Airbnb has published its latest US-focused report detailing how it expects travel to return in 2021 and highlighting how there will be a shift towards more meaningful travel in a bid to limit mass tourism post-vaccine rollout.
According to the report, US consumers will prioritise spending as much time as possible with their family and friends if they can get vaccinated, and the platform emphasised its commitment to providing safe environments for its guest and host community.
Airbnb co-founder and CEO, Brian Chesky, wrote: “Once people feel safe to travel, they will, but it will look different than before the pandemic. Travel will be viewed as an antidote to isolation and disconnection. People don’t generally miss landmarks, crowded shuttles, and lines and lobbies packed with tourists.
“Mass travel is really just a different form of isolation—you are anonymous, herded around with other travellers, never really experiencing the people and culture of a community. What people want from travel now is what they’ve been deprived of—spending meaningful time with their family and friends,” he added.
About this report: This US travel report is based on findings derived from public opinion research conducted in late December 2020 and select insights from activity on the Airbnb platform from the second half of 2019, before the pandemic began, through Fall 2020. All survey findings, unless otherwise specified, are from a nationally representative poll of the US adult population conducted by ClearPath Strategies from December 18–23, 2020, n = 1,036, with a margin of error of +/-3.1%
Other key takeaways from the report include:
Americans are feeling isolated and lonely
Isolation is a big driver for Americans wanting to be vaccinated, which is reflected by these statistics: 53 per cent feel less connected to their extended family; 53 per cent feel less connected to their friends; 56 per cent feel less connected to their local community; and about three in five feel less connected to their fellow Americans [58 per cent] and the rest of the world [59 per cent].
Meanwhile, a quarter of Americans [24 per cent] have reported feeling either “loneliness or emptiness”.
Americans miss travelling
Travel for pleasure is the out-of-home activity Americans have missed the most, even more so than going to restaurants and bars, or attending sporting and other live events.
Just thinking about travel makes people feel significantly happier [by 18 percentage points] and more hopeful [by nine points] than they otherwise do on a typical day.
A majority is ready to travel again: 54 per cent have either already booked, are currently planning to travel, or expect to travel in 2021. This includes 57 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds, and 60 per cent of 30- to 49-year-olds.
Travel will return because people want to connect
Visiting family and friends is the type of travel people have missed most during this pandemic, while business travel is the travel type they have missed least.
Of the respondents to Airbnb’s study, 41 per cent said such travel had become “much more” important to them, almost twice the percentage who cite travel to accomplish personal goals [22 per cent].
More Americans now say they would prefer to leave their phones at home rather than bring them along and visit popular places to get social media content [52 per cent compared to 21 per cent].
The ability to reconnect with friends and family [37 per cent] and to feel safe while travelling [32 per cent] are leading motivations to get vaccinated.
Family travel has not only grown in importance for people post-pandemic, but other recent research conducted for Airbnb suggests that family travel is the type of travel communities most want.
First trip, next trip
Above all, people are seeking a sense of calm and security from their first post-pandemic trip: the top emotions they want to feel during that first trip are “relaxed” [44 per cent], “comfortable” [34 per cent] and “safe” [33 per cent].
Beyond the first trip, Americans will continue to prioritise travel that is closer to their family [32 per cent] but equally prioritise a new experience or destination [31 per cent], preferably nearby, followed by a return to a favourite destination [25 per cent].
Older Americans [50+] are the demographic most interested in future travel to be close to family [33 per cent] and in revisiting a favourite spot [32 per cent], followed by a new experience or destination [29 per cent].
Younger Americans remain most interested in a second trip as a new experience or destination [35 per cent], followed by being close to family [31 per cent], being close to nature [23 per cent] and returning to a favourite place [23 per cent].
Based on its own data and research, Airbnb expects these trends to inform travel in 2021 and potentially beyond.
Business travel as we knew it is not coming back
Brian Chesky has long pinpointed how travel will be “reimagined” in the wake of this pandemic and business travel is likely to be hit as a result.
It is the type of travel people miss the least: six per cent said they would miss it the most of any travel type, compared to 48 per cent of those surveyed who said they would travel to spend time with loved ones. More than one third of people surveyed [36 per cent] expect to travel less for work after the pandemic compared to before it began.
The pandemic has furthermore institutionalised remote working for many companies—two in five Americans [41 per cent] are able to work or study from home at least some of the time.
In another recent survey commissioned by Airbnb, 35 per cent of respondents said it would become more common post-pandemic for people to relocate to new places so they can take advantage of the ability to work remotely. As employees become more widely distributed across the world, a greater share of business travel will likely consist of employees travelling from these locations to gather at their workplaces.
People want to travel nearby, by car
56 per cent of respondents said they would prefer a domestic or local destination, as opposed to 21 per cent who said they would visit a destination abroad or further away.
One in five want their destination to be within driving distance of home, and travel by car is the only means of travel that captures the interest of the majority of those surveyed, beating air travel by 17 points.
These sentiments echo the shift Airbnb saw in the use of its platform from H2 2019, when trip distances over 3,000 miles were most popular, to June 2020, when trips between 50-500 miles returned to year-over-year growth.
They are flexible on when and where they travel
There is a strong desire to avoid the crowds of popular destinations, as underlined by statistics revealed in the Airbnb report:
One in two [51 per cent] are more interested in being isolated beyond major tourist areas than they are in being “surrounded by people and energy” [24 per cent]. On Airbnb in H2 2019, most nights booked were in larger cities, but in 2020, smaller destinations within driving distance of big cities saw a sharp rise in demand.
Before the pandemic hit, Airbnb’s top ten destination cities for the second half of 2019, by nights stayed, were Barcelona, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, New York City, Paris, Rome, Seoul and Toronto.
In 2020, smaller, lower-profile destinations saw a significant rise in demand. These types of destinations have been among the largest year-over-year increases in searches for 2021 bookings: Derbyshire, UK; Rodanthe, on the coast of North Carolina; Forks, Washington, the main setting for the Twilight series; and the Muskoka Lakes, a few hours’ drive from Toronto.
Remote work and learning are giving many people more freedom to choose when they travel
One quarter of Americans said they were open to travelling during off-peak times of the year and days of the week. One quarter also saw themselves undertaking more long-term stays, while nearly one in five [19 per cent] stated they had already rented a vacation home for a stay of more than 28 days since the pandemic started.
In September 2020, Airbnb saw more bookings for stays of 28+ nights than in September 2019. Overall for Q3 2020, nights booked for stays of 28+ days also increased over Q3 2019.
People want travel that is affordable
Affordability is the highest priority overall when it comes to choosing accommodation, not just for the first trip but for future travel indefinitely [54 per cent], beating health and safety protocols by ten points. Nearly three in five Americans [58 per cent] earning less than $50,000 per year said they had booked, planned or were expecting to travel in 2021.
Based on ongoing Airbnb guest survey data, a majority of guests—including 53 per cent of all homes guests in 2019—said they choose Airbnb to save money while travelling.
People want to stay safe
One third [32 per cent] want the “vast majority of people” at a destination to have also been vaccinated in order to consider travelling there; 30 per cent will want testing to be available there; and 29 per cent will want to have urgent care available.
Sustainable travel is also top of mind
56 per cent of those under age 50 said they would be “much more” or “somewhat more likely” to use an online platform which offers the ability to search for alternate energy and green accommodations. Only 28 per cent of those aged 50+ said the same.
The full report is available below:-
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.