Travelers cooped up by COVID are embracing the ‘book now, figure it out later’ mentality

March 9, 2021, 11:00 AM UTC

Remote and flexible work environments that have emerged during the pandemic have given way to the rise of the “digital nomad,” according to a new report from American Express on global travel trends in 2021.

Specifically, 54% of survey respondents agree that being a digital nomad— defined as someone who lives and works while traveling the globe—is more appealing now than it was prior to the pandemic.

“After a year of working from home, people have realized the benefits of working remotely, from spending more time at home with family to trading in your virtual beach background for the real thing,” says Audrey Hendley, president of American Express Travel. “While it’s too soon to predict exactly how this will play out, it’s likely that we’ll start to see a hybrid in-person/remote work style become more of a norm.”

The report, based on consumer survey research across seven international markets and American Express Travel booking data, shares insights into consumers’ desire and motivations for travel, shifts in luxury travel, the new consumer travel mindset, the emergence of a more conscious traveler, and more.

Consumers say they are increasingly looking forward to traveling again to support their emotional and mental wellness after a year of lockdown. Roughly 78% of respondents specifically said they want to travel in 2021 to relieve stress from 2020, and 87% say that having a trip planned in the future gives them something to look forward to.

As a result, consumers are also more flexible than ever before in booking trips. More travelers are embracing a “book now, figure it out later” mentality, with 56% of consumers saying that they miss traveling so much that they are willing to book a trip even if they might have to cancel it in the future.

“It’s not about sacrifice; it’s about being more flexible. In general, the pandemic has shown us that we need to be a bit more flexible in many facets of our lives,” Hendley tells Fortune. “When it comes to planning travel right now, my first piece of advice is to think about what type of experience you are looking for and what type of travel you’re comfortable with right now. From there, keep an open mind and be willing to have a Plan A, B, and C.”

This is helped by more travelers who are willing to avoid peak seasons as well. Approximately 80% of consumers indicated they are willing to travel to destinations during the off-season so that it’s less crowded. For travelers for whom space and privacy are top priorities, Hendley recommends considering a lesser-known second-city destination or visiting a destination in the off-season to avoid crowds.

Some travelers are willing to make more extreme sacrifices—some realistic and others inconsequential—to pay for future trips. For instance, 63% of respondents said they are saving their credit card points so they can go on a vacation once they feel comfortable doing so in the future. And while it might not actually make a difference one way or the other, 64% said they miss travel so much that they are willing to give up social media for a month to be able to go on vacation safely, indicating many people need a good break in more than one sense.

Still to be determined is when people and companies will start planning substantial work-related travel again. “While we believe business travel will take a bit longer to return than consumer travel, we are confident that it will come back with time as there is still great value in face-to-face interactions to build relationships with potential partners or connect more directly with your team members across the globe,” Hendley says.

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