Travellers learn to live with Covid

SINGAPORE, 17 March 2022: Expedia Group Media Solutions recently published the Travel Recovery Trend Report for Q4, detailing the latest insights on the industry’s continued recovery from the pandemic.

Based on Expedia Group’s exclusive first-party data, the group’s media solutions insights and planning team identify the latest findings for 2022 and beyond.

Resilient and travel-ready 

The findings from the Q4 2021 Travel Recovery Trends Report indicate resilience in global travellers who continued to travel, particularly over the holiday period, despite the challenges posed by the Omicron variant.

Early Q1 has also seen great momentum in search volume for both domestic and international travel. For example, global searches for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) destinations for January 2022 were almost 60% up over December and over 170% year-over-year. North American (NORAM), Latin America (LATAM), and Asia Pacific (APAC) destinations also saw strong Januarys: up year-over-year by around 50%, 80%, and more than 30%, respectively.

Travel search volumes climb 

While restrictions have limited travellers over the past two years, Expedia data has shown that many have learned to live with Covid and continued creating experiences. Restrictions have only encouraged committed travellers to adapt: through domestic trips, seeking rural escapes, or swapping hotels for vacation rentals. They have also been inspired by and attracted to destinations open during the pandemic they might not have previously considered, foregoing those places they wanted to visit but which were closed to tourism. 

Q4 was, in many ways, the epitome of this resilience. Despite the Omicron challenge, overall search volume remained flat quarter-over-quarter compared to Q3 and was up 70% year-over-year. In Expedia’s Traveler Value Index research, data shows 81% are planning a leisure trip in the next six months, and one in five plan on taking three or more trips. 

In the Q3 report, advanced holiday bookings surged, with triple-digit year-over-year bookings for Thanksgiving and the Christmas period. Despite Omicron’s challenges, resilient travellers saw their advanced holiday plans through and remained committed to travel.

For example, Expedia Group cancellations were flat during Q4, and according to STR, Christmas Day occupancy in the US. was the highest on record, at 47.4%. Travellers respond well to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Travel Tuesday events, sparking a 10% week-over-week lift in US domestic searches. 

Landmark reopenings

The Traveler Value Index revealed that more than 50% of cruise travellers said border openings and government-led initiatives have a strong impact on their likelihood to travel, illustrating just how influential restrictions and changes are on traveller decision-making. As with previous reports, travellers respond immediately to border reopenings and news of reopenings. The reopening of the US borders to 33 countries worldwide led to increasing inbound and outbound travel and represented what could be considered a landmark in the travel industry’s recovery from Covid-19 after almost 20 months closed to the world.

Looking specifically at search volume from German travellers to the US, the market increased 300%  from October to December, and the US jumped from the 43rd most-searched destination to 13th during Q4.

Overall, in Q4 2021, cruise searches increased 50% year-over-year and bookings were up an impressive 500% compared to 2020.

The APAC region finally saw good news, too. Overall search volumes were up nearly 35% over Q3, driven by additional travel green lanes and international border reopenings in various countries, including Australia, Singapore, and Fiji. Australia’s reopening, which was announced in early October, proved significant to the wider region and led to a 25% week-over-week increase in international searches for APAC.

Looking Ahead

The US reopening has inevitably led to growing confidence in Americans to travel further afield. Expedia’s Traveler Value Index discovered that 68% of Americans are planning to go big on their next trip, and many are eyeing intercontinental destinations like Rome, Bali, London, and Paris in 2022.

This sentiment was reflected in lengthening search windows detected in Q4. Travellers switch to making their plans on a more short-term basis—typically in the 0- to 21-day search window—as they’ve responded to ever-changing pandemic conditions. 

However, in Q4, the share of searches in this short-term window decreased, while searches for 31+ days increased by 15% to 40% of total searches. This indicates that travellers were feeling more confident to travel internationally, and with loosening international restrictions, starting to dream about or plan trips further out – often to long-haul or bucket-list destinations. 

It is evident that traveller expectations have changed over the past two years. They are adapting to new ways of travelling. However, at the beginning of 2022, and reflecting on a stable Q4 of 2021, the data points to optimism and resilience in committed travellers who are more than ready to get back to seeing the world and creating memorable experiences.

To find out about the trends covered here in more detail, download the Q4 2021 Travel Recovery Trend Report.

(Source: Richard Kocher Expedia Group Media Solutions)