Travel metasearch engine Skyscanner’s new report ‘Skyscanner Horizons – The Return of Travel‘ was published last week, and with the tourism industry starting to stir back into life following the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a very timely insight into how travellers are booking their first trips in 2021. You can click the link above to download the full report, but we’ve summarised our five key takeaways in this post. In part 2, we’ll share our tips for benefiting from these trends.
Booking Horizons Are Getting Longer Again
Booking horizons – the gap between booking a trip and the actual travel date – dropped below 60 days in 2020 as people left booking until the last minute due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. But with vaccinations being rolled out and optimism returning, booking horizons are approaching 2019 levels, as the graph below shows:
There is also a direct correlation between traveller optimism and booking horizons – the more certain people are of being able to take their trip, the further out they’re booking; up to 113 days in the UK, and an average of 80 days in EMEA, 70 in the US – all regions where vaccine rollouts are proceeding effectively. Confidence is lower in Asia, with the average booking horizon in the APAC region standing at 54 days, reflecting the low levels of optimism that we are over the worst (only 32% of Japanese believe the COVID situation is improving).
Trips Are Getting Longer, But Closer to Home
The survey also suggests that most travellers are planning on booking one long trip rather than several short ones, with average trip length rising to 16 days, up from 14 in 2019 & 2020. And as you can see on the graph below, the biggest increase has been in trips of three weeks or more in length.
However, whilst travellers are travelling for longer, they’re not going as far as they did pre-pandemic, with average flight time dropping by an hour from 11 in 2019 to 10 in 2021. Ultra long haul is the big loser, with medium, short and domestic flights all increasing in popularity.
Domestic Continues to Boom
We’ve previously blogged (and webinared, if that’s a word) about the boom in domestic travel, as tourists unable to fly abroad take holidays in their own country, and that is still very much the case in 2021 – 23% of all travel bookings in 2021 are domestic (up from 17% in 2019 & 2020), with 38% of all travel searches (an incredible 83% in APAC) being for domestic travel.
However, in countries and regions where it’s easier to travel overseas, or where vaccinations are already proceeding in great numbers (eg EMEA), domestic searches are starting to shrink as people start to dream of foreign holidays again.
Cities Are Down, Beaches Are Up
Understandably, in 2021 travellers are seeking to avoid crowded cities and instead head for the great outdoors, particularly beaches – after being shut in at home for months, we’re all craving open spaces. So apart from the perennially popular Paris and New York, most other traditionally well visited cities – including Bangkok, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Rome and Prague – are well down when it comes to search volume, with beach destinations on the rise.
Prices Have Fallen
Looking at the period from June-October 2021, the prices of the cheapest travel tickets have fallen (compared to 2019) by as much as 15% in some regions, as more travel freedom gives people more choice – ticket prices for 2020 and early 2021 were largely driven by people’s desperate need to get home or escape the pandemic, so average prices increased considerably.
Some very interesting takeaways there, and in part 2 of this blog we’ll be sharing our tips on how you can put this knowledge to good use and help your business ride the growing wave of travel recovery. Watch this space!