Travel searches spiked last fall when the U.S. reopened its borders to vaccinated travels from select countries. - Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Travel searches spiked last fall when the U.S. reopened its borders to vaccinated travels from select countries.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Expedia Group Media Solutions has released its Q4 2021 Travel Recovery Trend Report.

“The pandemic continued to impact travel around the world through the end of 2021, but in Q4 we saw consistent global search volumes, lengthening search windows, and more international destinations appearing on regional top 10 destination lists,” said Jennifer Andre, global vice president, Media Solutions. “Consumers have learned how to travel under ever-changing circumstances, and we anticipate they will continue to adapt and evolve their behaviors and preferences as the landscape evolves. We are encouraged by the overall year-over-year progress and remain confident in the power of travel and the resilience of the industry and travelers.”

The quarterly report combines Expedia Group first-party data and custom research with industry examples to help travel marketers on their continued journey toward rebuilding and recovery. Key findings from the report follow.

Appetite for Travel Continues to Grow

Despite a bumpy quarter, there is still an appetite for travel compared to 2020. In Q4, global search volume was flat quarter-over-quarter but up more than 70% year-over-year. In Asia-Pacific Countries (APAC), search volumes were up nearly 35% over Q3, driven by additional vaccinated travel lanes and international border reopenings in several countries, including Australia, Singapore, and Fiji.

Week-over-week global searches spiked around major announcements and industry activity, including on Nov. 8 when the U.S. border reopened to vaccinated travelers from 33 countries.

This eagerness for travel is also complemented by a resilience in the traveler mindset, as evidenced by lodging cancellation rates, which remained flat throughout Q4 despite the continued pandemic, according to the report.

Search Windows Lengthen as Borders Reopen

As borders around the world continued to reopen to international travelers in Q4, the global search window lengthened. Forty percent of global searches fell within the 31-plus day search window, a 15% increase over Q3. Regionally, Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) saw the biggest swing toward longer search windows, with the 31-plus day search window increasing 30% over Q3.

In Q4, 60% of global domestic searches fell within the 0- to 21-day search window, a slight decline quarter-over-quarter, as travelers searched for domestic trips further out, especially around the holiday season. North America (NORAM), EMEA, and APAC all saw an increase in the 31-plus day domestic search window, with all three regions up more than 10% quarter-over-quarter.

Sustained Demand for Long-Haul Destinations

A trend we first saw in Q2 – travelers looking and booking destinations further afield – continued in Q4. Latin America (LATAM) led the trend, with five of the top 10 booked destinations for travelers living there located in other parts of the world. Additionally, non-APAC destinations – Dubai and Honolulu – made up two of the four new entrants to the APAC’s top 10, with Sydney and Singapore also joining the list.

In contrast, North American travelers continued to book closer to home, with Cancun being the only destination outside the region on the top 10 list for NORAM bookers. However, this behavior looks likely to change this year. Expedia’s 2022 Travel Trends Report found that 68% of Americans are planning to go big on their next trip, and many are looking at intercontinental destinations like Rome, Bali, London, and Paris in 2022.

Vacation Rentals Maintain Popularity

In Q4, global lodging bookings – for hotels and vacation rentals combined – were up more than 50% year-over-year. Comparing bookings in Q3 and Q4, there was a shift in share from hotels to vacation rentals, prompted by the holiday travel season and continued popularity among friends and families traveling together. LATAM had a strong quarter for vacation rental bookings; they were up more than 100% quarter-over-quarter.

The average length of stay for vacation rentals increased slightly to 5.4 days, up from the 5.2 days seen throughout Q2 and Q3. In EMEA, the average vacation rental length of stay surpassed the one-week mark, at 7.1 days.

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