The start of this year saw scheduled flights go down by 43.5 per cent compared to January 2020, according to Statista. And while long-term recovery to pre-pandemic levels could take several years, travel data shows more people are booking flights as we move further into 2021. After months of postponing international travel arrangements, cancelling plans and staying at home, there’s an almost universal hunger for wide-open spaces and new destinations. Meanwhile, the number of people willing to leave their home countries is set to peak by mid-year when more widespread vaccination plans have been rolled out throughout spring in many nations.

Yet, even if everything goes to plan, there will no doubt be a considerable change to the way we approach travel as a result of COVID-19. As well as the new practical realities that we face in regards to government regulations and safety protocols, people will be much more conscious about their travel plans and far more likely to appreciate travelling as a special opportunity — not just something we take for granted.

So, as the world enters a new phase for travel and more borders gradually become open to tourists, we explore what the future of the industry looks like with the help of five data-backed predictions from the holiday booking platform MakeMyTrip, based on 9 months of recent search and booking data.

Revenge Travel Plans

Revenge is a dish best served cold and after having been left out in the cold for almost one full year, expect travellers to hit the skies with a vengeance. Travel is at the top of people’s minds and many hope to make up for what they missed out on during 2020.

Searches on MakeMyTrip related to travel destinations and activities confirm that while travel may have slowed down, travel planning has not. High search volumes for future travel dates stretch as far as autumn next year.

It’s likely that many people’s fingers are on the trigger and are still willing to spend time and effort planning their future excursions in 2021, as soon as they’re able to make their travel dreams a reality once again.

  1. The Rise of Slow, Immersive Travel

One thing that last year forced us to do was slow things down and appreciate the smaller things. Whether it’s a remote work-ation, staycation or a weekend getaway, travellers are gravitating towards a fuller and richer immersive travel experiences that allow them to connect, explore and unwind, rather than hurriedly rushing between several locations.

With people having suffered their fair share of stress and anxiety in recent months, a more languid pace will likely be chosen by many travellers, looking to take the stress out of their holidays.

  1. More Takers for Premium Stays & Non-Hotels

Safety and hygiene have emerged as must-have factors in luxury travel. A traditional in-stay checklist now includes questions about social distancing measures and the hotel’s policies for ensuring guests are as safe as can be.

As a result of the pandemic, travellers are now searching online for options that allow more control over their stay – leading many to opt for higher category hotels, premium homestays, independent villas and non-hotels that promise all the comforts of a vacation while meeting any additional safety requirements.

  1. Domestic Weekend Getaways

The pandemic seems to have pushed people towards planning more weekend getaways that don’t require travel over such long distances. MakeMyTrip has seen a 70% recovery in the short-haul leisure travel segment.

This poses multiple benefits for people, including the ability to unwind and let loose away from the stresses of daily life and frustrating work-from-home set-ups, without needing to plan extensive journeys to different continents.

Choosing multiple short stays in local or nearby areas also makes travellers less vulnerable to changing international border rules and regulations.

  1. Contactless Travel is Here to Stay

The travel and hospitality industry has made significant efforts to boost confidence among consumers by making services as contactless as possible.

From contactless check-in at airports and hotels to ordering food and beverages using new app technology, contactless offerings are becoming the norm.

More than 2200 hotels on MakeMyTrip currently offer contactless check-ins, and numbers are increasing every week.


Final Words of Advice

2020 was a year like no other and while much has been said about the adversity, positive news around the vaccine rollout has also uplifted spirits, helping all see a glimmer of hope.

Assuming that more borders will open by mid-2021 and more people are vaccinated across the world, airline financial performance is expected to improve in 2021 with overall revenues expected to grow to $459 billion ($131 billion improvement on 2020), according to The International Air Transport Association (IATA).

So while the pandemic has been a shape-shifting event when it comes to consumer travel behaviour, industry data, including the above insights from MakeMyTrip, show us that it has not stopped people’s desire to travel altogether, with the sector expected to carry on in some shape or form, albeit within a very different context.