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Travel Insights for
Winter 2021

2022 Travel Prepares for Takeoff, While
Consumers Proceed Cautiously With 2021
Holiday Plans

Much like last year, a considerable number of 2021 travel plans for November and December are still up in the air. Despite a steady climb in overall travel intent for 2022, ever-evolving COVID concerns, as well as travel restrictions and vaccination requirements, are grounds for consumers questioning their 2021 holiday travel plans. Table of Contents Key Trends for 2021 Holiday Travel
  1. Staying 'Home for the Holidays'
  2. Making a list and checking it twice: travelers' needs evolve
  3. Bells are ringing as hotel bookings recover
  4. Wheels on the ground, heads in the clouds
  5. Pandemic pets become the most important hotel guests
  6. International bookings are back on the map
  7. 2022 travel demand lifting off to new heights
Need Help Reaching Travel Consumers This Holiday Season?

Key Trends for
2021 Holiday Travel

1. Staying ‘Home for the Holidays’

58.63% of people are planning to stay closer to home for the holidays.
Adults aged 18-29 with a household income between $30k and $99k are most likely to travel this holiday season.
30.0% are willing to travel longer distances.
16.36% are still undecided on holiday travel plans.
What's behind the hesitancy?
COVID safety concerns surrounding variant strains continue to impact travel desires. 37.9% of travelers who are worried about the volatility and uncertainty of the virus reported being ‘very unlikely’ to travel this holiday season, while only 6.9% with the same concerns were ‘likely’.

2. Making a list and checking it twice: travelers’ needs evolve

Consumers ranked COVID safety concerns as their #1 restriction impacting holiday travel planning (39.74%).
Women aged 18-29 & 40-60+ are least likely to travel during the holidays due to COVID safety concerns/vaccination requirements.
#2 is destination availability and ticket prices (19.23%).
#3 is vaccine requirements (10.26%).
How are travelers' needs changing?
Travelers' needs for safety measures and vaccine requirements remain top-of-mind as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. But other factors such as rising ticket prices and fewer destination options are also causing a shift in consumer needs. After a historic drop in prices for airfare, train fare, and other popular modes of transportation over the summer, prices are expected to skyrocket again just in time for the holidays—making certain destinations out of reach (especially for those on a budget).

3. Bells are ringing as hotel bookings recover

48.98% of travelers prefer to stay in hotels over family/friends or private rentals.
22.45% plan to stay at budget hotels/motels.
20.41% plan to stay at national hotel chains.
6.12% plan to stay at boutique/luxury hotels.
24.49% will stay with friends and family.
18.37% will stay at camping/RV sites.
8.16% will book private rentals (Airbnb, VRBO, etc.).
What's behind the desire to check in again?
2021 hotel bookings are higher than 2020 but haven’t quite reached pre-pandemic levels. Compared to 2019, this year’s hotel bookings have decreased only 31% during August-October for holiday check-ins (November and December). Compared to 2020, however, there have been 2 times more bookings made in 2021 to date for November-December check-ins, with this ratio remaining consistent since the start of summer. When it comes to the type of hotel consumers are booking, more travelers are opting for affordability as income restraints are top-of-mind. Those with a household income between $20k and $99k reported a preference for budget and national hotels versus luxury hotels.

4. Wheels on the ground, heads in the clouds

The majority of 2021 holiday travelers (37.14%) are choosing to travel by car this holiday season.
25.71% still prefer to travel by airplane.
17.14% prefer to travel by cruise.
11.43% prefer to travel by bus.
8.57% prefer to travel by train.
What's going on?
Land travel is in, but that doesn’t mean air travel is out completely. Air travel is on the road to recovery and is up 94% this holiday season compared to 2020, but the majority of travelers are choosing to get behind the wheel for a second year in a row. This can be attributed to many things, including a desire to practice social distancing, saving dollars for gift-giving, and the ease of traveling with a pet. Cruise travel interest is also increasing as many cruise lines offer deals travelers can’t refuse.

5. Pandemic pets become the most important hotel guests

Pet-friendly keywords (especially related to dogs) continue to dominate hotel/motel searches:
  1. Pet friendly hotels
  2. Pet friendly hotels near me
  3. Pet friendly motels
  4. Motels pet friendly
  5. Motel pet friendly
  6. Pet friendly motels near me
  7. Hotel near me pet friendly
  8. Cheap hotels near me pet friendly
  9. Motels that allow dogs
  10. Motels dog friendly
The average number of Google searches for ‘pet friendly hotels’ is up 42.93% from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

The average number of Google searches for ‘pet friendly motels’ is up 36.25% from 2020.

Moreover, safe and clean keywords are less relevant now than they were earlier on in the pandemic. Instead, keywords related to pets are now generating higher conversion rates:
Pet friendly motels: 22% CVR
Pets stay free: 18% CVR
Why are pets a new priority?
Adopting a pet became all the rage at the onset of the pandemic. Fast forward to 2021 and leaving a furry friend at home is a recipe for separation anxiety (for both owner and pet). As a direct result of this pandemic-inspired pet ownership boom, many travelers are prioritizing pet-friendly options in their search for lodging this holiday season.

6. International bookings are back on the map

International travel bookings for both air and hotels have started to surge again. This can be directly attributed to the United States’s recent policy change allowing entry for fully vaccinated foreign travelers.
International air travel and hotel bookings began spiking on September 13 and have risen around 10x since then.
Compared to 2020, there has been a 2.3x increase in flight demand and 3x in hotel bookings.
However, compared to 2019, this year’s international air travel and hotel bookings are still down about 60%.
The most desired destinations are major cities including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and San Francisco.

7. 2022 travel demand lifting off to new heights

Despite holiday travel being down 61% compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, general interest in air travel continues to climb — forecasting a boom in 2022.
Zeta air travel intent data demonstrates the highest interest since 2019 pre-pandemic travel.
Chart Image
46.53% of consumers interested in air travel for the 2021 holiday season (November-December) are from states more prone to harsh winter weather.

Need Help Reaching Travel Consumers This Holiday Season?

Zeta offers an unmatched Marketing Cloud that can power your campaigns with identity-based audience insights. Out-of-the-box integration, seamless proprietary data enrichment, and easy omni-channel activation can help you secure incremental revenue during this holiday travel season. Contact us today at info@zetaglobal.com or via our contact us page to learn more.
The findings in this report were derived from a Zeta Pulse consumer sentiment survey of ~1000 people across the U.S. as well as additional data insights from our partner, Adara. Third-party data was used as a supplemental source as required.
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