Holidays in 2020 have been a write-off (unless you were part of the majority who flocked en-masse to the closest patch of British seaside this summer).
However, with the first rollouts of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine starting to take place, travel experts say now is the ideal time to book your 2021 vacation.
“You should definitely book as early as possible,” James Bell, MD of Turquoise Holidays says.
“With so many people delaying their holidays from 2020, 2021 is looking busier than ever especially for remote destinations and small boutique stays so book now to avoid disappointment. With the right insurance policy and a booking with a reputable travel company you should be covered for all eventualities.”
Simon Lynch, sales director at Scott Dunn, adds there has been real “pent up” demand for travel. “We have been advising our clients to book early, particularly those seeking bucket list destination experiences with capacity constraints – such as limited permits for gorilla trekking in Uganda, Machu Picchu restriction on numbers, and national parks in North America.”
Travel booking sites are seeing an increase in searches following news of the vaccine, too. According to Kayak, 67% of Brits are looking to travel internationally next year with 40% stating they intend to book travel within the next six months. TripAdvisor reports a rise in international interest too, with research from November showing 76% of Brits are looking to travel overseas in 2021.
Skyscanner says July is the most searched-for month in 2021 so far with South Africa, Portugal, Spain, New York City and Dubai among the most searched-for destinations.
“The news of the vaccine was such a huge shot in the arm, all puns intended, after such a catastrophic year for the travel industry,” Mr & Mrs Smith, CEO and co-founder Tamara Lohan says. “It’s going to rebuild confidence, hopefully usher in a lot more normality and allow people to plan that desperately needed break. With these positive developments, we've seen a real change in our consumers’ behaviour and bookings are starting to build across 2021.
“Planning your trips early will always give you more choice whether that's dates, price or securing specific rooms. People want to make up for what they have missed and we're predicting a huge surge in European spring and summer bookings.”
While booking early may be the best bet, Ryan Pearson, regional manager at Booking.com says travellers should always book with flexible policies in mind.
Pearson adds, “There are still travel restrictions to consider in many destinations so travellers should consult current government guidance before they travel.
“We know that flexible policies give travellers comfort when making bookings as governments continue to update their guidelines and restrictions. As the situation evolves, we do recommend that travellers look to book refundable/flexible room options so they can cancel or reschedule if required.”
To get the best deal, Martin Nolan, Skyscanner’s consumer rights travel expert advises being flexible with the dates you travel in 2021.
Nolan continues: “There are some seriously attractive prices on offer for next year, as providers continue to use them coupled with flexible booking policies to ensure that travellers can book with confidence. The introduction of flexible bookings, and one-off deals on things like extra baggage mean that you could book your summer holiday or dream trip at a fraction of the cost.”
The international destinations expected to be trending in 2021
It seems like we’ll be making the most of not being able to travel this year by ticking off far-flung locales in 2021 - Booking.com says that 21% of people intend to travel to the other side of the world by the end of next year, while those planning a holiday will favour beach, nature and city breaks. One in five of the 1,000 travellers surveyed by Skyscanner say they are planning a ‘splurge’ trip in the new year after saving money in 2020.
Turquoise Holidays has seen a “huge surge” in demand for single-trip destinations. Bell adds: “Islands and beaches, where you can fly direct such as the Maldives and the Caribbean, are selling like hot cakes as people just want to relax and spend time with their loved ones.”
Scott Dunn is seeing an influx of interest to places like Sri Lanka, South Africa and Kenya. “In the Indian Ocean, the Maldives and Seychelles continue to prove popular for early 2021 winter sun, alongside Antigua and St Lucia in the Caribbean,” Lynch continues. “The US has resurged in popularity due in part to changes in the White House – our guests are asking about road trips and going off-grid to destinations such as Utah, which offer open spaces and ranches.”
Lohan says Mr & Mrs Smith users are keen to reconnect with old favourites: “Those enduring European classics – Provence, Tuscany, the Balearics, the Amalfi coast, the Greek isles and the like – will be as popular as ever given their relative accessibility, but I think within that we’ll see a few shifts.
“The traditional ‘season’ will be a little looser than usual, we’ll likely see a rise in two-stop (or more) trips as people look to make the most of their freedom, and less typical stops like Paros, Milos, Formentera and Salina will appeal to those still craving a bit of solitude.”
Watch: Why Britons will get an extra bank holiday in 2022
Staycations will continue to be popular next year
While the vaccine proves promising for overseas holidays, Brexit is still on the horizon (you can read our comprehensive guide to what it means for travel here) which means we may be inclined to stick closer to home.
“We’ve been seeing a rise in the British break for a while now but it was obviously particularly prevalent this year,” Lohan says. “I think this rise has been due to a combination of a couple of things: consumers are considering their carbon footprint a little more and are more conscious when weighing up that weekend break; and there’s been a consistent wave of brilliant British hotel openings – even this year we’ve seen the Pig at Harlyn Bay and the Mitre open their doors.”
Booking.com research shows that 47% of Brits still plan to travel within the UK over the next 12 months while 38% plan to do so long term.
“Local travel has risen to the fore as it remains easier, safer and, happily, often more sustainable,” Pearson adds. “Looking ahead, our recent research can reveal that staying closer to home and becoming familiarists rather than tourists will continue to be at the forefront of travel agendas.”
Whether you’re planning on staying local or heading further afield, 2021 is set to be a bumper year for travel.