Explore! Eat! Engage! and Other Plans for 2021 Travel

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has crippled travel for ten long months and counting, many Americans are feeling hopeful about the trips they will be able to take in 2021. As part of our industry update webinar on December 8th, Dave Bratton, Destination Analysts’ Founder & Managing Director, interviewed four travelers to shed light on what they are looking for in destinations, the travel messaging that most appeals to them and how they feel about travel in the new year.

Read on for a summary of what they shared and watch the full panel discussion here:



We have not lost our taste for travel. The travelers we interviewed exhibited excitement and optimism about going on trips in 2021. Motivated by fond memories of past vacations, they already have budgets set aside for their next adventure. While some do not have an exact answer on when or where that next trip will take them, these travelers feel confident in their ability to manage the new reality of safety protocols and actually feel comfortable with the change. Lisa from Loganville, GA explains that educating herself and staying on top of science news help her make informed and safe decisions when planning a trip, while she still “tries to remain adventurous.” These travelers even expressed a willingness to book now for trips in the latter part of 2021—this is how enthusiastic they are for travel to return to normal again.

Travelers want to be wooed. Gently. Travelers are open to hearing about new destinations and receiving inspiration for future trips. While there is no simple answer to the question on how destinations should court potential visitors, advertising that acknowledges the anxiety-ridden situation people are in resonates. This panel of travelers agreed that messages such as, “We know what you are going through! When you are ready, we are here!” or “Please come see us, maybe not right now, but when you are ready. We are waiting for you!” best demonstrate that destinations are not strictly about profit but are considerate and are simply “offering an experience once people are ready.” And what is the best visual way to deliver advertising messaging to travelers? Lisa suggests, “We try to escape. Put up splashy ad campaigns with lots of pretty pictures. Mountains, beaches, etc. Things that catch our attention.” Akiko from Los Angeles, CA suggests to smartly package marketing campaigns with, “Check out deals now and book a package for 2021 or 2022. The deals are great!”

New experiences are high on the priority list. Describing himself as a traveler, Sam, who lives in Dun Loring, VA, does not hesitate, “Explore! Eat! Engage!” He continues, “I like to meet new people, talk to people, and learn about new cultures and experiences.” Akiko’s feelings are similar, “I’m a gourmet food, fun and excitement hunter when it comes to travel.” Underdog destinations, perhaps previously overlooked, are now enjoying new popularity with people like Charles of Minneapolis, MN, who wants the chance to disconnect completely, as they promise low crowds and off-the-grid experiences. As Charles elaborates, such destinations “have a bigger platform than before and it is a good time for them. That would definitely catch my attention and [if I saw an advertisement] I would definitely do some research.”

Rule following is critical to the ability to travel until a vaccine is available. These travelers expressed that the majority of Americans now recognize the necessity to comply with safety protocols in order for travel experiences to be available to them. And as a vaccine becomes an option, Lisa believes it will further erase fear and open many doors. “In general, I am very positive about 2021. I think travel-wise there will be an upswing and I am looking forward to it.” When it comes down to it, American travelers have been stuck at home but are ready to spend money on their next adventure.

We would like to thank Akiko, Sam, Lisa and Charles for sharing their views and the candid conversation.

As they expressed palpable excitement and enthusiasm for leisure travel, the outlook for 2021 is clearly positive. Both travelers and destinations alike should have much to look forward to in the upcoming year.