Post-COVID Consumer Trends in Travel & Tourism

The global pandemic has significantly impacted the travel & tourism industry; but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Using macro-environmental analysis, leading-edge consumer consultations and quantification with over 15,000 consumers in 16 markets, we identified 14 trends that define the post-2020 consumer, in our 2021 Culture + Trends Report: Happiness Reset.

Below we explore the key trends that are most relevant in the travel & tourism sector; they are all anchored around universal drivers of happiness.

Health & Security

Helping customers feel healthy and secure is very pertinent to the travel & tourism industry. Two trends naturally speak to these needs: Designing for Resilience and Nurturing Nature.

Designing for Resilience

This expanding trend is about creating systems that make us feel protected from outside forces. We want to be both mentally and physically resilient. This trend is expanding in most markets; people are already acting upon the need to improve their resilience. Although it’s a high-scoring trend amongst the general population (81%), it’s even higher amongst young people (84%); the latter should be care-free, but in reality they are even more anxious than the older generations.

In the world of airlines and airports, the need to design for resilience is incredibly important, with many brands having to redesign and reimagine airport processes from a health perspective. So, we’re potentially looking at a future where health passes and biometrics will be as important as passports.

Less than 9% of consumers indicate that travel & tourism is tapping into this trend; this showcases there is still a lot brands in the industry can do. We already see Alaska Airlines tapping into this trend by taking extensive steps throughout the airport journey to minimise contact and maximise hygiene, including the introduction of the VeriFLY health passport which allows consumers to complete document checks at home.

Nurturing Nature

In the last year, our relationship with the outdoors has changed as people realised the importance of nature to their health and wellbeing. People are experiencing a new immediacy with nature, providing an opportunity for brands to bring ‘nature’ into their lives through unadulterated ingredients, alternative materials, or services that support our enjoyment of the great outdoors.

This is an expanding trend, with a global trend score of 76%. China is one of the highest scoring markets. Having experienced rapid urbanization for the last several years, Chinese people are reflecting on environmental issues and whether they want to reconnect with nature.

From the consumers we surveyed, 28% identified travel & tourism as a relevant sector to play in this field. Around the world, brands are helping people connect with nature to achieve holistic wellbeing; from camping brand Tentrr to boutique hotel group Silent Living.

As the travel & tourism industry will pick up in 2021, we can expect people to be attracted to rural locations as well as continuing to book domestic holidays.

Positive emotions & Engagement

From retail therapy and fine dining, to sex; people need positivity, or pleasure, as a counterpoint to the negativity that we’re experiencing. Engagement is also our need for focus, creative sparks, sometimes referred to as ‘flow’ by psychologists.

Brands in the travel & tourism industry can tap into these needs through two key trends, Attentive Experiences and Sentimental Optimism, to deliver on our need for positive emotions and engagement.

Attentive Experiences

This trend talks to people craving immersive experiences that help them reach ‘flow’ and escape from their everyday lives. This can be online, offline or a mixture of the two.

Another expanding trend, this is particularly high-scoring amongst NextGen consumers (83%); there is only one outlying market – that of Germany – where the trend is currently nascent. Consumers mostly see this trend represented in consumer electronics (23%) and only 13% in travel & tourism; this illustrates there is still a lot of opportunity for travel brands in this space.

An example of a brand already acting upon this trend is Arima, Japan’s famous hot-spring destination. Closed temporarily due to the pandemic, it has launched a virtual reality experience to simulate soaking in an ‘onsen’ (a hot spring). This experience includes an ASMR mix of birdsong, running water, and a gentle breeze to immerse the senses.

Sentimental Optimism

During crises, people tend to look back at times that were, or at least seemed, better. Of course, many of us are missing travel and are feeling nostalgic about it.

This trend is expanding in most markets;, the global trend score us 79% for the general population, and 81% for NextGen. Hong Kong is one of the highest scoring markets for this trend, which isn’t surprising given its recent history.

23% of consumers identified Sentimental Optimism as a suitable trend for the travel & tourism sector to tap into. Brands already doing so include Singapore Airlines; they recently hosted dinners onboard its grounded aircraft, with tickets selling out in just 30 minutes.

Relationships & Meaning

Achieving happiness is driven by having a breadth and depth of quality relationships. People also strive for something ‘bigger’ in their lives, whether that’s looking after family, being part of a community, or furthering a cause. Re-imagined Interactions is a trend born from these happiness drivers.

Re-imagined Interactions

Very much rooted in relationships, this trend has arisen from the change in our interactions with family, friends and colleagues, caused by lockdown restrictions. From the rapid rise in home working to contactless travel, the way people interact is changing and we’re craving new ways to connect.

The score of this trend differs across markets, with the majority falling into the nascent quadrant; this implies that this trend has the potential to grow in the future. However, the trend is already expanding for markets like China, Indonesia and the Philippines. That is unsurprising, given the importance of relationships in Asia. There is also a considerable gap between the general population trend score (66%) and the NextGen score (75%).

22% of consumers feel this is a good trend for the travel & tourism sector to tap into; and a number of brands already are. In Japan, national parks are being tasked with determining how to welcome new teleworkers, from building workstations in the middle of nature, to using tents, portable power stations and Wi-Fi hotspots.

Post-Covid consumer trends in travel and tourism

In the travel & tourism industry, the health and safety of consumers should be the number-one priority, both in transit and at their destinations. Looking beyond the obvious, the industry should consider how it can help consumers build mental resilience and get back to nature.

The sector should aim to provide positivity through more immersive experiences, whilst adding a touch of nostalgia for some markets.

Finally, brands should think about who is travelling, why they are travelling and what matters to them, before facilitating interactions with a purpose.

2021 Culture + Trends report

2021 Culture + Trends report

As researchers we not only want to understand which trends are shaping and manifesting around the world, but also HOW this happens. Combining a macro analysis and a qualitative exploration with our leading-edge consumer network. Validated by a quantification with 15.000 consumers in 16 markets (in-field partnership with Dynata), we promise a unique and actionable view on the post-2020 consumer.

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Eager for more?

Tune in for our podcast episode with SkyTeam discussing the growing role of experiences for brand success.

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