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Revenge of the Traveler: A Shot in the Arm for the Industry?

Locked down for nearly a year, would-be travelers are ready get the vaccine and hit the road

“Revenge Travel” is a growing trend among leisure travelers who plan to increase their travel budgets as soon as the pandemic panic is past. And the phenomenon could give the ailing travel industry a much-needed boost.

According to a new survey of over 3,900 people, about 10 percent are ready to bump up their travel spend, putting them squarely in the revenge traveler segment. Globally, revenge travelers are about evenly split on whether to take one larger trip (52 percent) or alternately planning shorter, more frequent vacations (48 percent).

US travelers are not quite as likely to increase their travel budgets, with only seven percent of respondents indicating they plan spend more on travel in 2021. And the majority (54 percent) of these US revenge travelers intend to take multiple shorter trips.

The term ‘revenge travel,’ like the pandemic which spawned it, may have had its origins in China, where the government has been encouraging citizens to travel since last fall. And the Chinese seem to have responded with enthusiasm, as IATA reported domestic air travel had recovered to a point where it was down just 1.4 percent in October compared to the same period the year prior.

Although China travel slowed toward the end of 2020, due to the return of lockdowns and the specter of new COVID-19 variants, the desire to take revenge on the pandemic by heading back out on the road seems not to have diminished.

Among the other findings of the global Travel Trends 2021 study, a majority of leisure travelers (57 percent) plan to resume traveling in 2021, though most plan to wait until the second half of the year.

The COVID-19 vaccine continues to be a significant factor for travelers as they decide when to take their next trip: 15 percent of respondents want to travel once they are vaccinated, and 14 percent say they will when a significant majority of the public is vaccinated.

The study, conducted by Simon-Kucher & Partners, a global strategy and marketing consulting firm, and ROIRocket, a leading provider of research services, surveyed more than 3,900 individuals across five countries – France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The research found 59 percent of US travelers say they don’t expect any change from their pre-pandemic travel budgets, while 34 percent indicated they plan to spend less on travel after the COVID-19 crisis.

However staying closer to home seems to be a trend that will stay with us for a while, even after travel resumes. For US travelers, domestic travel is expected to grow 26 percent and international travel will drop 49 percent – but the appetite for international travel is higher than it was in a similar survey taken in May 2020.

“While the continued trend of traveling domestically will have significant impact on the US travel industry in 2021, it’s also promising to see that the outlook on international travel is more favorable amongst both US travelers and international travelers than compared to when they were asked earlier in the pandemic,” says Dr. Wei Ke, partner in Simon-Kucher’s Leisure, Travel and Tourism Practice.

The results of the Travel Trends 2021 study are primarily focused on leisure travel. Meanwhile other recent surveys predict that, although business travel is also likely begin returning in the second half of 2021, it will probably take longer to get back to its pre-pandemic levels, perhaps as late as 2025.