A year after world travel abruptly shut down due to the pandemic, American Express is releasing its latest research on grounded travelers’ sentiments about getting back on the road. In the most basic terms: they can’t wait. The American Express Travel: Global Travel Trends Report compiled in seven major markets including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and India found that 76% of respondents are actively creating wish lists of where they want to go when they can and 87% are using that as motivation, giving them something to look forward to. When they can travel—which 65% say will happen once they receive the COVID vaccine- 61% said they’re planning to spend more on a trip than they normally would have this year to make up for the travel they missed in 2020. And 78% are looking to include a wellness component to relieve the stresses of the last year.
Where do they want to go? For many, prime destinations are cities with active culinary reputations since culinary travel, on the upswing in recent years, shows no signs of abating. 62% of respondents list eating as their major focus on the next trip. For U.S. travelers, Miami (which, apart from its own dining scene, is currently the site of an influx of major New York restaurants opening outposts such as Carbone, Cote and Red Rooster😉 San Francisco; Chicago and Houston are the main draws. International travelers are planning trips to Singapore, Mexico City and Tokyo.
Privacy, a key component in the social distanced traveling that did occur in 2020, is also not going away as an important element in travel plans. 75% responded that ultimate privacy is vital in luxury travel plans along with personalized experiences and high cleanliness standards. The good news for travel agents is that 59% indicated that they would use a travel organizer to arrange and customize their next trip instead of doing it themselves. 80% also indicated that they’re willing to go to destinations off season when they’re less crowded and 69% expressed interest in going to lesser known destinations or second cities instead of a country’s more famous ones. As Dino Michael, Senior Vice President and Global Category Head of Hilton Luxury Brands explains, “Privacy, exclusivity and wellness have been pushed to the forefront as consumers look for more intimate, impactful and purposeful travel. Luxury travel continues to blur the lines between the desire for privacy and experiential opportunities.”
With offices closed and employees working from home, the digital nomad phenomenon is also expected to continue, particularly since hotels and resorts have increasingly added workstations and extended stay offers. 54% of respondents said that living and working while traveling the globe is a much more appealing option than it was pre-pandemic. But it varies by region. American Express cardmembers in the U.K., Mexico and Canada were twice as likely to book an extended stay than cardmembers in the U.S., India, Australia and Japan.
In compiling their wish lists for far off travel, socially conscious values are also figuring in. Travelers want to have a positive impact on the communities they visit; 59% want to participate in ‘philantourism,’ supporting a destination through tourism and supporting companies that align with values of sustainability and diversity. “At Micato, we back the local community because we are the local community,” explains Anna Pinto, Executive Director of Sales for Micato Safaris which was founded by her parents, who live in Africa, 55 years ago. “Our School Sponsorship Programme, in which Micato travelers and travel advisors sponsor children for boarding school, and the Micato One for One Commitment, through which we send a child to school for every guest on safari, have a lasting impact on both the individuals and local communities they live in.”
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Travelers who do go on safari and on other enticing, exotic travels may not display their images on social media as much as they did before the pandemic, though. Another finding of the global report is that 57% intend to be more careful and selective of what they display. “Travel shaming” is so 2019.