Long-stay, tailored, outdoor – what travellers want in 2022

By Kate Birch
Outdoor activities, green hotels, flexible bookings, long-stay packages and tailored trips are among the consumer travel trends in EMEA for 2022

Despite travel restrictions continuing to fluctuate, easing in some countries and locking down in others, as vaccination rates grow worldwide, predictions for travel in 2022 are looking good with strong growth in international spending expected, according to the New Trending in Travel report from WTTC and Trip.com Group.

Research finds that following last year’s 69.4% decline in global international spending on travel, spending rose 9.3% in 2021, and is expected to rise significantly by 93.8% in 2022 overtaking domestic spending. That said, spending growth in EMEA is not as high as in the US or APAC, with Africa (27.7%), the Middle East (27.1%), and Europe (23.9%) compared to 36.8% in the US.

With persisting and fluctuating restrictions on international travel, spending growth on domestic travel and leisure tourism has increased in Europe. Therefore, demand for staycations are likely to remain and even increase, with more than half of travellers in Europe intending to take a domestic trip and roughly one-third of European travellers planning an international trip but within Europe, according to a Phocuswright Traveller Survey.

Whether domestic or international, the way consumers want to travel, where they want to travel to, and how they want to travel is changing with consumer travel trends and tastes impacted in large part by the pandemic.

Climate change concerns and the acceleration of digital, especially in light of the pandemic, is further impacting consumer travel tastes and trends.

From demand for longer and more meaningful trips and nature-based destinations to consumers increasingly booking close to departure date and via smartphone, we highlight the changing consumer trends in EMEA that are predicted to drive travel in 2022 and beyond.

Consumers want longer and more meaningful trips

Travel restrictions caused by the pandemic have pushed holidaymakers into having extended stays, rather than shorter breaks, when they do holiday and as such having more meaningful travel experiences. Global Data found that one in four travellers favoured staying 10+ nights during 2021, while the average trip length in 2019 was 4.45 days (domestic) and 9.22 days (international).

This trend towards extended stays is expected to remain in the longer term as travellers attempt to make the most of trips taken, and also to have more meaningful experiences. According to American Express research, half of UK travellers are interested in taking extended trips to experience new destinations.

Consumers are booking closer to date of departure

Uncertain and fast-changing travel restrictions have resulted in a shift in travellers’ booking habits, with consumers less willing to book travel months in advance and increasingly seeking flexible bookings.

In Europe, nine in 10 travellers in Spain, 87% in France and 84% in the UK, all cited that flexible cancellation, rebooking, or refund policies are more important now than pre-pandemic, research from Skift & Oracle Hospitality finds. And airlines and hotels are responding. In 2020, Emirates changed its cancellation and booking modification policies in 2020 to enable travellers affected by COVID-19 policy shifts to change or cancel tickets fee-free, and in 2021, extended ticket validity by up to 36 months, even offering travellers the ability to change to another destination in the region at no extra fee.

Shorter booking windows are also becoming more common, with Trip.com’s data revealing that hotel booking windows dropped from 32 days in the first quarter of 2019 to 10 days in 2021.

Travel in nature and the outdoors is on the up

In the wake of COVID-19, consumers are increasingly seeking out secondary destinations, rural areas, nature-based destinations and outdoor activities. American Express research found that over half of consumers are more likely to take an outdoor trip now than before the pandemic and 47% want their next trip to be in nature, while 40% are opting to explore unfamiliar destinations to satisfy their pent-up wanderlust.

This is consistent with the European Travel Commission’s latest survey results from September 2021, which highlighted that Europeans with short-term travel plans exhibit a stronger preference for nature-based or coastal destinations, with Italy, Spain, France, Greece, and Croatia remaining favourites.

Travellers want to do good on their trip

Pent-up wanderlust has also given rise to increasing demand for adventure, with 69% of travellers interested in visiting lesser-known destinations, according to American Express. And as travellers increasingly look to lessen their footprint and enhance their social impact, nearly three-quarters are hoping to support local communities through their travel, with 59% interested in ‘philantourism’ – where you choose an experience or vacation to support a destination through tourism.

The philantourism trend was already picking up traction pre-pandemic, with 51% of global travellers willing to exchange their original destination for a lesser known but similar alternative if it had a smaller footprint and greater community impact, according to Booking.com. This trend remains on the rise, with increasing consumer interest in sustainable travel, philantourism, and rural tourism.

Making trips as sustainable as possible is priority

While making more sustainable life choices was already increasing as a priority for consumers pre-pandemic, the impact of COVID-19, along with increasing evidence about the negative effects of climate change, is inspiring more (83%) of global travellers to make sustainable travel a priority in the future, according to Booking.com research. Consumers are increasingly looking to book hotels that follow sustainable practices, for example. Trip.com Group research revealed over 80% of Ctrip customers supported hotels that did not provide disposable products so as to reduce single-use waste and secondary contamination.

Consumers are incorporating wellness into travel plans

In April 2021, McKinsey found that four in five consumers believe wellness is important and 42% consider it a top priority. What’s more, consumers in Germany and the UK reported a substantial increase in the prioritisation of wellness over the past 2-3 years.

Surveying consumers in 48 countries in 2020, the Wellness Tourism Association found that 78% already included wellness activities when they travelled. With prolonged travel restrictions into 2021 and heightened awareness of wellness, the desire to spend more time and money on self-care, wellness, and stress relief is likely to continue growing. And as consumers continue to blur the lines between business and leisure travel and become more aware of and search for more self-care and wellness activities to cultivate healthier lives, wellness tourism will continue to see growth in the long term.

Instagram is inspiring younger people to book travel

When it comes to how people find inspiration on where to travel and then book travel, there is a clear generational divide.

Unsurprisingly, Visa found that younger generations (Millennials and Gen Zers) are predominantly booking through smartphones. And in a survey (interfacetourism.es) of French and Spanish youth aged 18 to 23, 70% admitted to using Instagram as their source of travel inspiration.

Social media and digital marketing have become increasingly powerful marketing and selling tools for travellers and will continue to be in the long term, requiring more destinations and businesses to continue to respond with innovative and engaging strategies.

As travellers plan and book their next trips, younger generations will continue to seek engaging and interactive content on digital channels when choosing where to go, pushing destinations to up their inspirational content factor.

Like the Danish Faroe Islands which in 2020 created an interactive digital experience to allow would-be travellers to experience the islands through the Remote Tourism campaign. These virtual tourists would interact in real-time with local Faroese who would be their eyes and ears as the guest asked them to move around the destination. The Faroese islander was equipped with a live video camera, creating a unique and interactive virtual tour.

Tailor-made travel looks increasingly attractive

Travellers will seek to limit COVID-19 exposure by creating more tailored trips to meet their needs, according to 2021 research from Flywire.com. In fact, 70% of leisure travellers in the UK and Spain expect and plan to spend more money on travel in 2022 than they have in the past five years and 76% would choose to spend more for a trip with certain additional health and safety protocols.

The luxury travel market, which was valued at US$945.6 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach US$ 1.12 trillion in 2027, has always offered more exclusive access to amenities and travel products making it an enticing way to travel for those interested in limiting their exposure to those outside of their travel group. And in fact, the number of daily enquiries for luxury tailor-made travel on Ctrip in the first half of 2021 increased by 140% compared to 2019.


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