and Winter Travel Trends
- 70% of consumers said they favored vaccination verification while traveling. And more than half (56%) supported policies that would prevent those without proof of vaccination from traveling. – PwC Holiday Outlook 2021
- Top destination selection drivers: 1) vaccination status of the travel party 2) destination’s COVID-19 restrictions 3) trip budget 4) unique attractions or activities 5) ability to avoid crowds – Deloitte Holiday Travel Plans Survey
Implications: This season travel brands have an unprecedented opportunity to focus holiday marketing efforts around giving the gift of travel not only to inspire would-be travelers to dream about idyllic experiences, but to plan and book them. Brands and destinations with strong health and safety programs are in a great position to capture demand.
2. Trip Types
While many will seek intimate, cozy Airbnbs or relaxing, warm-weather destinations, urban destinations are experiencing a comeback: cities like New York City are one of the most popular trip types. Travelers also plan to continue the tradition of visiting their hometown or college town for the holidays. With travelers’ increased confidence in travel safety, they will look to take guided tours, visit major destinations and attend ticketed events. Destinations with holiday festivals and light displays will be especially appealing.
- Cities are the top destination for holiday travelers’ longest trip this season (42%) followed by beaches at 22%. – Deloitte Holiday Travel Plans Survey
- 37% of travelers will visit their hometown during this holiday season or winter – Vacasa Holiday and Winter Travel Trends
- 65% of holiday travelers will dine at a restaurant, 38% will visit a major attraction, 33% will engage in adventure or outdoor activities, 29% will take a guided trip or tour and 23% will attend a ticketed or public event – Deloitte Holiday Travel Plans Survey
Implications: Provide consumers who are looking to actively engage through unique experiences, events and entertainment with opportunities to make good on what they’ve missed over the last year and a half. As travelers look to social media for inspiration, fulfill their desire for holiday cheer and happiness by focusing content on promoting a family getaway, nurturing a romantic relationship, giving a loved one something to look forward to, or focusing on self-care.
3. Splurging Over Skimping
Consumer confidence is not only increasing in travel safety – Americans now feel more confident in their financial security. This year, money is no object to many consumers. They’re treating themselves and others – to travel, gifts and experiences. Consumers will seek travel brands with unique experiences and gift ideas, options to upgrade and opportunities to spread holiday cheer.
- Domestic travelers have increased their trip spending by an average of 46% this year compared to just two years ago. – Forbes
- After falling dramatically in 2020, consumer spend on experiences is expected to come back strong. 93% of Americans’ increase in expected holiday spend is in the experiences category, including travel in addition to entertainment at home, restaurants, concert tickets, etc. – Deloitte Holiday Travel Plans Survey
- Consumers will spend an average of $1,447 on gifts, travel and entertainment this year — up more than 20% over last year when the pandemic ground most holiday travel to a standstill. Even compared to the pre-pandemic 2019 season however, spending is up 13%, as consumers seek respite at the holidays. – PwC Holiday Outlook 2021
Implications: Rather than pushing deals or discounts, drive longer stays by building out experiences that feel fresh and new, exotic or luxurious. For those ready to deliver, eco-conscious travel options are a unique selling point. Make giving travel easy with annual passes, gift cards or vouchers that can be redeemed when the time is right. Holiday travel and experience gift giving is accelerating beyond pre-pandemic levels, with over 80% of Millennials preferring to purchase experiences over material goods.
4. Family Time
With the COVID-19 vaccine providing more confidence in group gatherings, travelers are seeking to make up for lost family time and missed holidays. While most will get together with friends or relatives, some with 10+ people, many are planning on smaller groups or requiring protocols for participating in the gathering. For parents, the vaccination status of their children is an important holiday travel decision driver, and approval of the vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds could not have come at a better time.
- A quarter of consumers who either are already vaccinated or plan to be before traveling next say that being unable to see family and friends last holiday season is among their top two motivators for traveling.– Vacasa Holiday and Winter Travel Trends
- The vaccination status of children affects the holiday plans of many Americans. One in 10 Americans younger than 55 list it as a reason to stay home and 1 in 7 list it as a reason not to stay in paid lodging. – Deloitte Holiday Travel Plans Survey
- Top reasons for a trip right now are relaxation (44%), stress relief (22%) and reconnecting with family and friends (13%) – Kantar
Implications: Bolster growing travel confidence and the need to connect with family by highlighting products and experiences that are aligned with health and safety protocols. Families will be looking for memory-making activities that feel safe for multiple generations to participate.
5. International Connections
While the majority of American travelers have their short-term sight set on domestic trips, the opening of international borders has created opportunities for loved ones to be reunited, and travelers to start planning for their next big escape.
- The 28 European countries that were barred under the U.S. policy that just ended made up 37% of overseas visitors in 2019, according to the U.S. Travel Association. – AP News
- As the reopening takes effect, carriers are increasing flights between the United Kingdom and the U.S. by 21% this month over last month. – AP News
- Nearly half of those that intend to change the way they travel going forward say they will travel more internationally – Destination Analysts
Implications: Travel brands should help facilitate reunions between loved ones and anticipate a continual growth in international travelers. It’s time to re-engage international marketing efforts, particularly those focused on the European market.
This content series is a collaboration between BVK Travel and BVK Insights.