Expedia Group Media Solutions released its Q4 2021 Travel Recovery Trend Report, combining Expedia Group first-party data and custom research with actionable insights and industry examples.
“The pandemic continued to impact travel around the world through the end of 2021, but in Q4 we saw consistent global search volumes, lengthening search windows and more international destinations appearing on regional top 10 destination lists,” said Jennifer Andre, global VP of media solutions, in a statement. “Consumers have learned how to travel under ever-changing circumstances, and we anticipate they will continue to adapt and evolve their behaviors and preferences as the landscape evolves. We are encouraged by the overall year-over-year progress and remain confident in the power of travel and the resilience of the industry and travelers.”
Appetite for Travel Continues to Grow
Global search volume in Q4 was flat quarter over quarter, but up more than 70 percent year-over-year. In the Asia Pacific region, search volumes were up nearly 35 percent over Q3, driven by additional vaccinated travel lanes and international border reopenings in several countries, including Australia, Singapore, and Fiji.
Week-over-week global searches spiked around major announcements and industry activity, including the November 8 U.S. border reopening to vaccinated travelers from 33 countries, and during the week of December 27, possibly due to travelers reacting to thousands of delayed or canceled flights.
However, this heightened interest has been sustained into the first weeks of 2022, with global, North American and Europe, Middle East and Africa search volumes even higher during the first two weeks of January compared to the last week of December 2021. Lodging cancellation rates remained flat throughout Q4 despite the ongoing pandemic.
Search Windows Lengthen as Borders Reopen
As borders around the world continued reopening to international travelers in Q4, the global search window lengthened. Forty percent of global searches fell within the 31+ day search window, a 15 percent increase over Q3. Regionally, EMEA saw the greatest swing toward longer search windows, with the 31+ day search window increasing 30 percent over Q3.
In Q4, 60 percent of global domestic searches fell within the 0- to 21-day search window, a slight decline quarter-over-quarter, as travelers searched for domestic trips further out—notably around the holiday season. NORAM, EMEA and APAC all saw a lift in the 31+ day domestic search window, with all three regions up more than 10 percent quarter over quarter.
International search window share fluctuated throughout Q4, with around 40 percent of global international searches occurring in the 0- to 21-day search window, a 10 percent percent decline from Q3. Share for the 31- to 90-day international search window grew 20 percent quarter-over-quarter.
Sustained Demand for Long-Haul Destinations
International travelers continued to book trips to farther destinations from home. LATAM led the trend, with five of the top 10 booked destinations for travelers living there located in other parts of the world. Additionally, non-APAC destinations—Dubai and Honolulu—made up two of the four new entrants to the APAC top 10, with Sydney and Singapore also joining the list.
In contrast, North American travelers continued to book closer to home, with Cancun being the only destination outside the region on the top 10 list for NORAM bookers. However, this behavior looks likely to change this year. Expedia’s 2022 Travel Trends Report found that 68 percent of Americans are planning to go big on their next trip, and many are eyeing intercontinental destinations like Rome, Bali, London, and Paris in 2022.
Paris, Dubai, Mexico City, Tokyo and Madrid all saw double-digit quarter-over-quarter growth in hotel bookings. Looking at the 25 most-booked destinations globally, Dubai moved from 18th position in Q3 to sixth in Q4—driven by a 40 percent increase in room night bookings quarter-over-quarter. During the same period, Tokyo moved from 41st to 24th, Mexico City moved from 23rd to 17th, and Paris moved from 12th to fifth.
Vacation Rentals Maintain Popularity
In Q4, global lodging bookings—for hotels and vacation rentals combined—were up more than 50 percent year over year. Comparing bookings in Q3 and Q4, there was a shift in share from hotels to vacation rentals, prompted by the busy holiday travel season and continued popularity among groups traveling together. LATAM had a particularly strong quarter for vacation rental bookings, which were up more than 100 percent quarter over quarter.
The average length of stay for vacation rentals in Q4 increased slightly to 5.4 days, up from the 5.2 days seen throughout Q2 and Q3. In EMEA, the average vacation rental length of stay surpassed the one-week mark, at 7.1 days.