At the beginning of 2021, travel trends were murkier than ever.
Data collected throughout the pandemic-stricken 2020 made it clear what travelers want during COVID-19, but it was tough to say with any certainty which trends would or wouldn’t carry into the new year and beyond.
Some of the travel trends identified at that time are still extremely pertinent today. Cleanliness, for instance, remains a top priority for travelers—in fact, it was still THE top priority for travelers as recently as September, which means property managers must stay on top of their vacation rental cleaning protocols.
There’s no doubt the travel industry enjoyed a major rebound in 2021, and with it, several trends emerged. Some of those trends (such as “trip stacking”) are rather new, while others are simply boomeranging back into view after disappearing during the pandemic.
Here are four 2022 travel trends to keep an eye on:
After a long stretch that saw travelers flocking to rural properties, major cities reclaimed their place atop the travel mantel this past summer as large chunks of the population grew increasingly comfortable exploring urban settings. New York unsurprisingly led the resurgence, but Chicago, San Diego, and other metropolitan areas rebounded in a big way, too.
The question now is: what will the division of travel look like in 2022? Big cities will always draw their fair share of traffic, but according to Expedia, the trend of rural and coastal destinations will “undoubtedly outlive the pandemic and shape the way travelers continue to explore the world.” So while urban areas continue to flourish, we can expect rural getaways to claim a larger piece of the pie than in the past.
Throughout the pandemic, family trips—especially domestic trips taken by car—have dominated much of the travel landscape. Group travel soared, solo travel plummeted, and business trips all but dried up for a long period of time.
Over the past several months, though, weekday occupancy has returned to pre-pandemic levels as businesses and the economy inch their way back to “normal.” Recent data from Expedia and Egencia shows that global business travel demand in Q3 of 2021 increased more than 110% compared to Q3 of 2020. Clearly, business travel is trending toward a massive rebound in 2022, which can only be more good news for the resurgence of big-city travel covered above.
The undisputed top travel trend in 2020 (and subsequently 2021) was the emphasis on health and hygiene protocols. But flexible policies quickly emerged as an undeniably important trend, too: travelers wanted to feel safe, but they also wanted wiggle room during uncertain times. In fact, Expedia data from late 2020 showed that roughly 7 in 10 travelers sought out additional flexibility, including full cancellation policies, travel insurance, and trip protection.
Early in the pandemic, that cautious tendency sparked a drastic compression of search windows on all the major online travel sites. Planning went out the window as spontaneous, last-minute trips surged. Now, though, the pendulum appears to be swinging back in the other direction: the latest data reveals a lengthening in search-to-stay numbers. According to Expedia, roughly 70% of global travel searches in Q3 of this year fell within the 0- to 30-day search window, which was a 15% increase from Q2 data.
Near the end of summer, Travel + Leisure teamed up with Vrbo to report the growing popularity of off-season travel expected for the Fall. In that report, Vrbo travel expert Melanie Fish told T+L, “Travelers may also be taking their beach or lake vacation later because they just couldn’t get the house or condo they wanted in July or August.”
Sure enough, when the calendar flipped to “shoulder season,” places like Hawaii and Florida experienced off-the-charts demand as travelers sought a “second summer” after Labor Day.
Expedia’s most recent data shows that the late-summer surge basically carried right into Fall and the holiday season: searches for November and December trips tripled in growth from Q3 of 2020 to Q3 of 2021, with sunny beach destinations still leading the charge. What could that mean for 2022 travel trends? Well, travelers are apparently ready to chase their second (and third, and fourth) summers right into next summer, and any concept of “seasonality” might be a thing of the past!