12 Travel Industry Observations That Could Affect Travel Trends In 2021

Hotels may close soon due to covid-19

Vaccine roll-out? Check. Federal mask mandates (including airports and airlines)? Check. 2021 travel has shifted toward an optimistic direction, but we still need to look at the past to determine the future of travel industry trends for 2021.

Jack Ezon, founder of Embark Beyond, observed travel trends and behavior since the pandemic began, looking at real data in several sectors, as well as factors, like length of stay and demographic. Ezon offers 12 travel industry trends professionals can use moving forward into 2021.

Take a look at the 12 biggest travel industry observations that could determine bigger travel trends for 2021, according to Jack Ezon.

  1. Pace Is a Suggestion
uncertain buzzword
Domino Park looking across the river.

While our pace looks strong going into 2021 we can no longer use pace as an indication of performance with cancelations since June over 55% (which normally hover under 8% pre- Covid). We also can no longer measure number of transactions as our closure rate has hovered just under 50% (compared to 88% pre-pandemic).

2. Pickup Looks Promising

Work Anywhere-Marriott Hotels
Marriott Bonvoy.

71% of all bookings are made for travel within the following two weeks. Not surprising, the closer in clients book the less likely they are to cancel. Festive bookings, usually confirmed 8-10 months out, were down by 85% in September and today is only down 39%, which can change in any direction between now and the holidays.

3. Urban v Resort

coolest neighborhood in world Barcelona

94% of all bookings are for resort environments over urban environments.

4. Domestic v. International

Ritz Carlton Bal Harbour Miami.
Ritz Carlton Bal Harbour Miami.

Between June 1st – September 30th , a whopping 91% of our bookings were within the continental USA. As of December 1st, that number dropped to 43% with the bulk of our reservations shifting to the Caribbean and Mexico.

To put things into perspective, pre-pandemic Embark destination mix averaged only 8% domestic and 92% international. Our domestic ADR also grew from $985 to over $1,800/night as shut boarders created huge domestic compression.

5. Corporate v. Leisure

Work Anywhere Marriott Bonvoy
Marriott Bonvoy.

92% of our business has been for leisure. When combining our Brickell Travel division which focuses on corporate and entertainment travel and including Embark Events which focuses on celebratory events, pre-pandemic leisure amounted to 42% of our transactions and just over 30% of our profits.

Events, always with low transaction value, led our profitability accounting for 39% of our profits, with corporate and entertainment amounting to 31%. Corporate business is coming back extremely slowly with no particular patters to report, for the travel industry trends.

6. Social Events

Meditation for stress Brooklyn

Social Event inquiries started to hum again in June and then tapered off until November. Many of our summer inquiries were for clients with an average of 100 people looking to celebrate somewhere they could logistically get to and legally gather. Notions of a promising vaccine on the near horizon has peaked inquiries for late Spring 2021 and beyond. Our average future inquiry is for 150 people which is very telling.

We are hearing loud and clear that people cannot wait to get back to normal and small 20-50 person events are not a thing that is here to stay. We are hearing clients tell us that they appreciate the need to celebrate life, celebrate milestones and celebrate being together with people they love even more than before. For this reason, we are completely bullish on a swift recovery in the celebrations space.

7. Length of Stay

airlines offering covid-19 test
United Airlines.

Length of stay rose from an average of 4.5 nights pre-pandemic to 8.2 nights excluding our Embark Longer stays. Embark Longer is our long-term stays of 1 month or more where we negotiated mini-leases or actually co-brokered homes and apartments for our clients. The average long- term stay since June has been 2.5 months. Leases through Embark Longer and Embark Brokerage were our fastest growing segment in 2020.

8. Demographic

Moved to Brooklyn.
Bushwick Inlet Park Williamsburg BK

Millennials have been the most avid travelers with 38% of our trips traveled in 2020. This is followed by Gen-Xers, mostly as a family, composing 29%. The most surprising growth is the Baby Boomer, whose travel requests have picked up fastest since Autumn, 2020. Despite this older market being one of the most at risk, they also feel most isolated from loved ones and are clearly ready to take more risks to live their life. Recall, our core client age is 30-55 as we remain focused on a Gen-X and Millennial market.

9. Sun v. Ski

Dominican Republic.
Dominican Republic.

Our winter bookings (thus far) are showing a 3:1 ratio of sun to ski bookings. Despite the fact that most warm weather destinations are outside the USA, “sun” seems to be outpacing “ski” for two main reasons: first people are concerned about spending more time indoors and in cold weather, and second, there is a perception that people may get locked off a mountain with capacity limitations in place.

10. Wellness

Eden Roc Cap Cana

It’s no surprise that wellness has been a trend, but see it clearly accelerating as a top driver in decision making. Well Xplored, a wellness-focused affiliate of Embark, sold out three yoga retreats to St. Barts this past Autumn in less than 2 weeks and now has two more added for December.

About 65% of our trips that traveled in the autumn of 2020 had a wellness component or nature component to them. Well Xplored founder Dawn Oliver reports that all of her yoga and fitness retreats sold out in Q4 of 2020 as were many in her comp set.

11. Insurance

united covid-19 test
United Airlines.

Travel insurance has officially become the number one travel product we sold in 2020. Since June, 2020, a whopping 89.5% of all trips we booked had travel insurance attached. Travel insurance will continue to increase in popularity with a growing demand for CFAR (Cancel for Any Reason) insurance, with so many people getting burnt from “fine print” that prevented claims for Covid.

That being said, consumers see a need for insurance to cover them beyond cancelation which is why we also anticipate continued growth in medical evacuation subscriptions.

12. Travel Advisors as Navigators of Risk

Hotel Haya, Aparium Hotel Group.
Hotel Haya, Aparium Hotel Group.

Finally, Covid blessed us with an incredible and “unprecedented” leap in client acquisition with almost 450% more new clients than our past two years. While about half came to us in response to creative marketing initiatives the real insight came from the other half: they came to us in search of a guardian… to help them navigate the complicated web of information, misinformation, changing entry requirements and just have someone they feel they could trust.

More stories:

A 9-step guide to travel safely during Covid-19

7 positive predictions for travel after coronavirus pandemic

9 best travel products under $100 for your next trip

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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