DALLAS—Spontaneity will be the word of the year for 2021 as a new global study reveals 89% of U.S. travelers intend to be more impulsive than ever, following 2020’s canceled trips, boredom and all-round “year of nothing.” The new report from Hotels.com, “The 2021 Upgrade,” has uncovered how this new lust for spontaneity will have a ripple effect on the hotel and travel industries.
The global study, featuring poll responses from 1,000 U.S. travelers in December 2020, revealed that 32% are dubbing 2020 the “lost year” for travel prompting more than a third (35%) to be more likely to drop everything to vacay if they can in 2021. Hotels.com’s booking data supports this, with almost half of bookings in June 2020 (when lockdown rules eased for the first time for many) being made three or fewer days from the time of search.
It’s all about being spontaneous these days with more than a quarter revealing they would say yes to more last-minute trips (28%). All rules are out the window with one in five (26%) saying they would take off on a long-haul trip for just a few days or make no plans for the trip in favor of being spontaneous when they arrive (25%). A further 17% are ready to live their best luxury and will be booking a five-star hotel for their 2021 getaways.
Experts at Hotels.com also predict this extravagant attitude will have a dramatic impact on hotel booking behavior. Compared to pre-pandemic times, more than a quarter (26%) would now book a better hotel room, and nearly a quarter would spontaneously say yes to a room upgrade if offered when booking (24%).
“2020 was the year of staying home, postponing trips and posting old vacation pictures on social media. This year, travelers are ready to ‘seize the stay’ when travel returns and they feel comfortable to take the trips they missed out on” shared Josh Belkin, VP, global brand, Hotels.com. “We saw that when travel restrictions eased for many in July and August 2020, over half of bookings were made three days or less ahead of their stay, compared to 40% in 2019. People are ready to channel their inner spontaneous self, dropping everything at the last minute to get away and enjoy the best that hotel life has to offer.”
Dear Hotel, We Miss You
A quarter of U.S. travelers said the thing they miss most about traveling is being able to stay in an awesome hotel. They have missed relaxing in a plush robe (13%), the peace and quiet (30%) breakfast buffets (23%), hotel restaurants and bars (29%), rooms with a view (26%), ordering room service (18%), visiting the hotel pool (20%), treating themselves to the hotel spa (17%) and, of course, the incredible hotel bed (18%).
This craving means travelers will take a different approach to hotel bookings in 2021—it will be all about upgrading the experience. When asked what new experiences they would say “yes” to, around one in five (20%) would splurge on a spa treatment, uber-luxe hotel restaurant (20%) or a fancy cocktail in the hotel’s bar (24%).
Travelers will also be finding ways to “seize the stay” as much as they can, with nearly one in five stating they would spontaneously book a fancy hotel for a staycation for the weekend (24%) or take advantage of a mid-week deal in their local trendy hotel (23%).
The Rise in Spontaneous Travel
To plan or not to plan? Travelers want to be carefree and relaxed by making spontaneous decisions (32%), not having to plan and just doing what they wanted (28%) and saying “yes” to new experiences (24%). The research also revealed the lengths that many will go to for a vacation and a hotel stay in 2021, with travelers admitting do all the cleaning in their house (29%), give up sweets (24%), not leave their house (23%), social media apps (17%) and even sex (16%) for a month.
Same-Day Travel Driven by Need to Be Spontaneous
Travel-hungry hotel-lovers are ready to commit to spontaneity, with 29% claiming they’d be ready to drop it all and leave the same day if given the opportunity. With spontaneity comes packing pressure. Most would go nowhere without their digital lifelines, with more than half (55%) prioritizing their phone, laptop and charger—beating out a change of clothes (46%), a swimsuit (29%) and sleepwear (30%).