A year of the pandemic has not diminished travel appetites for major markets around the world.
However, the trends emerging from the major markets in Asia, UK, Russia, and GCC will differ, according to a report by PRCO, a global communications group specialising in promoting organisations in the travel, real estate, and luxury lifestyle sectors.
Here's a quick look at the major trends from each market.
Asia: Small is big now
A trend that has spilled over from 2020: moving away from group tours to private groups, and FIT travel. For instance, Trip.com reported a 100% year-on-year increase in private family groups.
Even in China, where domestic tourism has mostly recovered, the China Tourism Academy reported that in the southeastern city of Fuzhou, less than 2% of holiday travellers were part of an organised group tour.
And if 2020's Golden Week numbers in October were any indication, then domestic travel will continue to rise for China this year, led by top favourite Sanya followed by Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Hangzhou.
As well, livestreaming remains the top way to reach Chinese travellers. Trip.com's co-founder James Liang has for instance sold US$294 million in holiday packages and hotel rooms by hosting 25 live streams in ancient Chinese hanfu garments. His video campaigns incorporating traditional art forms have made him quite the internet celebrity.
Across Asia, health and social distancing measures continue to be a top requirement, which is tied to travellers' focus on nature-led, domestic tourism when making bookings. Places with wide open spaces, outdoor adventure experiences and wellness offerings are now favoured over cities.
UK: The year of the double holidays
Several luxury UK tour operators are noticing an increase in the budgets amongst existing clients, as well as new inquiries, for an average long-haul trip.
Abercrombie & Kent recently noted that 'big' holidays to coincide with missed milestones as well as having a year 'off' travel are resulting in bigger holiday budgets.
Furthermore, in 2020, many employees faced cancelling their holidays, choosing to carry days over into 2021 and allowing for longer trips once restrictions ease.
In 2021, well-travelled individuals are likely to capitalise on a unique opportunity to see destinations in ways unseen for decades, as typically overcrowded destinations are unlikely to see figures bounce back to pre-pandemic levels even when travel restrictions are lifted.
Russia: Eager to travel long-haul again
Russians, despite the pandemic, remain optimistic to fly, for new reasons and in new ways.
Thailand, Turkey, the UAE, Cuba, Tunisia, Egypt, the Maldives, the Mediterranean and Dominican Republic are expected to remain popular destinations for Russian travellers in 2021, subject to openings. "Even Thailand and Indonesia, which are currently closed for tourists, were included in the top searches," reported local newspaper, Vedomosti.
Interest in glamping has also shot up in the country, with 60 new sites in 2019, and the number rising to more than 120 in 2020 — another sign of the world's turn towards nature-led domestic holidays. This ecotourism trend could continue abroad, once borders open.
With 23% of companies in Russia having already decided to completely switch to remote working, together with the country's mass vaccination programme, chances of travelling for extended ‘workcations’ and long-haul leisure travel are high.
Middle East: Accelerated vaccine rollout fuels recovery
With shrunken oil prices and an economic slowdown due to Covid-19 restrictions, the tourism-driven UAE has pushed for rapid mass vaccinations rollout, and has already vaccinated a fifth of the population.
Market forecasts for major destinations such as Dubai and Cairo are estimating 2021 occupancy levels of 68 per cent and 65 per cent respectively. Overall, the average year-on-year growth of the 20 destinations researched was 47 per cent.
Experts believe domestic will continue to fuel occupancy, with 2021 again expected to continue as the year of the staycation, since major source markets such as Europe are not as far progressed in vaccinations as hoped.
That said, once flights and borders open up, outbound travel is expected to shoot quickly — a survey of UAE residents showed 50% of respondents, which included Emirati Nationals, said that they are planning three or more holidays in 2021 if global travel advice allows, with the main reasons being missed holidays due to the pandemic and the desire to revisit treasured destinations with their families.