9 travel trends to guide DMOs into 2022

David Archer

12 November 2021

More people are taking grand, long-delayed vacations and aren’t apologetic either.

Even the most seasoned industry expert might feel a little lost as the travel landscape continues to evolve unexpectedly. It’s a complex world. Some places are seeing a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases, while others are seeing visitors return in droves. Many tourism destinations are in some form of recovery.

To help you lead your DMO through the haze, we’ve gathered a list of travel trends to watch. These insights come from our international staff who guide clients through the destination marketing cycle, including creative direction, strategy, brand, destination management, and marketing execution. 

Here are nine travel trends that are especially relevant to travel in North America.

1. Booking vacations at the last minute 

A looser approach to booking has become a common practice. Travellers might intend to visit but will wait until the last minute to book flights or hotels just in case something doesn’t feel right. This trend is tied to the ever-changing travel restrictions, regulations and cancellations that are the norm right now. In response, some travel operators are offering flexible bookings and promises of refunds for cancelled trips.

Campbell River's customer journey

Six phases of the customer journey. The intent (planning) phase is lengthening, while the purchase (booking) phase is shrinking.

2. Booking two trips simultaneously, aka “trip stacking” 

“Trip stacking” is a booking trend reported in a recent NY Times article. It references wealthy travellers who book two trips at the same time in case one falls through. Like the first trend, this behaviour is a direct result of uncertainty over travel plans.

3. Planning longer, bigger trips for 2022

Some booking sites are seeing an increase in bookings for late 2022 to long-haul destinations. As reported in The Guardian, many people are looking to do something memorable after not travelling for two years.

4. A decline in pandemic travel shaming

Shaming people for travelling during a pandemic seems to be coming to an end. More and more people are booking and taking the grand vacations they couldn’t go on before, and they aren’t apologetic either. We can imagine this is a result of confidence in vaccines. Flight shaming related to the climate crisis hasn’t gone away, though.

5. Fear of the Delta variant

Vaccine uptake aside, the Delta variant of COVID-19 has caused a renewed surge in cases across the globe. The highly transmissible nature of the variant is causing many people to think twice about their travel plans. However, many airlines are actively encouraging bookings with promises of flexible fares and free cancellation. 

6. Hesitancy toward family trips

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged five and over differs across destinations. As many kids remain unvaccinated, their families avoid getting out of their comfort zones for fear of the risk to their children.  

7. Vaccination or negative test requirements

More and more cities and businesses are requiring proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests to enter. Many welcome these regulations, while others protest them. 

8. Mask mandates continue

Mandates vary widely across cities, provinces, states, and countries, and change frequently. Visitors need to know the rules before they go, including the specific requirements for public gatherings and transportation. 

Issues around mask etiquette persist and often it is tourism operators and front-line staff who bear the brunt of frustrated customers. In response, Travel Oregon has been educating tourism stakeholders through webinars such as “Customer Service during COVID-19: De-escalation Strategies for Frontline Staff”. 

9. Visitor experiences vs. expectations

We are seeing that travellers in other destinations are slowly getting used to challenges with the visitor experience, but hope things get back to normal soon. With uncertainty over new variants, many business owners aren’t sure how to go forward with hiring, especially if more lockdowns come with less government support. 

Our team continues to watch for and report on trends to help guide destination marketers and the travel industry. To keep reading about COVID-era trends and visitor behaviour, check out these recommended articles:

Which trends are shaping travel behaviour in your destination? Add your insights to the comment section below. 

This article includes contributions by Destination Think team members Sara Raymond, Associate Creative Director and Katie Shriner, Marketing Manager.

Destination Think’s Trendspot articles provide insight into trends affecting destination marketers, managers and tourism leaders internationally. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive these posts straight into your inbox, along with stories of innovation from DMOs and the tourism industry. 

Feature image credit: Photo by Esther Tuttle on Unsplash

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