Sponsored by: Expedia Group
By Ariane Gorin
While industry recovery gains traction in many parts of the world, it’s important to reflect on the changes that will define traveler mindsets and shape decision-making in this new reality. Predictable and expected behaviors—from shopping and education to work and travel—were altered by the pandemic.
For the industry, it is critical to meet evolving traveler expectations to capitalize on pent-up demand in the wake of the pandemic. We created the Traveler Value Index to better understand how COVID-19 continues to influence traveler decisions and find out what people are seeking when booking travel. The research uncovered some novel and surprising findings, signaling industry transformation is on the horizon.
Improved Outlook for 2021 and Beyond
Despite a period of uncertainty, the Traveler Value Index shows that people are making travel a financial priority. More than a third (34 percent) of travelers have larger travel budgets now compared to 2020. In fact, nearly one in five respondents globally (18 percent) expect travel to be the activity they spend most on in 2021, on par with major spending items such as home renovation (18 percent) and ahead of entertainment (12 percent), buying or taking care of a car (11 percent), or healthcare (11 percent).
Decisions Reflect Personal Values
The Traveler Value Index reveals that travelers continue to make value-based decisions that reflect their own personal views when booking travel. Travelers want to support sustainable practices, with nearly three in five (59 percent) willing to pay higher fees to make their trip more sustainable. Additionally, a majority (65 percent) are more likely to book with travel providers that have inclusive policies. This includes properties that are owned by women and/or people of color, are welcoming to the LGBTQIA+ community, and those that are supportive of people with disabilities.
Financial Security and Safety Are Top Priorities
Financial security and safety rank as the highest priorities for travelers across all experiences, a shift from the conventional wisdom that price drives consumer behavior. More than one in four travelers most value the ability to get a refund, particularly for airline (26 percent) and vacation rental (26 percent) experiences, followed by enhanced cleaning and disinfection. The results highlight a need for travel providers to clearly communicate cancellation policies and cleanliness measures to help ease any anxieties and build confidence.
The Traveler Value Index also shows differences in values by age group, indicating that younger groups are less focused on price and refunds. For hotels and vacation rentals, the ability to get a full refund increases in value with age. However, travelers under the age of 40 in the United States and Japan rank enhanced cleaning the most important factor in hotel bookings, while also seeing more value in contactless experiences and premium benefits.
A Brighter Future
After a period when nothing seemed steady or reliable, familiar patterns are re-emerging in the global travel ecosystem. The arrival of vaccines is restoring freedom of movement and renewing the desire for connection. However, more travelers are seeking experiences that match their own values: trust, connection, and inclusion. And, ultimately, travelers want experiences that prioritize their safety and security.
At Expedia Group we believe travel is a force for good. This was true before the global shut down of travel in 2020 and remains even more true today. Our hope is to use the lessons learned during this time of adversity to generate opportunity for the whole global travel ecosystem.
 Expedia Group’s Traveler Value Index research was conducted by Wakefield Research between April 16 and May 7, 2021. Respondents included 8,000 nationally representative adults ages 18+ from eight countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Ariane Gorin is the president of Expedia for Business at Expedia Group.