Expedia Group Media Solutions recently released the Q4 Travel Recovery Trends Report, which details many of the latest insights into the industry’s continued recovery from the pandemic, as identified in first-party proprietary data from Expedia Group. Here, Richard Kocher, who leads Media Solutions’ data analytics and planning team, provides his expert opinion on these latest findings for 2022 and beyond.
Experience is everything
This is the stimulating message delivered by Ewan McGregor in Expedia’s recent high-profile Super Bowl ad. Just got back from a family ski trip to France, making memories with my kids in the mountains under blue skies, I totally agree. We’ve accumulated a lot over the past two years, but like many, we were missing that key element to creating memorable experiences: the ability to travel freely, when and where we want.
The conclusions of our Q4 2021 Travel Recovery Trends Report indicate a resilience of international travelers who have continued to travel, especially during the holiday season, despite the challenges posed by the Omicron variant. The start of the first quarter also saw strong search volume momentum for domestic and international travel. For example: global searches for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) destinations for January 2022 are up nearly 60% from December and over 170% year-over-year. Destinations in North America (NORAM), Latin America (LATAM) and Asia-Pacific (APAC) also had strong Januarys: up year-over-year by around 50 %, 80% and more than 30%, respectively.
In combination, Q4’s resilience and Q1’s momentum and optimism for the year ahead both suggest that I’m not the only one who agrees with the “experiences come first” message, and much of the world is ready for the memorable adventures that only travel can provide.
Adapted and committed to travel
While restrictions have limited travelers over the past two years, our data has shown that many have learned to live with COVID and have continued to create experiences. The restrictions have only encouraged committed travelers to adapt: through domestic travel, seeking rural escapes or swap hotels for vacation rentals. They were also inspired and drawn to destinations open during the pandemic that they might not have thought of before, foregoing places they wanted to visit but were closed to tourism.
The fourth quarter was in many ways the epitome of that resilience. Despite Omicron’s challenge, overall search volume was flat quarter-over-quarter from the third quarter and grew 70% year-over-year. In our Traveler Value Index Researchwe also heard that 81% are planning a leisure trip in the next six months, and 1 in 5 are planning to take three or more trips.
In our Q3 report, we’ve seen how advanced holiday bookings are growing, with triple-digit year-over-year bookings for Thanksgiving and the Christmas period. Despite Omicron’s challenges, resilient travelers made their vacation plans ahead of time and remained committed to travel. For example, cancellations from Expedia Group remained stable in the fourth quarter, and according to STR, Christmas Day occupancy in the United States was the highest on record at 47.4%. We also found that our travelers responded well to the events of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Travel Tuesday, resulting in a 10% week-over-week increase in US domestic searches.
In fact, the Traveler Value Index revealed that more than 50% of cruise passengers said that the opening of borders and government initiatives have a strong impact on their likelihood of travelling, illustrating how restrictions and changes affect travelers’ decision-making. Like with previous reports, we have seen our travelers react immediately to border reopenings and news of reopenings. The reopening of US borders to 33 countries around the world led to an increase in inbound and outbound travel and represented what could be considered a milestone in the travel industry‘s recovery from COVID-19 after nearly 20 months. closed to the world.
Looking specifically at the search volume of German travelers to the US, we saw a 300% increase from October to December, and the US jumped from 43rd most searched destination at 13and during the fourth trimester. Cruise travel too, which has been up and down over the past two years, was up 55% week-over-week the week of Nov. 22. an impressive increase of 500% compared to 2020.
the The APAC region has finally seen some good news, too. Overall search volumes increased nearly 35% from the third quarter, thanks to additional green lanes and the reopening of international borders in various countries, including Australia, Singapore and Fiji. Australia’s reopening, which was announced in early October, proved significant for the region as a whole and led to a 25% week-over-week increase in international searches for APAC.
Considering long-haul travel in 2022
The reopening of the United States has inevitably led to growing confidence in Americans to travel further. Our Traveler Value Index found that 68% of Americans plan to take a big trip on their next trip, and many are considering intercontinental destinations like Rome, Bali, London and Paris in 2022.
This sentiment was reflected in the lengthening of search windows detected in the fourth quarter. This is a data point we’ve looked at throughout the pandemic to understand traveler confidence. We’ve seen travelers transition to building their shorter-term plans, typically within the 0-21 day research window, as they react to ever-changing pandemic conditions.
However, in Q4, we saw the share of searches within this short-term window decline, while searches longer than 31 days increased from 15% to 40% of total searches. This indicates, following a trend we initially saw in the second quarter of 2021, that travelers felt more confident about traveling abroad and, with the easing of international restrictions, began to dream or plan. more distant trips – often to long-haul destinations or on the list of destinations.
Holiday rentals: places of conviviality
The growing popularity of vacation rental properties has been a bright spot for the industry and EG’s Vrbo brand over the past two years, as travelers seek out spacious, often non-urban properties for their families. Looking across the Vrbo platform’s global network of sites – based in Canada, the US, France, Germany, the UK, Australia and New Zealand – many months in 2021 have not only saw triple-digit growth over 2020, but also growth over pre-pandemic times in 2019.
During the fourth quarter, domestic travel continued to dominate the vacation rental space, with most major destinations mirroring their respective regions. Destinations in Australia, France and Brazil largely made up the list of top 10 destinations booked by Vrbo in APAC, EMEA and LATAM, respectively.
While domestic demand was dominant, we saw strong international demand in the quarter, with the Canadian market seeing non-domestic bookings jump over 600% year-over-year in October and November. The US market also saw strong year-over-year growth during these months: 120% and nearly 150%, respectively.
To travel is to live
Looking at our Q1 report, we realized the importance that travelers place on cleanliness and hygiene. This was reflected in reviews from Expedia Group customers, who saw a surge in the percentage of mentions related to cleanliness. While we’re not at the peak times of the pandemic – an average of 40% of reviews had a mention at the end of 2020 – we are still seeing a prevalence of mentions compared to 2019. In the fourth quarter of the year last we saw an average of 25% reviews, compared to an average of 12% in Q4 2019.
It’s obvious that traveler expectations have changed over the past two years and, as mentioned, we are adapting to new ways of travelling. However, heading into 2022, and looking ahead to a stable fourth quarter of 2021, our data points to optimism and resilience among engaged travelers who are more than ready to start seeing the world again and creating memorable experiences. Building on this momentum, the year ahead and the future of the travel industry has the potential to rebuild better than ever.
To learn more about the trends discussed here, download the Q4 2021 Travel Recovery Trends Report. This detailed report is based on over 300 petabytes of first-party data from Expedia Group as well as the latest custom research.
About Expedia Group Media Solutions
Expedia Group™ Media Solutions, the advertising organization of Expedia Group, offers industry expertise and digital marketing solutions that enable brands to reach, engage and influence its qualified audience of travelers around the world . Through its extensive network of leading travel brands and global outlets, Expedia Group Media Solutions provides marketing partners with exclusive, data-driven insights into traveler behaviors at every stage of the purchase journey, as well as solutions dynamic advertising, to offer strategic and measurable campaigns. results. For more information, visit www.advertising.expedia.com.
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