AMEX Eyes Global Travel Trends to Watch in 2021

Key trends point to pent-up demand for travel, a readiness to plan and book, and the rise of the digital nomad

American Express (NYSE: AXP) released the American Express Travel: Global Travel Trends Report this week to offer some unique insight into consumer sentiment toward travel, especially at the one-year mark for international COVID-19 lock-downs. The findings in the report, grounded in survey research across seven countries, including the United States, Australia, India, Canada, Mexico, Japan and the United Kingdom, demonstrate that consumers are itching to get out and traveling again.

Top insights of the report noted:

• Strong Pent-Up Demand for Travel: 87 percent of people surveyed said that having a trip planned in the future gives them something to look forward to, 76 percent of respondents are creating their destination wish list for future travel even though they might not be able to travel yet and 63 percent of respondents said that they are saving their credit card points so they can go on a vacation once they feel comfortable traveling.

• Ready to Book Now: 56 percent of respondents said that they miss traveling so much that they are willing to book a trip now even if they might have to cancel it in the future.

• Rise of The Digital Nomad: 54 percent of respondents said that the freedom and flexibility of being able to live and work while traveling the globe is more appealing now than it was prior to the pandemic.

• Safety is a Priority: 65 percent of respondents said they plan to travel after they and their family members have received a vaccine for COVID-19.

• Privacy is the New Ultimate Luxury: 75 percent of respondents agree that the experiences that offer ultimate privacy is becoming a key sought-after feature of luxury travel.

• Increase in Sustainable Travel: 68 percent of respondents agree they are trying to be more aware of sustainability-friendly travel brands to support.

“The pandemic environment is giving rise to emerging trends, such as the increasing appeal of working from anywhere while traveling globally, luxury being defined as more personalized experiences, cleanliness and privacy as the ultimate luxury amenities, as well as a growing interest in the environmental and social purpose of their trips and travel companies,” said Audrey Hendley, President of American Express Travel.

On the Road Again
People are finding hope and comfort in thinking about and even planning future trips.

• Travel to Uplift Health & Wellness: 78 percent of respondents indicate wanting to travel in 2021 to relieve the stresses from 2020.
• Planning and Paying for Future Travel: One in three say they will more frequently use travel credits or points to pay for all or part of a trip in 2021 than they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Making Up for Missed Travel: 61 percent of survey respondents plan to spend more than they normally would on a trip in 2021 since they could not travel in 2020.
• Consumers Willing to Make Sacrifices to Travel: 64 percent of respondents miss traveling so much that they would be willing to give up social media for a month to be able to go on vacation.
• Culinary Tourism is Here to Stay: 62 percent of respondents say that eating is the top activity they are interested in doing while traveling, and American Express Travel booking data for January 2021 shows foodie centric cities as top destinations for U.S. and International Card Members. Miami, San Francisco, Chicago and Houston are hot spots for U.S. American Express Card Members, whereas Mexico City, Singapore and Tokyo are topping the list for International American Express Card Members.

New Mindset in Travel
With regular changes to booking policies, travel offers, and new destinations to consider, there is a new travel mindset today.

• Luxury Travel: The pandemic has changed peoples’ perception of luxury travel with personalized experiences (82 percent), high cleanliness standards (81percent) and privacy (79 percent) being the most desirable luxury amenities among respondents. 59 percent indicate that they want to use a travel agent to help plan and customize their next trip and 80 percent indicate they are willing to travel to destinations during the offseason so that it’s less crowded.
• “Second-City” Surge: 69 percent of respondents are interested in visiting lesser-known destinations and American Express Travel booking data reinforces this trend, showing a rise in reservations for second-city destinations. For example, Dallas and Charlotte saw a higher share of bookings from International Card Members in January 2021 than the previous year and American Express Travel consultants are seeing requests for smaller cities like Porto (instead of Lisbon) in Portugal, and Wellington (instead of Auckland) in New Zealand.

Traveling With Purpose
Consumers are becoming more conscious travelers, are more aware of travel companies aligned with their values and will journey to destinations where they can have a positive impact on communities.

• Backing Local Communities: 72 percent of respondents agree that they are passionate about traveling to destinations to help boost tourism revenue and the local economy.
• Supporting Travel Brands that Prioritize Diversity & Inclusion: 69 percent of respondents agree that they want to choose an airline/hotel that values diversity and inclusion, and whose employees reflect a diverse customer base.
• Carbon Conscious Travelers: 60 percent of respondents agree they want to book airlines that have a carbon neutral commitment.

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