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Travel is back, but expectations have changed—4 insights for marketers

by | Nov 9, 2021 | Marketing, Public Relations

New research from vacation rental hospitality firm Evolve makes it clear that travel will return in 2022—but with some important shifts. The firm’s newly released 2022 Travel Trends Forecast finds that while consumers are making travel plans—multiple at a time in many cases—their expectations have significantly changed during the past two years. Travelers are savvier than ever with nearly 50 percent of survey respondents citing flexible cancellation/rebooking policies—far surpassing cleanliness (at 23 percent)—as a top factor in their 2022 travel decisions.

“Although the travel industry is still in recovery mode, there are clear indicators that travel will continue to rebound in 2022; however, some of the changes introduced during the pandemic—particularly increased flexibility with the acceleration of a remote work environment and more fluid travel policies—have altered the way travelers plan their trips,” said Christina Fritts, Evolve’s Director of Customer Insights, in a news release.

“The attraction of vacation rentals for mainstream travelers is one of the many trends that was accelerated by the pandemic,” said Brian Egan, co-founder and CEO of Evolve, in the release. “However, consumers expect the same ease and consistency from vacation rentals that they have found in other forms of travel. This places a premium on things like rate transparency, cancellation policies, and customer service. The companies that will be successful are those that are already adapting and adjusting to these changes.”

Key takeaways from the report:

Insight #1: Despite pandemic uncertainty, travelers are confidently making plans and continuing to embrace vacation rentals at an unprecedented pace

  • Almost 80 percent of survey respondents indicated they are actively moving forward with 2022 travel plans; 47 percent indicated they won’t consider cancelling until much closer to their trip dates whereas 32 percent said they are planning to travel regardless. Less than four percent don’t plan to travel until the pandemic subsides with 18 percent still undecided.
  • An overwhelming 86 percent of respondents said they plan to book a vacation rental next year with another 14 percent citing “maybe.” Only 0.3 percent of respondents said they did not plan to use a vacation rental in 2022.

Insight #2: Longer trips—and more of them—return in 2022

  • The majority of respondents (59 percent) plan on booking trips two to five months in advance (compared to less than two months in advance for both 2020 and 2021) and plan on taking three or more trips in 2022 (62 percent).
  • The average trip will likely be longer in length (5-7 nights in 2022, compared to an average of 3.8 nights in both 2020 and 2021).
  • Price, rate transparency, flexible cancellations, and quality (e.g. upgraded decor, furniture, and appliances) all received top marks for most important factors in travel decisions – nearing 50 percent each – while cleanliness was the only other factor that scored in the double-digits at 23.5 percent.

Insight #3: The great outdoors thrive, while city escapes are slower to rebound

  • Consumers are most interested in exploring the outdoors (58 percent)—including hiking, biking, and kayaking—and wellness/relaxation experiences (61 percent) in the coming year.
  • In stark contrast, consumers are least interested in shopping and attending concerts/festivals, both coming in with only six and seven percent of respondents (respectively) citing those activities as their top choice for 2022. While these themes are not new, expect them to play a bigger role in how people plan their 2022 trips.
  • Secluded mountain/rural escapes and waterfront getaways are by far the most popular 2022 vacation experiences. Urban experiences came in last with only 15 percent putting them at the top of their list for next year.
  • Travelers are not avoiding areas that have historically reported higher COVID case counts; in fact, the U.S. coastal south ranked the highest (almost 40 percent, a margin of 10 percent above any other area) among places travelers are interested in visiting next year.
  • Even with restrictions still in place, international trips are a top choice for 27 percent of travelers.

Insight #4: Travelers over 40 are driving the remote work travel trend (longer stays)

  • Evolve looked at behavioral shifts and differences between younger travelers (defined as those under 40-years-old) and more experienced travelers (those above 40-years-old).
  • Travelers over 40 are almost four times as likely to book trips longer than one week—and over five times more interested in taking trips exceeding two weeks—than those under 40. This indicates that travelers over 40 are more likely to plan extended stays/work remote trips. Younger travelers are showing a clear preference for shorter trips (3-4 nights in length; 54 percent of under 40 respondents).
  • Travelers over 40 are more likely to travel with their significant other or plan multigenerational trips, whereas those under 40 are more interested in traveling with a group of friends or solo.

“The vacation rental industry continues to be a bright spot in travel and one of the only sectors that saw big gains during the past 18 months. Evolve is not seeing that trend slow; we’ve consistently beat our pre-pandemic performance every month this year, with our average booking value per property growing by as much as 108 percent—and have another year of significant growth forecasted for 2022,” said Fritts.

The 2022 survey was sent out to a total population of 100,000 contacts via email, as well as shared on Evolve’s social media channels, with an offer to be entered to win an Evolve Travel Credit of $1,000. In all, 5,001 individuals completed the survey with an additional 417 that began but did not complete the survey. The survey consisted of thirteen questions, including optional personal identifying questions for demographics and contact email to be entered into the drawing. Data was used from both partial and complete surveys, while only those that provided fully submitted surveys with contact information were eligible for the drawing. The data was analyzed using quantitative summary and descriptive statistics; no inferential statistical methods were used to test confidence or multivariate differences.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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