In a session at the SKIFT Global Forum last month in New York City, Wendy Olson Killion, global senior vice president and general manager, Expedia Group Media Solutions, the travel advertising platform of Expedia Group, identified several trends travel and hospitality organizations are seeing from a more confident traveler as the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly begins to wind down. Here’s a recap of the key points that Killion covered.

Travel is Coming Back … But Be Ready for More Fluctuations.

Global demand for travel is rising as vaccine rollouts continue globally. Killion reported a 70 percent increase in searches this year in Q2 vs. Q1 on Expedia Group sites. There was fluctuation week to week in search activity, however, Q2 saw 10 weeks of positive week-over-week search activity.

As for where people are going, despite what you may have heard or is being reported by the mainstream media, cities are seeing a resurgence in tourism. Killion cited Seoul, Copenhagen, and New York as three cities that have seen elevated search activity.

“Domestic searches are incredibly important, but we’re also seeing international searches come back,” said Killion. “For example, Latin America [travelers] are staying closer to home, but they’re also traveling internationally.”

Booking Windows Changed During the Pandemic

Travelers are planning their trips further out, but search windows remain shorter than pre-COVID, Killion noted. Fifty-five percent of domestic trips were searched and booked within 0-21 days, said Killion. However, for international travel, Expedia saw an increase in the search and booking windows. Killion reported that Expedia saw a 30 percent increase in 21- to 60-day searches and bookings for domestic travel in Q2. Furthermore, the 31- to 90-day search and booking activity for international travel saw a significant boost as well.

“We’re starting to see those people dreaming, thinking about their trip, researching, being inspired,” Killion said. “They’re hovering on the ‘Book” button. They want to be excited, they want to be dreaming about it. You have to have your brand and destination present because this is the time people are dreaming and planning out their larger international trips.”

People Are Finding New Meaning Through Travel

In a post-pandemic world, it may not be as much about where you’re going, but who you’re going to see and be with, surmised Killion. With this in mind, Killion presented the following points:

  • Inclusion and diversity matters to travelers: Nearly two-thirds of travelers are likely to book a trip due to accommodations having focus on diversity and/or inclusion. In the last 18 months, people have gotten a better understanding of who and what they are and what they need. That matters when they choose the brands they choose to travel and stay with, advised Killion.
  • Renewed interest in sustainable travel: Nearly 60 percent of travelers are willing to spend more to make their trip more sustainable, according to Expedia Group Media research. This sentiment is particularly prevalent among younger generations, including Gen Z and millennial travelers.

“Great news for this industry: travel is coming back,” Killion declared. “The volume and searches are coming back, but we’re still going to see fluctuations. Understand who you are competing with, understand who you’re attracting, because everything has changed in the last 18 months.”