The State of Travel: 2021

A detailed look at the trends that will shape travel in a post-pandemic world

In December of 2020 Airbnb, after a long-awaited debut, finally went public on the NASDAQ Stock Market. I watched on CNBC as the newly issued stock went from $68 a share to $150 within milliseconds of the initial offering—establishing its market capitalization at a cool $100 Billion. As Scott Wapner, host of the channel’s “Halftime Report” show, astutely pointed out, Airbnb was now worth roughly the same market cap as Hilton and Marriot…COMBINED!

This led me to two quick conclusions. First, travel hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s just taken a breather—albeit a mandatory one—for obvious reasons. The explosion of Airbnb, both quantitatively (pick your metric, whether it be revenue or listings or share of US lodging market) and qualitatively (the company’s name is both a noun and a verb) shows that the market for travel and lodging is not cooling off, if you can look past 2020. Secondly, if Airbnb has roughly the market value of Hilton and Marriot combined (at least on its first day as a public company), then that can’t be good for those two juggernauts and other large hotels alike.

The success of Airbnb should be no surprise to anyone who travels regularly. Travel habits are constantly changing, especially in the technological era we live in where new products and services that facilitate our travel needs seem to be coming to market everyday. In this report we look at some of these trends and services, with analysis and commentary from bona fide travel insiders such as travel advisors, hotel executives and wellness experts.  We also look specifically at what the state of travel might look like post-pandemic, including “Key Findings” from a survey we conducted exclusively with travel industry executives.

To make it easier to read we have provided an abbreviated version (below) that includes all of the editorial content in the report. You can also access the full report, which is available in a vivid, easy-to-read PDF format with data from our “Key Findings” section collected from our industry survey, here.

We hope you enjoy the content!


Resurgence of the Travel Agent

If there’s one thing we can collectively embrace in 2020, it is a bit of nostalgia. Sure, we are still trying to be mindful, and grateful, and present, but the past can be a comforting balm when living in the moment looks more like “Groundhog Day” than “Eat, Pray, Love.” Whether you have been staring dreamily at old vacation photos on your camera roll or grinning at the sight of Mark Hamill and R2D2 back on your TV screen, being reminded of the days of old (or, you know, any day prior to February 2019) has been energizing and damn near delightful. GLR doesn’t mind that you’re fondly reminiscing—we are, too!—but might we suggest a tip for marrying the comfort of the past with the prospects of a vaccinated future? If “Saved By the Bell” can get a reboot, so can an old travel industry standby. (Re)enter:  the travel agent. (Read more)


Yucatan Three Ways

As we dip our toes back into travel after a year of social distancing, it may feel hard to decide where to go and what to do first. Does a beach vacation sound most appealing or would you prefer an urban getaway focused on shopping, dining, and culture? Perhaps an escape to the country and days of waking to birdsong, dining on farm fresh meals, and exploring small towns is the trip you are dreaming of.


Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula makes the process of picking a destination easier, as you can choose from all three of these holiday options in one place. It also offers the convenience of flying into and out of Cancun, with flights from more than a dozen American hubs. After you land, you just have to decide whether to drive south, to the beaches along the Riviera Maya; west, to the lively and charming capital of the state of Yucatan, Mérida; or into the countryside, for a stay at a sprawling hacienda reborn as a luxury hotel. (Read more)


Interview with Lead Flights Analyst Adam Kwan of Contemporary Travel Agency

Q. It appeared for a while that the Internet (and D.I.Y. booking) would deal a major blow to travel agencies, however they have actually seen a strong resurgence in recent years. Why is this and how does the pandemic factor in?

A. What we try to do for each one of our clients is to identify where we can add value above and beyond the services they can book themselves. Whether it be monetary value from negotiated rates or service-oriented benefits such as expertise and personal vetting of providers and vendors, we think this goes a long way in showing clientele the benefits of booking with us.

People nowadays are inundated with what are essentially cookie cutter options that provide instant gratification. Just go on Amazon and you’re a couple clicks away from getting whatever you want, shipped straight to you from a warehouse containing hundreds of the same whatever-you-wants. We believe that this type of standardized mass merchandising is not befitting of people’s travel needs. People don’t buy vacations as nonchalantly as they do household goods. They want to be sure that they will get the best experience and best value for their travel. Especially since, for many people, a vacation is a significant expense relatively. (Read more)


Interview with LeAnn Campas, CEO of Social Platform Travevel

Q. Why are travel and social media so synergistic?

A. Social media is visual and there are few things more visually interesting than travel images and videos. The two were made for each other. Additionally, the vast majority of us put more weight on personal experiences, and there is no better way to share our adventures, explore others’ experiences and interact with them than through a social platform. (Read more)


Wellness Warriors

They say you can foretell future trends by looking at what the big thinkers and pioneers are doing now.  So, what’s up with wellness warriors in 2020?

Let’s start with an example of the future of business travel in the wellness arena.  In spite of in-person events being canceled across the board, the Global Wellness Summit—an international organization that brings together leaders and visionaries to positively impact and shape the future of the global wellness industry—had the fortitude and determination, in spite of some resistance, to go forward with their first ever hybrid (both in-person and virtual event) Nov 8 to 11 at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida. (Read more)


Nomadic Nutrition—Foraging in the COVID Era

Kitchen Unnecessary Episode Three, foraging for burn morels in Washington with Ashley Rodriguez and Langdon Cook. Photos by Gabe Rodriguez.

In the Time of COVID, the wide blue yonder is both my escape hatch and my sanity maintenance pill. Specifically the swath of public lands east and west of my home in Seattle. Out there, in the ancient forests and lonesome mountains of the Cascades and Olympics, I can breathe in the fresh air and not worry about tainted particles of disease, those “air-born droplets” we’ve heard so much about.

Only, those same mountains aren’t so lonely these days. (Read more)


The Family Truckster

I work in the travel industry as both a travel advisor and a travel writer. I’ve owned the travel blog, Fifi + Hop, for the past 6 years, and write mainly about family travel, as I have two kids. Between my conversations with other family travel bloggers and my colleagues in the travel agency world, there are certain trends that will no doubt play a part in family travel in 2021. We’ve seen them already, and they will continue for a while. (Read more)


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