Four Travel trends to watch in 2021


The busy bees at ForwardKeys have been enriching travel data, adding them to dashboards and sharing the multitude of insights at virtual events, partner forums and to the media. Now that 2020 is fast approaching its end, we wonder whether we must continue to hold our breaths into the New Year or can we finally release a satisfactory sigh of relief. Which trends will stay and which will fade away?

Trend 1: The World of tourism on tenterhooks

The team of analysts at ForwardKeys believe that the world will continue to re-open and shut its national borders as the waves of Corona continue, increase or waiver with the introduction of the vaccine and new travel bubbles.

“These are volatile times and, as such, businesses and travel operators will need to keep adapting to new models which allow them the agility to seize new opportunities as they quickly arise but also disappear. Never has Big Data been more crucial for planning and forecasting,” says Olivier Jager, CEO.

Trend 2: Shorter lead-booking times are the New Normal

The ForwardKeys analysts have observed a continual trend that hasn’t changed as the year has progressed, booking lead times keep on shrinking. From travellers in Canada to the Caribbean, to domestic US travellers for Thanksgiving, – all seem to be open to booking a few days before take-off. Gone are the days of planning your holiday one-year in advance, rather now it’s more a case about who is still flying where, is it safe and in some cases, can I go duty-free shopping crazy there?


“In China, the people have grown accustomed to conditions of the pandemic, the airlines, and the strict travel restrictions in place, so much so that they comfortably book 4 or fewer days before they intend to fly domestically. And we don’t see how this attitude will change even post-crisis”, says Nan Dai, China Market Expert at ForwardKeys.

A recent joint report with Kalibri Labs confirmed that this last-minute trend is also in hotel bookings in the U.S. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, lead-booking times dropped from 2 – 3 and a half weeks in advance down to 5 days. “We noticed this trend with issued tickets over the Thanksgiving holiday period, where a noticeable surge took place days prior to the national holiday”, adds Antoine Vialle, Insights Expert.

Trend 3: The desire to travel exists, despite Covid-19

Positively, through the quicker reactivation of the domestic travel market and inter-regional tourism, the latest data shows that consumers still wish to travel, despite Covid-19, the travel restrictions, and other obstacles in place. So, while long-haul travel is placed on the back-burner domestic travel is not far-off 2019´s levels in Russia, China and now in South Korea.

Trends-to-watch-graphs-2“It’s in our DNA, to explore, to socialise and feel part of a community. Therefore, we are not surprised to see sharp spikes of flight searches and on-the-spot bookings minutes after a government announces a new travel corridor, the lessening of travel restrictions and/or the re-opening of one’s borders”, says Juan Gomez, Insights Expert.

Trend 4: Leisure travellers, the new affluent market

With technology and innovation leaping forward this year in the form of virtual events and conferences via Hoppin, Zoom, Go To Webinar and more, the need for traditional face-to-face meetings and MICE business has dropped. Add to the mix the grounding of international flights and near impossible connections from one part of the world to the other; the restrictions of the number of people gathering in a public space, to get a pretty gloomy picture that is business travel in the year 2020.

“2020 has been a year for transformation, from offline to online. But one thing hasn’t changed, humans need to feel connected and still desire to network. So, if that means for the time being we need to do it virtually, fine. But the minute we can meet in person again, you’ll see how keen everyone is to get back to work again”, says Olivier Ponti, VP of Insights.

As such the data shows the value and importance that the Visiting Friends & Family have on rebuilding the travel and tourism sector, as well as the leisure segment. This was demonstrated over the summer in Southern Europe: Portugal, Spain and Greece (read more via our blog) to now with the recent double-digit growth in issued tickets to Mexico from the USA.

Trends-to-watch-graphs-3All is not at loss in the travel industry as the desire to explore, travel and exchange with others still thrive – despite all the challenges that have been thrown at us this year. Do you feel ready and prepared for business in the New Normal?

Contact us and see how we can enrich your business in 2021.


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