The appetite for travel continued to grow on a global level during the fourth quarter of 2021, according to the Q4 Travel Recovery Trend Report recently released by Expedia Group Media Soluntions.
On a global level, the last quarter of 2021 had its ups and downs, but evidence continued to build that travel shoppers are ready to see the world again. As Peter Kern, CEO of Expedia Group, said, “the travel industry and traveling public prove more resilient with each passing [coronavirus] wave.”
Compared to Q3, overall global search volume in Q4 remained relatively flat. But when compared to the same period in 2020, global search volume was up 70 percent, while Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) saw triple-digit growth year-over-year. This is a strong signal that travel shoppers feel decidedly more confident about making plans during this stage of the pandemic.
Other key findings of the report include:
Travelers searching farther out
The news that borders would reopen had a clear impact on search behavior, as did the upcoming winter holiday season. Expedia’s Q3 report saw search windows shorten in most regions.
But Q4 saw a shift back toward long-term travel planning with more travel shoppers looking for travel dates further out.
Better news for Asia Pacific
Given that in previous quarters the recovery in Asia Pacific (APAC) hasn’t always kept pace with that of the rest of the world, it’s encouraging to see that the market took significant strides at the end of 2021.
In fact, APAC saw the most impressive quarter-on-quarter growth rate of any super region in Q4, with search volumes from APAC travelers up 35 percent. This was no doubt driven by the opening of safe travel lanes and the lifting in November of international travel restrictions for Australia.
International travel increasingly popular
As borders reopen, there is an increased demand for international travel. In the Q3 report, Expedia saw lots of movement in the top 10 destinations booked between quarters, and this trend continued into Q4, both globally and within each region of the world.
At a global level, New York was again a top 10 destination for travelers from all four regions.
Looking at each region’s top 10 booked destinations, there is a growing number of bookings made further away from home, indicating increased demand for international travel. Each region’s top 10 list includes cities located outside the region, but the regions with the biggest appetite to travel further were LATAM and APAC, which both included top destinations in two other regions.
Vacation rentals maintain popularity
In the fourth quarter, global lodging demand—including both hotels and vacation rentals—increased over 50 percent year-on-year.
Looking at the global quarter-on-quarter data, Expedia saw a notable shift in the share of bookings from hotels to vacation rentals – no doubt in part driven by family stays over the holiday travel season.
Meanwhile, booking activity for vacation rentals occurred earlier than usual. Specifically, booking activity on Vrbo in 2021 occurred on average 2-3 months earlier than usual for several major travel seasons, including summer and the holidays.
This behavior is expected to continue this year, as 60 percent of respondents in a recent Vrbo survey said they plan to book trips earlier than in previous years.