2020 was the year nobody could predict. As the world ground to a halt, because of the Coronavirus humanity was given the rare opportunity for communal reflection.

As we found ourselves hunkering down at home for much of the past year we’ve been forced to reassess our lives – the things and people we value, where we spend our money, why we do what we do, and, perhaps most poignant of all: how this could possibly be forever changed.

For those of who work in travel and tourism and value gaining new experiences in far-flung corners of the world, this has been a particularly painful time of reflection.

So what will travel look like in 2021 and going forward? Nobody really knows, but we take a look at a few 2021 travel trends.

Purpose-Driven Travel

Whether purchasing a product or picking a next travel destination, the question more and more consumers tend to ask is ‘how will this add meaning to my life’, but also ‘how will buying this product/choosing this destination add value/meaning to the lives of those who made it/live there.’

While we’ve seen this trend develop over the past few years, it’s really coming into its own now as wise-beyond-their-years, earth-conscious and socially woke GenZ-ers come of age.

Furthermore, rapid implementation of travel restrictions and border closures in response to the Coronavirus pandemic has shown older generations of travellers that the world may no longer be their oyster. We are painfully aware of our impact on the world and how connected and depended we all are on each other. And, when planning our next break – whether local or abroad – it best be ‘the trip of a lifetime’… just in case.

It is for this reason that we will see a lot more thought going into the planning of holidays and trips, a greater consciousness and purpose-driven approach to travel.

Domestic Travel Reigns Supreme

Although South Africa’s borders are wide open once again, local travellers seem to be leaning toward domestic adventures instead.

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on most pockets and general uncertainty over the health and safety of air travel and possibly falling ill while abroad is making people wary of embarking on international travel.

The fact remains that the South African tourism industry cannot survive off domestic travel alone, but it is most likely that those in the higher LSMs will use the opportunity to spend more on luxury local travel, which would normally be the stomping ground of international travellers.

Looking at 2021 travel trends the good old-fashioned road trip and more mini-breaks closer to home over weekends will gain popularity, which will result in a much-needed boost in local tourism for rural areas and small towns.

A Rise In Spontaneous Getaways

One of the somewhat more surprising effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on some travellers is a tendency towards impulsivity.

Where booking and planning holidays well in advance is standard practice for most travellers, a general feeling of not really knowing what nasty surprises a month from now could hold – let alone a year – has led to a much more compressed booking and planning period.

In their ‘New World of Travel’ Report, Skyscanner noted that following hard lockdown in most European countries as well as the US, there was a marked rise in searches to book travel departing within a week or a month.

This in turn is forcing the industry to adapt to become more flexible and customer-centric, adjusting booking and cancellations terms and conditions. We can expect to see the same trend – especially among younger travellers – in South Africa over the coming summer months.

Intergenerational Travel Shines

Not being able to spend time with loved ones during the Coronavirus pandemic has led to many travellers choosing to kill two birds with one stone by inviting grandparents, siblings and close friends to join them on intimate vacations.

With that being said looking at 2021 travel trends the hospitality industry would be wise to factor this into their planning, ensuring that they are truly family friendly and can offer families the kind of experiences we all crave after one of the most difficult years in recent memory.

Steering Clear Of Crowds

As the threat of a second wave of coronavirus infections hangs over South Africa, crowd control remains firmly in place at major attractions.

Apart from this, people will also tend to steer clear of indoor spaces that could quickly become crowded and opt instead for outdoor areas where social distancing can easily be maintained.

Looking at 2021 travel trends rural regions and small towns should respond with well-curated and enticing travel packages that speak to the needs of travellers, eager to explore and getaway, but not willing to risk their safety.

Taking The Office On The Road

Where working remotely was once something only digital nomads could do, 2020 has levelled the playing field.

As more people find themselves working from home, those who were formerly office-bound may find themselves opting for more mid-week breaks, laptops in tow.

Wellness Is The New wealth

Finally, the pandemic and subsequent lock-down have taken its toll on our mental health and as travelling resumes post-lockdown, health and wellbeing-focused trips and retreats are poised to be in high demand.

These include new and unusual wellness trips like Wellness Mumcations (reconnecting with self without kids and partners), Painmoons (trips to get over loss or heartache), Fertility trips and Divorce retreats.

Remote destinations and places with a lower COVID-19 risk will be popular, whether it’s for a healthy break to de-stress or an active holiday to boost physical wellbeing in the scenic beauty of South Africa’s countryside.