Travel Trends to Watch in 2021

By Alexandra Emerson

Last year, we predicted that safety was going to be a number one priority for business travelers and it undoubtedly was for a reason we never predicted: a global pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the entire world for a loop, especially the travel industry. However, we’ve witnessed the resilience of business owners across the country as they reimagine the traveler experience. As TravelBank CEO predicts, it’s likely business travel won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until after a year post wide vaccine distribution. In the meantime, however, here are five travel trends that started to take shape in 2020 and we’ll see continue well in 2021:

Duty of Care is taking on a whole new meaning.

When COVID-19 first swept the country, business travel was immediately halted. Notable tech companies like Twitter pulled their employees from making any in-person event appearances, banning non-essential work travel. It was merely the beginning of a domino effect that led to the cancelation of global events like Mobile World Congress and SXSW.

Duty of Care was a nice to have for companies prior to COVID-19 but now it’s a top priority for companies restarting travel. Travel policies will be looked at with a closer eye and features and programs that provide real-time visibility into how a city is managing the Coronavirus will be critical. Insights into the stage of reopening a city is in, as well as an increase or decrease in cases will be considered with a more careful eye.

Bleisure is done—work from anywhere will stay.

Prior to COVID-19, bleisure was on the rise. In 2019, a National Car Rental survey reported that 90 percent of millennial business travelers added leisure components to their trips.

Now that most people are working from home, they’re realizing they can take travel anywhere and stay longer. This means business travelers may travel less often for longer periods of time as they settle into the digital nomad lifestyle and drive up demand for long-term rentals like Airbnb. Check out our recent deep dive on the trend.

More hotels are going to get creative with turning open spaces into work spaces.

Some road warriors are happy with the added time at home now but others are dying to get back on the road. While travel slowly comes back, more will look to home and coffee shop alternatives to break the monotony of working from home.

A late-August analysis from the American Hotel and Lodging Association revealed that about 65% of hotels remain at or below 50% occupancy; they’ll need to get creative to lure guests back in.

Hilton, for example, launched their Workspaces pilot program to encourage guests to utilize a room as a remote office, with participating properties currently offering new daytime rates. Industrious, a co-working provider, partnered with Proper Hospitality to launch a similar work-from-hotel concept to Proper Hotels in Austin, San Francisco, and Santa Monica in late September with an expansion to more properties on the way.

Rise in partnerships and consolidation in travel.

Earlier this year we partnered with other travel tech leaders in a call to Congress to advocate for a national COVID-19 data program, coordinated testing and tracing across communities to reinstate confidence in travel. As travel—including transportation and hospitality—rebounds, more partnerships across the aisle will be happening.

One recent partnership is that of the World Economic Forum with a nonprofit trust called the Commons Project Foundation . Their collaboration has resulted in that of CommonPass, a digital product that can show a traveler’s recent COVID-19 test results and other information to immigration officials so that they know the traveler meets that nation’s health standards for entry.

In addition to the trends above, fintech will be top of mind for the industry. To learn more about the role fintech will play in travel next year be sure to check out TravelBank’s CEO, Duke Chung, predictions for 2021.

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