Today (November 16 2020) , Expedia® released its 2021 Travel Trends Report, sharing predictions and hacks for travellers for the year ahead. By analyzing Expedia.ca data and insights from the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), the report aims to arm travellers with the information and inspiration they need to make smart travel decisions coming out of an unprecedented year.
The report found that Canadians are booking their trips an average of 22 days before the vacation begins, compared to an average of 34 days in 2019.
Meanwhile, refundable trips were booked 10 per cent more frequently compared to 2020 and private vacations spots -- vacation homes, cottages and house boats -- were more popular than ever.
According to the report, Canadians are planning to embrace the winter like never before as four of the top 20 most searched destinations for 2021 are Canadian ski resort towns, while another three are more mild areas of British Columbia.
“As travellers within Canada, we will learn to travel differently, learn to experience winter at home,” Zajac said. “There are a lot of great things to experience across our country. Yes, it's cooler, but there are still a lot of things that we can do. Bundle up, get outside and see.”
That said, Canadians still have warmer climates on the brain, with 13 of the top 20 most popular destinations, including the top five, coming from warmer climates.
Zajac said this is a combination of Canadians’ optimism for how the next few months of the pandemic may go and a pent-up wanderlust from people longing for an international vacation.
“People are interested in -- when it is safe and when they're able to get away -- heading to a warm destination and particularly an island, whether it's somewhere in the Caribbean or whether it's even somewhere further like Bali,” Zajac said.
Priorities for Canadian Travellers in 2021
Flexibility isn't a "nice-to-have", it's required: In 2021, flexibility will continue to be top of mind for travellers, who booked refundable rates nearly 10 percent more often this year compared to last. Luckily, flexibility is more affordable than ever. Expedia.ca lodging data shows average daily rates for refundable bookings were nearly 15 percent cheaper in 2020 compared to 2019.
Health and safety advancements are essential: In 2021, concerns about staying safe while travelling will continue to impact every aspect of trip planning, from what type of accommodations to choose to where to go to who to travel with. Since May, nearly 300,000 properties have added health and cleanliness information on Expedia.ca, which includes enhanced cleaning measures, contactless check-in, social distancing and other guest safety considerations.
Shorter booking windows for travel plans: In 2019, the average Canadian traveler booked flights around 34 days in advance of their departure date, but during the onset of the pandemic, that window shortened to 22 days, where it remains. The new, shorter planning cycle illustrates how travellers have adapted to the rapidly changing environment and ongoing uncertainty. This is a trend we see with lodging as well. Last minute bookings during the summer were on the rise with around half of Canadian travellers booking trips 0-7 days out, an increase from previous years.3
Growth in alternative accommodation options: While the most popular lodging type in 2020 was hotels, this year certain alternative property types were more popular than in previous years. Specifically, this is the case for: private vacation homes, cottages, glamping experiences, treehouses and house boats. When looking to book a stay, the data shows that the lowest average daily rates are usually found on Mondays.
The Next Big Trip: Top-Searched Destinations for 2021 and Beyond
While nearby getaways and road trips are likely to remain popular as travellers navigate the ongoing realities of life amid a pandemic, search data5 proves that Canadian wanderlust remains strong. More specifically, it seems vacation-deprived Canadians dreaming of their next trip fall into one of two categories:
Sun and Beach Seekers. Looking at the top 20 most-searched destinations, over half are islands in the southern hemisphere or those offering a warm and sunny beach escape. After a year like 2020, it's not hard to imagine why so many travellers want to escape to an island the next chance they get. Typically, Canadians are used to trading in their winter coats for their summer clothes based on general seasonality, but of course this has been a year like no other, though this hasn't stopped travellers from staying inspired and dreaming of warmer weather.
Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen and Tulum (#1)
Puerto Vallarta (#2)
Punta Cana (#8)
French Polynesia (#11)
Turks and Caicos (#16)
St. Lucia (#17)
Top searched destinations based on lodging interest on Expedia.ca between Jan 1, 2020 – Sept 12, 2020 for travel in 2021.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.