Travel Trends Q1 2021 and Beyond: Rentals, Reunions, and Recovery

See what happened in travel this past quarter, and where it's headed for the rest of 2021. Dig into our data and insights from more than 800 travel players and ...
Updated on September 26, 2023

The travel industry has been hit hard by COVID-19, but the analysis in our new Travel Data Pack brings hope within the numbers. Recovery is on the horizon and we’ll show you a category by category, country by country look at the rebound in progress.

Our travel data pack is based on data from more than 800 travel players in over 20 countries and a global survey of travelers that included 11,000+ respondents from 9 countries. Below is just some of what we learned about the state of travel around the world in Q1 2021 and travelers’ plans for the future.

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Air travel is still down, but beginning to recover in some regions

A little more than a year after the global spread of COVID-19 began, Criteo data shows that worldwide, air travel bookings remain 36% below the average in December 2019. However, this is a 12-point increase from -48% in January.

Air travel is improving more quickly in the Americas and APAC than in EMEA, where a number of lockdowns remain in place across Europe. Domestic flights are also recovering faster than international flights.

Indexed weekly air travel bookings YoY

Vacation rentals are leading the recovery

Across the world, demand for vacation rentals has been rising steadily throughout Q1. The social distancing and longer-term stay options of these rentals continue to be a draw for those looking for personal or ‘workation’ getaways.

In the US, bookings this March actually surpassed pre-pandemic levels before dropping slightly in April. Europe, despite recent lockdowns, is leading the recovery in vacation rentals, up 22% in mid-April vs. December 2019. APAC rentals have remained flat and are still well below index.

Indexed weekly bookings vacation rentals YoY

Travelers are eager to visit family and friends ASAP

Respondents to our survey admitted that they were still worried about COVID-19 but showed that it wasn’t stopping them from booking short trips to see loved ones. Sixty-nine percent of global respondents plan to travel for personal reasons in the next 6 months and are more likely to travel to visit family and friends than for leisure/holiday purposes. More than 1 in 5 are planning to visit family and friends within the next month.

Travel survey 2021 - when are you planning your next trip

Upcoming trips will be domestic

Travel restrictions and concerns around social distancing, sanitation, and access to healthcare are keeping travelers within their borders for the next year. Three quarters of global respondents will be making domestic rather than international bookings.

In the US, this is especially true for older generations (92% Boomers & Silent and 87% Gen X vs. 84% overall). Gen Z & Millennials are a bit more adventurous, with 1 in 4 planning to travel internationally in countries allowing US citizens to visit, like Mexico.

Only 34% of Americans plan to travel internationally in the next 12 months, even if given a vaccine and COVID-19 Passport.

Travel survey 2021 - domestic vs international

Summer travel boom will lead to full recovery in the fall

As vaccination rates continue to improve and we head into the traditional summer vacation/holiday season, expectations are to see an increase across travel categories. Our data shows that this momentum is likely to carry on through the fall, when we expect to see the first categories recover even more and reach or exceed pre-pandemic levels.

Looking at bookings made between February 1st and March 15th, 2021, vacation rentals are on an impressive recovery trajectory, with 5% more rental reservations made for the fall season than what was recorded during the same period in 2020.

Indexed bookings by season of travel, by category, YoY

3 ways to increase travel bookings

Based on what our data and the travelers in our survey told us, there are three takeaways that travel players need to know:

Provide fully refundable bookings to address travelers’ fear of uncertainty regarding domestic and international travels.

Worldwide, 64% told us they’d be more likely to book travel if it was fully refundable.

Source: Travel survey, Q1 2021. Base: Respondents who strongly and somewhat agree with “I am more likely to buy air / train / cruise tickets if they are fully refundable”

Continue to maintain social distancing standards
and communicate sanitation procedures to put travelers at ease.

In all regions, these factors were highly important when traveling.

Source: Travel survey, Q1 2021, Base: All respondents.

Optimize your mobile web site and app user experience,
now that mobile has a larger share of transactions.

According to our data, 51% of global transactions now happen via mobile.

Travel bookings by device

Want more travel data? Download the complete Q1 2021 Travel Data Pack here and bookmark our blog to read our next quarterly travel update.

Ann Pyle

Ann revels in finding the simplest and clearest way to convey a thought. Her favorite word is 'moxie', which she tries to embody whenever possible. She's been developing content strategies and writing for the tech and B2B space for more than a decade. This, along with her SEO and advertising agency ...

Senior Manager Global Content

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