What can we expect from travel in 2021?

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The recent and much celebrated declaration that Britain plans to completely end lockdown and restricted conditions by June 21st this year has got us all dreaming of summer like never before. Beyond the excitement surrounding a return to normality and us all enjoying each other’s company in the pub again, the announcement has also triggered a wave of holiday bookings as the universal clamouring for sun and fun understandably goes into overdrive.

Unfortunately, as we’ve learnt often in the past 12 months, nothing is certain in the current climate. While we’re all hoping to break free from the chains of the pandemic right in time for the sunniest months, it’s very much a case of wait and see going forward. Still, based off what we’ve seen so far, there are some predictions we can make about the state of our holidays this year.

2021 trends

Forgetting the big announcement for a second, the pandemic had already thrown up a number of travel related trends over course of 2020 and the beginning of this year. The main theme, which is a by-product of a more widely changing consumer attitude, is sustainability, which in travel terms ties into “responsible tourism”.

Responsible tourism comes in a few forms. Travellers might take on shorter-haul holidays to limit transport miles, choose more ethically- and eco-motivated providers or take on trips with biodiversity issues in mind. With climate issues establishing themselves as the great challenge for our generation, it’s unlikely that this will be a theme for 2021 alone.

As for wider trends, it’s a pick and mix of possibilities going forward that will likely be defined by the end of lockdown. When restrictions are finally lifted, expect to see the rise of “bucket list” holidays heading into late 2021 and 2022, as well as swathes of people immediately jumping on the first plane they can find to a more beaten track, familiar location.

The revival of the staycation

An undoubted beneficiary of the sustainability theme, UK staycations were already on the rise over the past few years, but the impact of the pandemic has only sought to enhance their appeal further. Despite the UK tourism industry posting losses of £24.7bn in 2020, the sector is quietly optimistic about its chances once things get back to normal in mid to late 2021. Of course, such eye-watering losses would normally be cause for alarm, but not only do they come with a rather valid disclaimer, but industry experts also saw trends in 2020 that offered signs of encouragement for recovery when lockdown is over.

Geoff Barnes, Managing Director of caravan holiday specialists, Park Holidays, noted: “Between July and December 2020, following the first lockdown, we exceeded all expectations in terms of sales month on month, and there is no reason why we won’t see the same recovery after the current lockdown is lifted.” Indeed, it appears the only thing holding back the UK staycation currently is the physical ban on domestic travel, rather than

any preference for international adventure. And with demand soaring by the day, domestic providers can look forward to a chaotic but lucrative latter half of the year.

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The work doesn’t stop

Even though the pandemic has brought about huge change in the working world, what with the rise of remote working and the increased use of tech, there’s been little to no effective replacement for face-to-face interaction in the corporate world. As such, business travel never really stopped during the pandemic, and expect to see it as strong as ever in 2021 and beyond.

Recent data has shown some really interesting changes coming through in the corporate travel realm. The rise of “bleisure” – as in business and leisure combined trips – could well be a result of the restrictions enforced by the pandemic, while we should see an increased focus on unconventional bookings, more flexible corporate travel policies, AI and virtual reality disruption and plenty more impactful trends.

Right now, the much-battered holiday industry of 2020 can be considered a sleeping giant for 2021. With people desperate to get away at the first point possible, expect to see an explosion of travel on all fronts as we all look to enjoy life to its fullest again.

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