Charting the trends – the ‘travel recovery has become a travel revolution’ with longer business trips that blend work and leisure growing in consideration

As the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched on, Airbnb has noticed a systemic change in travel that includes a shift to whole homes in non-urban markets. As recently as 2019, home sharing was still seen as alternative accommodation that was still gaining mainstream acceptance. However, the pandemic has now “sped up consumer adoption” of Airbnb as families and friends – and even businesses – came to see whole homes, often either in nearby or remote locations, as the safe, responsible way to gather or continue travelling.

This shift toward whole homes has brought “meaningful economic benefits” for hosts and their communities, says Airbnb. With new hosts on Airbnb since the pandemic began earning an estimated USD6 billion in income.

For those who are able to work remotely, the longer the pandemic has lasted, the more “working and living have blurred together”, according to Airbnb and the “more permanent this way of working and living has become” – as evidenced by the rise in hybrid working becoming the norm and becoming more obvious in the initial recovery of business travel.

Airbnb describes the travel recovery as “a travel revolution”. It describes travel as an industry that is now “propelled by the flexibility created by remote work” and “undergoing a fundamental change” with videoconferencing platforms the latest technological innovation to disrupt travel.

“Zoom and similar services haven’t just enabled us to travel faster, farther or more affordably – they have given us the ability to choose not to travel at all, such as for business, or to travel anywhere at anytime, such as for remote workers and their families and friends,” it explains.

Put simply, these technologies that enable remote work have “fundamentally altered the rationale for travel,” says Airbnb, and this movement is most pronounced in smaller companies and those staffed by younger demographics that are perhaps a little more flexible with their remote-work policies.

An Airbnb-commissioned survey across six countries found, not surprisingly, that the youngest adults (ages 18-34) are the most likely to spend any time working remotely, and also likely to have travelled the most. Full-time remote workers are most likely to be between the ages of 35-44.4

Airbnb supports the view that “travel will be back, bigger than ever,” but like many believe it will just not like it was in 2019. “People have been isolated on a scale and for a duration never seen before, and want to come together,” it says and expects to see “a significant shift in how people move around the world as gathering together intentionally—by families, friends and colleagues—becomes more important than ever while the lines between travel, work and living continue to blur”.

That blurring of business and leisure that CTC – Corporate Travel Community has referenced many times over the past couple of months is supported by Airbnb’s own evidence. “Longer business trips that blend work and leisure will be part of the future as travel becomes less organised around the week-long vacation and more around where people want to both experience and work,” it says.

Its own data shows an uptick of about 2.5x in the share of long-term stays for self-reported business travel, and long-term stays (28+ nights) which were Airbnb’s  fastest-growing trip-length category in 2Q 2021.

Videoconferencing platforms will replace some meetings – especially internal team gatherings –  but will prove beneficial for family travel, and longer weekends that blend work and leisure, made possible by part-time remote work. Airbnb data shows that in the US, extended weekends are on the rise: 3- and 4-day weekends with families are up 70% from 2Q 2019 to 2Q 2021.

Remote work arrangements will also give people “unprecedented flexibility” to book rentals for seasons at a time, says Airbnb and data is already suggesting such a trend. In 1Q and 2Q 2021, Airbnb saw more bookings for long-term stays in Florida than in any other quarters in its history. “People are captivated by the prospect of travel blurring with living,” it says. “When we invited people to Live Anywhere on Airbnb for a year, not just one season, we received more than 300,000 applications in three weeks.”

They say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’. In this regular section CTC – Corporate Travel Community offers an illustrative insight into a key industry observation or trend, this week highlighting a custom study on coronavirus behaviours and attitudes from global marketing audience targeting company, GWI, who questioned professionals in the middle of last year on how interested they were in working from home permanently. Strikingly, three in four B2B professionals across 18 diverse countries expressed at least some interest in permanent home working and in no country did this level of interest fall below 60%.

This regular section also now incorporates and expands on the charts produced in the 2020 air capacity series ‘Coronavirus Statistics Snapshot’. These are based on an analysis of OAG schedule data and include a weekly look at how the pandemic is impacting global flight levels in the world’s largest markets; a week-on-week and year-on-year comparison of flight departures by geographical region and a look at how weekly capacity is trending: the latter comparing levels to 2020 and also to the 2019 baseline performance.

HEADLINE FIGURES FOR WEEK COMMENCING 27-Sep-2021:

Departure frequencies down -0.08% versus last week; up +31.66% versus 2020 and down -29.53% versus 2019.

Seat capacity down -0.23% versus last week; up +34.91% versus 2020 and down -30.31% versus 2019.

CHART: Week-on-week change in flight departures by region

CHART: Year-on-year weekly departures performance for world’s top 30 markets versus 2019

CHART: Year-on-year weekly departures performance for world’s top 30 markets versus 2020

CHART: Departure capacity trends with year-on-year performance

CHART: Departure capacity trends versus 2019

CHART: The world’s biggest aviation markets by departure seats

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