Looking Ahead: U.S. Travel Behavior in 2021 - HomeToGo

Looking Ahead: U.S. Travel Behavior in 2021


Where is travel headed in 2021? The forces of the pandemic have transformed the way we live, work, and travel. Despite these dramatic changes, travelers are continuing to find ways to responsibly explore and discover new experiences near and far. As we approach the start of another new year, we look ahead at the shift in travel trends for 2021 and emerging local destinations. 

These predictions are based on a general population survey* of U.S. travelers - paired with insights from HomeToGo data – bringing you six key trends that will shape the future of travel in the coming year.

Trend #1: Quiet Winter Getaways

For the foreseeable future, local travel will continue to be the popular choice with U.S. travelers as it provides the easiest, safest, and most sustainable option. As the cold weather arrives, ​we observe people in search of warm beaches or quiet, rural destinations around the U.S. 

Top Winter Destinations

According to the survey data, 43% of travelers have trips planned for this upcoming winter--44% of those are interested in visiting beaches, while 24% are planning a ski holiday.1 On HomeToGo, the most searched for destinations for winter escapes reflect this trend:

Country
State
Destination
Search Rank 2020
Search Rank 2021
United States
Florida
Florida Keys
3
1 (+2 spots)
United States
North Carolina
Smoky Mountains
172
2 (+170 spots)
United States
Florida
Naples
6
3 (+3 spots)
United States
California
Lake Tahoe
10
4 (+6 spots)
United States
Hawaii
Maui
7
5 (+2 spots)

For the upcoming winter season, the Smoky Mountains located in North Carolina and Tennesee are seeing a boom in search interest (+594% YoY).2

Nightlife Destinations Slow to Recover

Following the lockdown, the cities and towns typically known for their bustling nightlife and live entertainment have been slower to recover in terms of travel interest. The areas most affected for travel this winter include:

Country
State
Destination
Search Interest Ranking 2020
Search Interest Ranking 2021
United States
Hawaii
Waikīkī
95
257 (-162 spots)
United States
New York
Manhattan
92
198 (-106 spots)
United States
Louisiana
New Orleans
19
61 (-42 spots)
United States
Florida
Daytona Beach
62
114 (-52 spots)
Mexico
Quintana Roo
Cozumel
204
297 (-93 spots)

Trend #2: International Escapes Topping Bucket Lists

Aruba, Anguilla, and many other tropical escapes are seeing a big boost in travel searches for next year. Although travel restrictions and advisories caused a majority of travelers to cancel or rebook travel plans (53% according to our survey)3, it did not stop many from adding far-off destinations to their future travel bucket lists. Virtual tours, travel-inspired recipes, and scenic landscapes helped cooped-up travelers escape the sights of their living rooms and adventure somewhere far off this past year.

Looking ahead to 2021, we’re seeing a boost in searches for far away escapes as more travelers dream of booking future vacations.4

Trending Far Away Escapes

Aruba's Druif Beach at sunset
Aruba's Druif Beach at sunset
Rank
Destination
Region
Country
% Change
1
Aruba
-
Aruba
2298.38%
2
Santorini
Egeo
Greece
945.75%
3
St. John
St. John
U.S. Virgin Islands
665.48%
4
Bali
Bali
Indonesia
294.16%
5
Dubai
Dubai
United Arab Emirates
293.70%
6
Rosarito
Baja California
Mexico
238.07%
7
Naples
Campania
Italy
207.36%
8
Paphos
Paphos
Cyprus
202.84%
9
St. Thomas
St. Thomas
U.S. Virgin Islands
193.04%
10
Anguilla
-
Anguilla
174.57%

Trend #3: Solo Travel Takes a Pause

This year, many people have realized the importance of spending time with their families and loved ones. As it becomes more difficult to make new connections while traveling, we expect fewer people to travel alone, instead bringing along at least one travel companion.

Photo of expected travel group for 2021

According to survey responses, 41% of travelers said their family will be their most common travel companions in 2021, followed by 40% looking to travel with a partner, 10% with groups of friends and only 8% embracing solo travel.5 This year, the number of bookings for single persons dropped by 44% compared to 2019, with most looking to travel with a group of on average 6 companions.6 

Going forward into 2021, we expect that more people will choose to book vacation rentals with their families and close friends, be it for vacation, a new move or remote work, as a way to spend time together in a socially distanced setting.

Trend #4: Rural Escapes on the Rise

Amidst the pandemic, natural areas and rural destinations saw a significant jump in traveler interest. After so much time spent indoors, there’s a renewed desire to explore the wild and untamed. Looking forward to 2021, more travelers seem ready to embrace travel experiences involving hiking and outdoor activities.

Photo of cabin in woods

This past year, HomeToGo's internal search data shows that nearly 90% of overall searches were for trips to rural areas compared to 70% in 2019.7 This trend is expected to continue through to 2021, as more travelers (38% according to our survey)8 look to visit natural areas with things to do outside, like nearby trails and other outdoor activities. 

Cabin rentals are expected to be particularly popular--in the past year, nearly 33% of searches on HomeToGo were for cabins, a drastic +148% increase from last year.9 Looking ahead, we expect to see more guests looking for private vacation rentals beyond densely populated tourist and hotel districts where they have more space.

Trend #5: More Last-Minute Trips

Over the past year, people have learned to expect the unexpected and incorporate more planning and flexibility into how they travel. The pandemic has forced us to rethink how to explore destinations, by following the latest travel guidelines and restrictions and making backup plans in the case that safe travel isn’t possible.

When it comes to flexibility, HomeToGo sees more travelers booking spontaneous last-minute trips to ensure their destinations are still open for travel. The average days to check-in is 50 days, a drop of -37.5% compared to the average lead time before the pandemic.10 The increasing popularity of remote work has also made it possible for travelers to be more flexible with their dates and availability.

Trend #6: An Eye on Cleanliness

In terms of decision making factors, 45% of travelers noted enhanced cleaning as one of their top three decision making factors when making a booking.11 Looking ahead, we expect to see more property managers and homeowners introduce increased health and safety measures that aim to increase protection against contracting the COVID-19.

Price

Location

Enhanced Cleaning

Free Cancelation

Amenities


Survey Methodology HomeToGo’s 2021 Travel Trends Survey was conducted in the United States by HomeToGo between October 14-16, 2020, among 269 US adults.

HomeToGo Methodology: To calculate the search and booking data, HomeToGo examined its own metasearch data for searches and bookings with check-in dates for 2021 (Jan - Dec, 2021) compared with booking and search activity from previous years.




For those interested in trends specific to the tourism and travel industry:


Contact us for questions or information on our travel updates and insights or follow HomeToGo's Travel Forecast for a bi-weekly analysis of the results.

Footnotes:

  1. Based on survey responses, asking participants when then plan to travel in 2021 and what attractions they plan on visiting. Respondents were able to select more than one response. Data collected on Oct 14-16, 2020.
  2. Based on HomeToGo internal data measuring the number of US searches taking place between Mar 1 - Nov 1, 2020 with a check-in between Nov 25 2020 - Feb 28 2021 compared with the same period in the previous year. Data collected on Nov 2, 2020.
  3. Based on US adult survey responses asking about previous canceled trips this past year due to Covid-19 restrictions. Participants were only able to choose one response. Data collected on Oct 14-16, 2020.
  4. Based on HomeToGo internal data measuring the number of US searches taking place between Mar 1 - Nov 1, 2020 with a check-in between Jan 1 2021 - Dec 31 2021 compared with the same period in the previous year. Data collected on Nov 2, 2020.
  5. Based on US adult survey responses asking about their expected travel group for 2021. Participants were only able to choose one response. Data collected on Oct 14-16, 2020.
  6. Based on HomeToGo internal data observing booking group sizes for stays taking place between Jan 1 - Nov 1, 2020, compared with the same period in 2019. Data collected on Nov 2, 2020.
  7. Based on HomeToGo internal data representing the share of rural and urban travel searches in the United States, check-in between Jan 1 2020 - Dec 31 2020 and compared to the same period in 2019. Data collected on Nov 2, 2020.
  8. Based on US adult survey responses asking about what attractions they plan to visit next year. Participants were able to choose more than one response. Data collected on Oct 14-16, 2020.
  9. Based on HomeToGo internal data measuring the number of US searches with accommodation filters for “cabin” between Jan 1 - Nov 1, 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. Data collected on Nov 2, 2020.
  10. Based on HomeToGo internal data observing the average number of days between booking and the check-in date for bookings before the lockdown (January 1 2020 - March 31 2020) , compared with bookings afterwards (April 1 2020 - September 30 2020). Data collected on Oct 19th, 2020.
  11. Based on US adult survey responses asking about the most important factors to their booking decisions. Participants were asked to rank these factors on a scale of 1-6. Data collected on Oct 14-16, 2020.
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