Travel Trends: Where We Are and Where We're Headed

October 28, 2020

It probably goes without saying, but the travel industry, as a whole, looks quite different today than it did a year ago. And it will look quite different a year from now than it does today.

Recent estimates from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) show the global economy will absorb a $5.5 trillion loss from the travel and tourism sector in 2020. Clearly, ongoing pandemic complications have saddled the entire industry with adversity, but there’s some good news: it’s not insurmountable. 

In fact, the travel industry has flashed signs of recovery in recent months. But the way people are traveling, and how they think about traveling, has changed dramatically.

While hotels have experienced a significant downturn in business, alternative lodging options such as short-term rentals have climbed to the top of traveler preferences. According to data, two-thirds of travelers who are considering alternative accommodations cite “lower risk of virus exposure” and “less-populated area” as critical selling points. 

Let’s dive into some more trends to figure out where the travel industry is, and most importantly, where it’s going. 

Important Travel Trends

People want to travel. That’s good! Globally, travel search trends are on the rise, and here in the U.S., travelers are gravitating toward destinations closer to their homes. And the latest numbers certainly support that trend:

  • 76% of travelers say their next trip will be domestic
  • 62% say they will be traveling by car
  • 41% plan to travel less than 500 miles
  • 37% plan to travel less than 1,500 miles

The likelihood of travelers renting a car is three times higher than pre-COVID standards, which makes sense considering 4 of 5 travelers don’t plan to eclipse the 1,500-mile mark on their next trip. 

But the odometer isn’t the lone deciding factor. 

In addition to staying reasonably close to home, travelers are also increasingly more interested in activities they can enjoy safely—specifically those that allow for social distancing. Because of that, they are flocking to off-the-beaten-path destinations more than ever before, meaning small and lesser-known cities should have a big opportunity in the coming months. 

The OTA Boom

Online travel agencies like, Airbnb, and Expedia are responsible for a quarter of U.S. travel revenue. In 2019, OTAs generated nearly $300 billion; in 2020, that number took a nosedive because, well, everything took a nosedive. 

But that isn’t going to last. Recent studies show that travelers are 57% more likely to book their trip through an online travel site now compared to before the pandemic. A big reason for that is simplicity: OTAs are essentially a one-stop shop, where travelers can easily browse, plan, and compare their options. 

OTA shoppers tend to have a gameplan, too:

  • More than two-thirds are looking for the best rate due to economic downturn 
  • Roughly half of OTA shoppers fold expectations on size, safety, and cancellation policy into their hunt for the best rate
  • More than one-third like to compare properties in one location in order to find the top option for their needs

Additional motivating factors of online travel shoppers include reward points, promotions, and bundled offers. The point is: people not only want to travel, and are ready to travel, but they’re out there searching for places that fit their unique needs. 

So what does all that mean for you? Funny you should ask!

What All That Means For You

Trust is everything. As a short-term rental owner, you have to take the necessary steps to make travelers comfortable by not only gaining their trust—or, perhaps, re-gaining their trust—but also keeping them well-informed.

It starts with health and hygiene protocols. Traveler expectations have understandably surged in recent months, and before potential guests even consider clicking the “Book” button, they want to know about all the measures you’re taking to keep them safe. 

So be transparent! Honest messaging resonates profoundly, especially now. But not just any kind of messaging: roughly 90% of travelers want to know about cleaning and sanitizing efforts; more than 70% are looking for details on nearby activities that are open for business; and about 60% of today’s travelers want to know about activities they can enjoy while avoiding crowds. 

Grounding your listings and marketing in transparent, well-tailored messaging is clearly one way to strike a chord with travelers moving forward. Here are a few more tactics you can implement to keep pace with industry trends: 

Do More to Stand Out

You already know what today’s travelers are looking for—detailed, transparent messaging, good rates, ultra-safe health protocols, flexible cancellation policies, and so on. Check all those boxes while also going above and beyond in other areas (such as providing great visual content) to get the upper hand on your competition, especially in the eyes of OTA shoppers. 

Establish a Solid Reputation

Reviews and ratings have always been important in the travel industry, and the current climate is no exception. Nearly 75% of travelers read a property’s reviews before booking a stay, and now, they’re looking for specific notes on pandemic-driven concerns like cleanliness. 

Communicate With Guests

Roughly 70% of travelers want to receive details about amenities before they check-in. Along those same lines, nearly 60% say they’re willing to share their arrival time—and any special needs they have—in advance of their arrival in order to improve their stay.

Keep Up with Current Regulations

They change quickly these days. Maintain a close eye on local guidelines and make sure you’re aware of (and implementing) the latest regulations. That way, you not only ensure your guests’ safety, but you can also avoid potential financial penalties from authorities.

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