Travel Trends for 2021 and Beyond

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Travel interest is up, vacation inquiries are increasing, and it’s clear that people are feeling hopeful. As virus numbers decline, and vaccination percentages increase, we’ll see more and more people getting back out into the world. But travel will no doubt look different than it has before.

We’ll likely be wearing masks, taking tests, and ready to show proof of vaccinations for the next year or two. But what else will be different about the travel landscape? This question is top of mind right now for travelers, those of us in the travel industry, and anyone in the media who covers travel trends. We’ve done a quick survey of what the various “in-the-know” sources are predicting, and here are the trends that seem to be a common thread:

A Focus on Hygiene, Health & Wellness

The pandemic underlined the need for excellent cleanliness standard, and travel suppliers across the board stepped up their protocols in 2020 to ensure our safety. Refreshingly, it looks like health will continue to be a priority for these companies. Hotels are improving and expanding their contactless check-in. Airlines will likely continue their thorough cleaning schedules. Both are elevating staff training and using improved cleaning tools. How companies demonstrate their commitment to our health and safety will be a top priority when deciding who to travel with in the future.

This past year has also brought increased stress levels and a host of mental health challenges. We expect that 2021 travelers will use their vacations to focus on relaxation, rejuvenation and restoring a sense of well-being. From hosting themed wellness retreats, to providing more outdoor experiences, hotels and resorts are committed to finding ways to take care of guests’ mental and physical health.

Nature & Space

aerial Salish lodge and spa sitting atop the large waterfall in washington state

The classic road-trip vacation gained huge popularity in 2020 as a way to enjoy nature, and still have some control over your health bubble. The need for wide-open spaces remains high among those considering where to travel in the coming year. Remote locations, of course, make it easier to social distance, but beyond that, breathing in some fresh air and reconnecting with nature does wonders for your mental and physical health.

( Photo Credit: Salish Lodge & Spa – read more about the Lodge and other luxury remote resorts here!)

a couple sitting on the back terrace of their overwater bungalow with private jacuzzi and direct access to the sea in the Maldives

Remote locations are only part of this trend. There is also a growing interest in single-residence accommodations. Everything from private villas, and stand-alone casitas to unique spaces like tree-houses or over-water bungalows. Single-residence spaces add an element of exclusivity and luxury to the travel experience, and also make it easier to maintain distance between groups. Many resorts and hotels have committed to offering more stand-alone lodging options, along with private excursions and experiences. Mixing wellness and privacy with much-needed fresh air, places outside of the big tourist hubs will be the top destinations of 2021.

(Photo Credit: via Unsplash)

Green & Sustainable Travel

The impact of over-tourism on delicate ecosystems has been an ongoing concern and, with the COVID lockdowns, a window of opportunity opened for local governments to take action towards better conservation. Moving forward, you’re likely to see destinations encouraging you to try new and different sights or experiences, rather the perennial favorites that attract big crowds. They’ll be making better use of their spaces and spreading out the visitor traffic. Iceland, for example, is opening a new “Sky Lagoon” to give visitors a second option to the oft-crowded Blue Lagoon. Destinations are also encouraging people to slow down, stay a bit longer, and explore and connect with the location in a deeper way. This is the perfect opportunity for travelers to explore unknown corners and hidden gems. Locals are taking this chance to think about how to raise the quality of tourism, and travelers are looking for companies and destinations that are eco-conscious and are making a demonstrably positive impact on the environment.

Local & Community Based Travel

Being forced to slow down and stay inside has certainly taught us to appreciate the little things in life. There is a new focus on community (at home and abroad), and travelers are increasingly looking for unique, authentic, local experiences.

local Thai folk with honeymoon couple

We expect continued interest in things like taking a cooking class, picking up a local craft, or learning more about the region from a local perspective. Personalized experiences that engage with the community, and that feed profits back into the local economy, will take priority.

(Photo Credit: Marissa via Annie’s Escapes – you can read all about Marissa & Derek’s Thailand honeymoon escape here!)

Companies like Hyatt and Hilton have created programs to support their local communities, and others are likely to follow. There is a real sense of caring and support from future travelers. And they are holding companies equally accountable for their impact on and connection to the surrounding local community.

Our overall sense is that the way we travel in the future may see us traveling more slowly, with more purpose and consciousness. Focusing on our own physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing as well as that of the places and communities we visit. If you are excited to talk about these trends or to start planning a new adventure let us know! We can’t wait to see what the future brings!

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Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

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