The results of TravelNest’s Travel and Tourism Survey 2021 are in!

As the Covid vaccination programme gathers pace, 2021 offers us the potential for leisure travel and holidays - something we've all been waiting for. But how will Covid affect our plans, and what will travel look like for us in the aftermath of the pandemic? With data gathered from 600 UK respondents, results of our Travel and Tourism 2021 Survey are a must-read for anyone with an interest in travel, vacation rentals and the major trends which will drive the recovery of the travel industry.

By Stef Scott, Content Marketing Manager

Survey results reveal pandemic impact on UK holiday plans

Commenting on the results, our Chief Operating Officer, Rebecca Moore said:

"The findings of our Travel and Tourism Survey 2021, together with our own booking performance reveal there is significant pent-up demand for holidays when restrictions allow. What's more, the vaccine is affecting our travel decision-making, significantly increasing confidence to book.The results also show travellers are thinking pragmatically, with the strongest demand for UK staycations versus holidays abroad, and a strong preference for rural vacation rental holidays in the summer months. Factors such as flexible cancellations and Covid cleaning protocols are critically important to travellers. These results bode extremely well for the UK’s rural vacation rental market, when restrictions on travel are lifted.

Rebecca Moore, Chief Operating Officer, TravelNest

Impact of the Covid vaccine on travel planning

Covid has affected everyone’s travel plans, so news of a vaccine, and the subsequent rollout of the vaccination programme has been warmly welcomed across the beleaguered travel and tourism industry. We were particularly keen to understand more about the impact of the vaccine on travel planning and booking behaviour.

Our Travel and Tourism Survey 2021 reveals that only a quarter of people said they’d be “very likely” to book a holiday before they’ve had the vaccine. After they’ve had the vaccine however, this increases to over half (54%). The biggest variation in responses is found across the older age groups (60-69 and 70+). Only 19% of those aged 60-69 would be likely to travel before having had the vaccine, and 12% of those aged 70+. The likelihood of travel after having had the vaccine increases to 31% for the 60-69 age group, and 37% of those aged 70 and over.

Bar chart: Impact of the vaccine on travel planning

Staycations vs holidays abroad

Are we all desperate for holiday somewhere abroad in the sun, or will we prefer to holiday closer to home this year? The results paint a clear picture of our travel preferences for 2021, with over half of our respondents (51%) saying they will not take a holiday abroad at all this year. 

Only 29% said they plan to take 1 holiday abroad, Covid travel restrictions permitting. In comparison, our appetite for holidays in the UK is exceptionally strong. 79% plan to take 1 or 2 UK-based holidays this year. A further 21% said they would take 3 or more holidays in the UK this year.

When it comes to going abroad versus holidaying at home, there were some notable differences across the age groups. For example, 47% of 18-29 year olds plan to take 1 holiday abroad this year, compared to only 27% of 60-69 year olds and only 17% of those aged 70+.

Most popular holiday types

By far the most popular holiday type is a rural/nature based holiday, which is the top choice for 51% of people, with a beach holiday the second more popular choice at 43%. Covid has somewhat dampened our appetite for city vacations and urban sightseeing trips, with only around a third of people opting to take this kind of holiday in 2021. 

Dubbed the “urban escape”, it is clear that Covid is driving a significant spike in demand for holidays in remote, rural destinations of the UK, (with Scotland in particular a clear favourite), where people feel they can get back to nature, and reduce the level of in-person contact with other people at the same time.

Bar chart: Most popular holiday types in 2021

When will people book their holiday?

To better understand booking behaviour, we asked respondents to our Travel and Tourism Survey 2021 to tell us how soon they plan to book their first holiday for 2021. 31% said they’ve already booked a holiday for 2021. Only 10% will be booking in early months January, February or March, with 35% planning to wait until later in the year – April, May and June, before committing to booking a holiday. A further 17% will hold off until the Summer months of July, August and September before booking. 

Before the pandemic, January has traditionally been the busiest time of the year for holiday bookings, with the travel and tourism industry enjoying a consistent January bookings boom. However, booking behaviour in 2021 has not followed this pattern. It’s clear that there is some caution around booking a holiday right now, and we are likely to see a delayed spike in demand in the Spring.

When will people travel?

When asked about when they plan to travel for their first 2021 holiday, the majority of respondents, 45% said they will be waiting until the Summer months of June, July and August. A further 25% will wait even longer, until the Autumn (September, October and November) to travel, and 7% will travel as late as Winter 2021. Only 23% said that their first holiday will be in the Spring (March, April, May), Covid restrictions permitting.

Pie chart: When will people travel for their first 2021 holiday?

This correlates what we are seeing in terms of current booking behaviour at TravelNest. Over 70% of our current bookings are for dates more than 90 days ahead. This underlines the fact that although people are keen to have something to look forward to, they are not booking with a huge degree of immediacy – the majority are exercising caution by booking for dates later in the year.

How long will people go on holiday for?

We asked respondents to tell us their planned trip length for their first 2021 holiday. The majority of people are planning to have a longer break rather than a shorter weekend or midweek stay for their first holiday. 28% said they wanted their first holiday to be 7 nights. A further 28% want a stay of 7+ nights. Interestingly, only 3% of people would choose a 1 or 2-night break as their first holiday for 2021. After being in lockdown at home for an extended period of time, many people are keen to get away for a longer break for their first 2021 holiday.

Bar chart: What is your planned trip length for your first holiday in 2021?

Preferred accommodation type

The survey data gathered on preferred accommodation type shows a clear preference for vacation rentals and self-contained accommodation over hotels. 44% of respondents would opt to stay in a vacation rental or self-contained property rather than a hotel. 28% said hotel stays were their preferred choice, followed by campsites at 7%.

Reasons for choosing to stay in a vacation rental property were varied, and included:

  • A preference to be around close family only
  • Not wishing to mix with a lot of other people
  • The ease of adhering to social distancing requirements
  • The flexibility of being able to come and go as they wish
  • To have the experience of truly “living like a local”

Important factors when booking a holiday home

We asked respondents to tell us which factors were most important to them, when deciding whether to book a holiday home:

  • 90% said flexible cancellation was very important/important
  • 88% said Covid19 cleaning protocols followed before their stay was very important/important
  • 65% said a choice of arrival day was very important/important
  • 49% said property available for Instant Book was very important/important


TravelNest’s Travel and Tourism Survey 2021 reveals the true impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on our travel and holiday plans for 2021. Although our appetite for foreign travel is significantly reduced this year, this contrasts with an exceptionally strong demand for UK staycation holidays – particularly summer breaks. The results point to a delayed spike in bookings that will hit as we begin to move into the spring. It is clear that travellers are exercising caution by not booking now, preferring to wait until the vaccine rollout has gathered further pace. Rural, remote holidays are top of peoples’ wish-lists for UK staycation breaks, followed by beach holidays. Longer stays of 7 nights or more will be most popular as people look to get away for longer after a prolonged period of lockdown. In all, the results are welcome news for the UK’s travel and tourism industry and point to a strong bounce-back recovery once restrictions are lifted. 

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