It’s fair to say that 2020 has brought nothing but question marks when it comes to our travel plans. So what on earth do the travel trends for 2021 look like?! Well, as some borders slowly start to open, it’s finally time for us to start thinking ahead to where, when and HOW our next adventure will happen.
Having this time to pause and reflect has made us think more about the impact of our travel decisions, rethink our intentions and our role as global citizens – all things that you shared your thoughts on in our recent Contiki Travel Survey.
It’s undeniable that our appreciation for this planet of ours – and the communities of people who live on it – is stronger than ever before. And rather than ‘going back to normal’ or ‘resuming business as usual’, we’re all feeling this shift. We’re replacing bucket lists for meaningful local adventures. We’re looking to make real connections with travellers and locals. We’re conscious of hot spots and instead want to escape the crowds whenever we can. In other words, the travel trends of the future have more substance than style.
So, whether you’re marking up the calendar with local staycations or forward planning for the 2021 trip of a lifetime, we have all the travel inspiration you need. Here, we share your insights as well as our expert forecast for what travel will look like in 2021 and beyond…
1. Local travel is a go
For many of us, going local is the new normal. Whether it’s Aussies exploring the Great Barrier Reef for the first time or British explorers heading to Devon or the Lake District, holidaying at home and supporting local communities is a big deal this year. A report by McKinsey & Company shows that, at present, travel is mainly domestic, and this will lead to the revivals of seaside and coastal towns, as well as lesser-known locales.
These are some of the most popular local spots that you’re choosing around the world:
- US – National Parks, Alaska, Mountain States, Pacific Northwest, Southern California
- AU – Whitsundays, Byron, Uluru, Great Ocean Road, Rottnest Island, Tasmania, Cairns, Fraser Island, and Kangaroo Island
- UK – Dublin, Cornwall, Devon, Belfast, Edinburgh, Scottish Highlands
- CAN – The Maritimes, Alberta and The Rockies, Vancouver Island, Coastal BC
- NZ – Queenstown, Milford Sound and Marlborough Sound
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2. Slow travel 2.0
With all this time to reflect, we’ve realised that life is better when we move at a slower pace. In our Contiki Travel Survey, we saw a trend for longer trips – 2, 3 and 4-week adventures – with more of you leaning towards gap years or sabbaticals. According to Trippin’ we’re also seeing a general shift towards slower, self-guided holidays like road trips and staycations.
3. Meaningful travel that puts communities first
Of all the travel trends for 2021, this is our fave. Among our community we’ve seen a hunger for more meaningful travel experiences – experiences that truly get to grips with other cultures, support local communities during hard times and bring all these places that have been denied from us to life.
Travel experts have coined the term ‘philantourism,’ which is the act of choosing a holiday in order to support the destination. “Knowledge has become the new currency and being a force for good when travelling has become the new souvenir,” say the experts at Booking.com. Find out more about our people-focused Contiki Cares local experiences here.
4. Sustainable journeys
Booking.com’s Sustainable Travel Report for 2020 revealed that 82% of global travellers feel that sustainable travel is important to them, with over half prioritising more sustainable choices like eco-accommodation and greener transport once we can travel again. 68% of travellers would also like the money they spend on travel to go back into the local community.
5. Forward planning on the rise
We’ve all had to suffer the disappointment of cancelled getaways and grounded flights this year, so in our community we’ve seen a trend for planning further ahead, to when times are a little less uncertain. It makes sense that our travellers want to make 2021 a year packed with big adventures, given that so much of 2020 was taken from us. We’re dreaming big, and when the world opens up again we’ll be ready for it.
6. Going off-grid
Many of us have been locked down in our home during this period, some of us without gardens to relax in. So it’s no surprise that so many of our travellers can’t wait to get back to nature. A top trend for the years ahead will be getting off-grid and exploring the world’s majestic national parks, offering the opportunity to socially distance ourselves from the crowds and disconnect. There might not be phone signal, but it’s fair to say we’ve had our fill of staring at screens this year. Starswept skies, island destinations and sprawling landscapes more than make up for it.
7. Connecting for real
Though social distancing will continue to be a thing, 52% of you said you wanted to travel to meet new people, with a preference for small groups. The virus has definitely reminded us how connected we are as a global community. After all, it’s the people we meet along the way who really shape our travel stories and you only need to check out our six-two community creator stories to see this for real.
8. Kayaking, hiking and outdoor adventures
You told us that you’re prioritising active adventures more than ever, especially when travelling locally in your home country. The travel trends for 2021 see us craving wide open spaces, fresh air and stretching waters, which is why natural paradises such as New Zealand, Scandinavia and Canada will be even more popular. Think the kayaking through the Norwegian Fjords, strolling remote Icelandic black beaches and chasing the Northern Lights in Atlantic Canada.
9. Trust and flexibility
After the uncertainty caused by Covid-19, travellers are increasingly looking for the flexibility to change plans and brands they can trust. That’s why more travel brands are offering ‘Book With Confidence’ guarantees, the ability to transfer deposits to other trips and to change your mind more last-minute. Check out Contiki’s policy here.
10. But above all, we WILL travel again
Despite the continued, uncertain times, we know that the travel industry will come back stronger and better than ever, and so will travellers! For now, all we can do is focus on being better travellers and making our travel matter.