How Airbnb and Travelers are Redefining Travel in 2021

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on travel in 2020. As we look to 2021, we believe these impacts will continue to be felt in a number of ways. Firstly, continued remote working, and in some cases remote schooling, will upend traditional vacation seasons and blur the lines between working and traveling. Secondly, safety and cleanliness will continue to be top of mind for travelers, driving a preference for private, entire homes over crowded hotels. Thirdly, international travel, especially long haul, will continue to be impacted and finally, having been isolated for much of 2020, people will want to use travel to reconnect with friends and family in safe and controlled ways. 

In 2021, travel will continue to be less about tourism and more about living, working and connecting safely away from home. Airbnb is ideally suited to meet these changing needs, whether providing an entire home to take a break from the city, to reconnect with loved ones or to try out a new neighborhood to move to. And its platform allows anyone with space to share to tap into these trends and earn some extra needed income.

Based on commissioned survey data of US travelers and an analysis of search and booking data for next year, Airbnb is revealing the top three trends redefining travel in 2021:

Live Anywhere – Taking Life on the Road

In 2021, work from home could become work from any home as remote working continues to be a reality for many people. In the survey commissioned by Airbnb*:

  • 83 percent of respondents are in favor of relocating as part of remote working.
  • A quarter believe they will be able to ‘live where they want to and work remotely’.
  • One in five of those surveyed have relocated their living situation during the pandemic either temporarily or permanently.
  • 60 percent of parents are very or somewhat likely to consider working remotely and traveling with their children if schools continue to be disrupted.
  • Unsurprisingly, Gen Z’ers and young millennials are most likely to believe they can move to a new location to work or study remotely.

One of the ways travelers are taking advantage of this trend is trying before they buy–turning to Airbnb to test new neighborhoods and cities before making a long-term commitment. From July to September this year, there has been a 128 percent increase in guest reviews mentioning “relocation”, “relocate”, “remote work” and “trying a new neighborhood” in comparison to the same time frame last year. 

Of folks who have relocated since the pandemic was declared, 24 percent of them say they moved to a suburb and 21 percent to a rural area, both greater percentages than those who say they moved to cities.* And on Airbnb,  people who have the opportunity to work from anywhere are actively booking longer stays (2+ week trips) in small-to-mid-size cities with access to immersive natural surroundings and wide open spaces, including these trending destinations below:

  • Park City, Utah
  • Truckee, California
  • Steamboat Springs, Colorado
  • Durham, North Carolina
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Richmond, Virginia
  • Greenville, South Carolina
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Redefining the Staycation 

As uncertainty persists, domestic travel will continue to be a key trend in 2021, with 62 percent of people interested in taking a vacation within driving distance of home.* Looking back at September 2019 for trip planning in 2020, for US guests, cities like Paris, London and Rome were all top destinations. Next year, a range of domestic locations in national parks, winter ski and beach towns are becoming the most popular, perhaps showing a departure from regular seasonal travel, and a preference for traditional vacation getaway destinations year-round. Some of the top spots include:

  • Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee 
  • Breckenridge, Colorado
  • Davenport, Florida
  • Palm Springs, California
  • Tulum, Mexico 

Although most travel will remain closer to home in 2021, that doesn’t mean travelers aren’t having new, exciting adventures where they’re staying. Guests are expanding their horizons and seeking unique travel experiences by staying in one-of-a-kind stays on Airbnb. The top trending space types among US travelers next year include a variety of spaces known for using less energy and producing less waste, including: 

  • Treehouses
  • Yurts
  • Barns
  • Cycladic houses 
  • Domes
Secluded Treehouse in the Mountains (Goldendale, WA, United States)
Yurt at Danville, Glamping at its Best (Geneva, FL, United States)
Mersinia (Kimolos, Greece)
Luxury Glamping Dome #1 – Chimney Rock/Lake Lure (Hendersonville, NC, United States)

The shift to more remote and socially-distanced stays is also reflected in some of the top booked space types. Entire homes have officially replaced apartments as the top space type among guests in 2021, providing controlled, private space for everyone. More off the beaten path stays like cabins and cottages crack the top five space types for 2021 trips, replacing villas and townhouses from 2020.

The Rise of Pod Travel 

2020 has made the craving for fundamental human connection very real, and this resonates in how people are thinking about travel in 2021. In fact, relocating permanently or temporarily to live close to family is favored by 85 percent of survey respondents.* And, families are increasingly turning to Airbnb as a way to safely reconnect: over the summer, there were three times more wish lists including family in the title than last summer, and that trend has continued to increase with more than 2.5 times the inclusions this September compared to last year.  

Whether it means traveling to be close to family members, or reuniting to quarantine with a group of friends, “pod” travel is here to stay for those who want to safely be together while reducing risks associated with socializing with others. For those who have voluntarily relocated this year, 37 percent say it was to be close to family or friends – the most common reason given.* This has become increasingly popular with younger generations, with 61 percent of under-50-year-olds interested in permanently moving and 47 percent interested in temporarily moving to be closer to loved ones.* And on Airbnb, over half of trips searched for next year include three or more people, showing how people are traveling together.

For those who are not hitting the open road, they can still connect with loved ones while apart through Online Experiences. And groups are already finding unique ways to share special moments together, from preparing home-cooked authentic meals, to putting their minds together in virtual scavenger hunts, to sparking their curiosity and creativity through drawing. Some of the most popular Online Experiences groups are taking together from October to the end of 2020 include:

Planning for the Future

While travel might look a little different in 2021, future adventures are keeping travelers inspired, with 36 percent of respondents saying they daydream about travel daily or more, increasing to 47 percent amongst people who work from home.* Our research also shows that despite the uncertainty that continues to pervade people’s lives, the more they stay at home, the more the thought of getting out gives them confidence in the future. When asked how planning for a future trip makes them feel, the most selected answer by respondents was simply: hopeful.*

Though travel restrictions are still in place, US travelers are still dreaming of their next far flung adventure, as reflected in the top trending destinations by search for trips in 2021. When the pandemic is over and travel restrictions begin to lift, travelers may be heading to vibrant cultural hubs, idyllic island clusters, and ethereal natural wonders first. 

With Copa América postponed to 2021, soccer fans are eyeing Bogotá, a sophisticated urban metropolis also playing host to one of the final games of the tournament. On the heels of having the top awarded film of the year and the meteoric rise of K-pop, Seoul, South Korea is inspiring US guests to one day experience this dynamic cultural capital themselves. Having to push its 200th birthday celebrations back a year, the state of Maine’s bicentennial events and cozy, quaint vibes are inspiring potential trips in 2021. And after months of spending a lot of time indoors, it’s clear island vacations and escapes to wide open spaces are keeping travelers daydreaming. From the white sand beaches of Maafushi in the Maldives, to the enchanting red peaked landscape of Taos, to the striking Italian island town of Ischia (known for its thermal spas), US guests’ worldly travel aspirations are alive and well:

  • Bogotá, Colombia
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Hampton, London
  • Tisbury, Massachusetts
  • Maafushi, Maldives
  • Maine, US
  • Salon-de-Provence, France
  • Taos County, New Mexico
  • La Misión, Mexico
  • Ischia, Italy

*Based on a survey commissioned by Airbnb and conducted by ClearPath Strategies from September 15-19, 2020 of 1,010 US adults.