Profiling the traveller of the post-pandemic future

More than ever, people are desperate for a cabin fever remedy, and once they are out on a trip, they intend to stay out longer, meet new people, experience new destinations, and support communities they visit. By Karen Yue

As the old year draws to an end, travel and tourism organisations have pulled up booking data and scrutinised consumer intentions to make out how the world might return to travel and tourism in the new year.

It is no surprise that two years of travel limitations, social isolation and blurred work/leisure boundaries have left many people restless and eager to take a proper break.

Latest studies conducted by World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), Trip.com Group and Booking.com are able to break down travel intentions further.

Raring to go
As more international border restrictions ease, people are happy to take on any opportunity to travel. According to Booking.com’s Travel Predictions 2022 report, 61 per cent of travellers are now more open to different types of vacations.

The number of people who feel that they need to make up for lost vacation time has ballooned from 42 per cent to 63 per cent.

With any and all travel plans being put on hold due to the pandemic, 2022 will be the year of simply saying yes, projected Booking.com, with 72 per cent agreeing they will say “yes” to any vacation, as long as their budget allowed.

Underscoring how much travel has been missed, respondents regard anticipation for the journey to be as exciting as the destination itself. Seventy-five per cent of respondents find that the journey to a destination is more enjoyable when it feels like part of the trip. They say navigating new and unfamiliar transportation systems (58 per cent) and feeling the sun on their skin (77 per cent) are some simple travel pleasures they cannot wait to savour.

Home base comes first
However, continued travel limitations are forcing travellers to turn to experiences at home, found a joint study by WTTC and Trip.com Group.

The Trending in Travel: Emerging Consumer Trends in Travel & Tourism in 2021 and Beyond report identified that domestic travel will continue to lead travel and tourism recovery, especially in the short to medium-term. More than half of global travellers plan to travel for a domestic holiday in the next 12 months.

In particular, the concept of staycations may continue to be in demand and more so for countries with prolonged restrictions on outbound travel. The report observed a sustained increase in demand for local staycations across Asia-Pacific, especially in Singapore where the government has been encouraging domestic tourism through the issuance of vouchers for hotel stays, tours and attractions.

While domestic travel may slow proportionally as global travel returns, the report stated that the trend in rediscovering domestic destinations is likely to linger in the long-term.

Social remedies
Not only are people eager to make up for lost vacation time in 2022, they are also keen to reconnect with friends and family, and expand their social network.

Booking.com found that 40 per cent of respondents hope to spend time with friends and family on their next trip, while 60 per cent are determined to meet new people while on vacation. Fifty per cent of single respondents are hopeful of finding love on their next trip.

Out of office for real… or not
Working from home – and anywhere, really – has become normalised in the past two years, expediting burnout rates everywhere. Come 2022, more people want to firmly re-establish a healthy work-life balance, with 73 per cent telling Booking.com that vacation time will be strictly work-free.

Fifty-two per cent want their next trip to help them break out of the monotony of routines at work and at home.

In fact, a majority – 79 per cent – regard travel as an essential form of self-care that is especially critical for mental and emotional well-being.

Sixty per cent plan to use their next trip to explore new cultures and enjoy new places and experiences.

Once out on a trip, people want to make the most out of their time, found the WTTC and Trip.com Group study, with one in four global travellers desiring longer stays of over 10 nights.

Contrasting Booking.com’s findings, respondents in the WTTC and Trip.com Group study are happy to let work and play go hand in hand. For them, remote work during quarantine and travel will encourage them to stay longer during their trips. This sentiment is the strongest among respondents in Thailand (69 per cent), Vietnam (57 per cent) and China (54 per cent).

Meaningful community connection
Opportunities to be more engaged with their communities at home by supporting local businesses throughout the pandemic have translated to a burning desire to do the same when they are on vacation.

Fifty-eight per cent of respondents told Booking.com that it is important that their trip is beneficial to the local community, while 29 per cent will do more research into how their tourism expenditure will impact or improve local communities.

Sixty-six per cent of respondents will factor over-tourism into their travel decision-making, and 68 per cent will choose an alternative destination just to avoid peak season crowds.

According to Ctrip data for Asia-Pacific, there has been a rise in nature-related attraction bookings – a 264.5 per cent spike in 1H2021 compared to 1H2020. Respondents have also expressed a preference for less crowded and even unfamiliar destinations, with an increased interest in exploring secondary destinations and nature.

Sustainable and wellness-driven options are gaining preference among travellers, noted the same study. There is an increase in travellers, notably 94 per cent of travellers in Thailand, who plan to reduce and recycle waste when visiting a destination.

Technology, flexible policies 
to ease worries
The pandemic has added layers of unpredictability to travel, but post-pandemic travellers believe that technology can help them navigate the unknown.

According to Booking.com, 63 per cent of respondents believe technology is important for controlling health risks when travelling, with 62 per cent agreeing that technology helps to alleviate travel anxiety.

Most (69 per cent) are interested in an innovative service that can predict which countries will be safe to visit even months in advance, or can automatically suggest destinations that are easy to travel to now based on their country’s and the destination’s current Covid-19 requirements (67 per cent).

The Trending in Travel: Emerging Consumer Trends in Travel & Tourism in 2021 and Beyond study also highlighted travellers’ emphasis on flexible booking policies in a post-pandemic landscape. This has led to the need for the industry, including airlines, hotels and travel providers, to adapt and review cancellation policies to accommodate changes that may affect traveller itineraries.

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