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Travel Trends - Looking Ahead in 2022

Lauren Corna, account service co-director | 

Travel Trends - Looking Ahead in 2022

Coming into the new year, COVID levels were surging after holiday gatherings and uncertainty around travel still remains high. Just how can one predict travel trends for 2022? With a history of serving tourism clients from Visit Denver, Colorado Tourism Office and beyond, and now with inductees into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame, Karsh Hagan continuously works to distill the latest trends and sentiments for our clients. The tourism landscape and traveler behavior is changing every day, which means strategies for marketers need to look ahead, while remaining flexible and adaptable.

According to Longwoods International, “The percentage of travelers planning a trip in the next month has slipped significantly from 23% in October to 15% in January.  The percentage of travelers who feel safe traveling outside their community fell from 70% in November to 61% in January, and support by travelers for opening up their local communities to visitors dropped from 61% in November to 53% in the most recent data.”

Despite the ever-changing implications of the pandemic, it’s no secret that almost everyone is ready for a getaway and these five key trends will ring true in 2022. 

1. Flexcation 

As individuals and families have mastered the art of remote work and school, the blend of leisure travel with remote flexibility has invigorated a new golden age of travel. Part vacation, part mobile classroom, part satellite office—the flexcation allows people to uniquely blend work and play, offering a fluidity that has unlocked new opportunities for travel. The pressure of working through the pandemic has been crushing for many employees resulting in “The Great Resignation.” The cultural trend to seek new, flexible work opportunities aligns with workers’ desire to better prioritize personal development and wellness. Many countries have even established “digital nomad visas” with hopes that remote workers will visit and generate income making up for lost tourism revenue due to the pandemic.

2. Sprint Bookings 

Travelers are operating in a new world that forces them to adapt quickly to COVID-related developments. The rise of new variants and ever-changing travel restrictions means that trip cancellations are inevitable. Thankfully, many airlines and hotels have implemented no-fee itinerary changes, removing the financial risk associated with a change in plans. As a result, people are now making big travel decisions with little lead time. According to McKinsey’s 2020 The Travel Industry Turned Upside Down report, “Long-term planning is out the window, with health advice and travel restrictions changing on a seemingly daily basis. And with more travelers choosing to vacation closer to home and drive themselves, there is less need to book far in advance.” This new travel behavior has also triggered a renewed demand for travel advisors, with tourists seeking professional support to navigate the changing landscape.

3. Road Trip Resurgence

Travel experts Skift and Arrivalist dubbed 2021 the year of the road trip. While many travelers are starting to take flight again, the Road Trip Resurgence is not slowing down. According to a survey by Outdoorsy—the “Airbnb of RVs”—more than 90% of respondents indicated plans to take a road trip in 2022. Many people learned that traveling by road offers a unique combination of security and freedom that air travel simply does not. Outdoor destinations, like national parks, are best explored on wheels. Road trips also provide opportunities for group-oriented excursions, allowing family and friends to make up for lost time apart during the pandemic. Many roadtrippers are also eager to get off the grid and reconnect with themselves and with friends and family. 

4. Traveling Sustainably 

Travel is responsible for eight percent of the world’s carbon emissions, and the pressure is on the tourism industry to provide solutions to travel more responsibly. Airlines are investing in more eco-friendly aircrafts, hotels are cutting back on daily housekeeping to reduce water and energy use, and destinations are providing agritourism itineraries and educating visitors on how to “Leave No Trace.” In addition to the industry doing its part, a new segment of “low-impact travelers” are seeking to reduce the negative impact of their trips. These travelers follow the principles of sustainable tourism, an approach to travel that considers economic, social, cultural, and environmental impacts. 

5. Adventures of a Lifetime

As we approach two full years of navigating COVID-19, travelers have more pent up demand now than ever before to take a trip. And not just any trip. This year, travelers are planning special, bucket list adventures unlike any other vacation. Expedia is calling 2022 the year of the GOAT, or the “greatest of all trips.” People are tired of being confined to their homes and are determined to set off on a great adventure. Many travelers are even planning trips around physical challenges—like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, one of the most popular trekking destinations in the world. But Expedia.com says that “Going big doesn't just mean taking a bucket-list trip. In the coming year, American travelers are going after their GOAT by stepping outside their comfort zone (22%) and immersing themselves in a destination, culture, and experiences completely different to their own (19%).” With so much pent up demand, travelers are willing to spend more too - a mindset that many are calling “revenge travel.” No matter the style of adventure, Americans are ready to take the trip of a lifetime. 

As we look ahead for ways to support our destination clients in attracting travelers and reaching pre-pandemic levels of success, these trends can help spark inspiration. Even reflecting on my own travel plans for 2022, these trends will guide the way. From flexcations at ski resorts—to road trips across the West—to revenge travel and planning the GOAT, the pandemic has reminded us all that “life is short and the world is wide.”

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