9 travel trends for 2021

Helen Fanthorpe

written by
Helen Fanthorpe

updated 29.09.2023

With travel thrown thoroughly off-course in 2020, we’re sure you’ve been thinking about what next year might bring. Here at Rough Guides, we've dug a little deeper to unearth nine travel trends for 2021. Think travel will head in a different direction? Discuss with us on Twitter @RoughGuides.

1. A surge in sustainability

Sustainability. Sustainable travel. Sustainable tourism. While these terms certainly aren’t new, they are playing an increasingly key role in what an increasing number of travellers want from their trips. In 2021, sustainability will be more than a buzzword, as people across the globe consider how to travel with a green conscience. Thankfully, it’s easier to travel sustainably than ever before, partly because the increased demand means there are more green options available.

If you have to fly, think about taking positive action to off-set negative environmental impacts: look to use airlines with carbon emission off-setting initiatives and make an effort to use direct routes and airlines with energy-efficient planes. You can also look to improve your transportation options on the ground. Think about the vehicles you use – hire an electric car if you can, take the train and use public or shared transport wherever possible.

Be sure to think about the big picture too. Consider flying less and staying longer – spending more time in a destination fosters more investment in the local area, and reduces the negative impact of travelling around.

In addition, be sure to review the sustainability practices of your accommodation and other services you’ll be using. Does your hotel have a green laundry policy? What’s their recycling strategy? Does your hostel use energy-efficient appliances? Do they provide guests with maps and the option to hire bikes so you can get around in a greener way? These are some of the questions you might want to ask your lodgings, as they represent the kind of good practices sustainability-aware travellers should be looking for.

Here at Rough Guides, we’ve been thinking about sustainability a lot recently, and working with local experts and companies that keep these sorts of questions in mind. Additionally, we have been raising awareness of local initiatives that have a beneficial impact on the environment and/or the communities they operate within, which is the thinking behind our “tell us your story” initiative. Rough Guides is known for having a strong editorial voice, so we created this campaign platform to share news from sustainable tourism and community initiatives. Not only does this have the positive impact of spreading awareness of valuable projects (we’ve covered everything from a life-changing chocolate factory in the Dominican Republic to sustainable community-led tourism and conservation in Guyana), but it also embeds a positive, proactive company ethos.

Girl leaning out of a train, Sri Lanka

Discovering Sri Lanka by train © Sotnikov Misha/Shutterstock

2. A rise in female-led companies and female travellers

Female-owned, female-led businesses are on the increase, and we’re also seeing a rise in these businesses supporting local communities and economies. Coupled with that, many travellers have an increased consciousness of the impact of their travel, and a desire to give something back to their destination. But it’s not always easy to know how best to do this, and it can be tricky to identify which local initiatives and businesses to support. With that in mind, at Rough Guides we’ll be making a continued effort to highlight on-the-ground activities and initiatives that support the local economy – especially female-led businesses.

In 2021, we also anticipate a rise in solo female travel, and that means an increase in the number of tours and destinations being marketed to women, too. Kristin of Be My Travel Muse is among the growing number of female travel bloggers espousing the potential for solo travel to empower women. We caught up with her recently to talk about all things travel – and left feeling truly inspired.

3. Increased demand for domestic travel

With Covid-19 set to have a continued impact on where we can travel – wherever you’re based in the world – the demand for domestic travel is set to catapult. Staycations will be popular throughout 2021, with people looking to discover and explore undersung gems nearer to home. This is good news for local communities often overlooked by international visitors, with the added benefit that domestic trips are generally better for the environment. Longer term, as people discover the joys of domestic travel, we could see an increasing number of travellers swapping long weekends abroad for train-trip destinations on their doorsteps.

At Rough Guides, we’ve been busy re-assessing, refining and enriching our closer-to-home offerings. To that end, we’ve just launched a new series of British Breaks Rough Guides that are ideal for UK-based travellers seeking adventures closer to home, with the destinations selected in response to customer demand and research into under-represented British break regions. You'll be able to order your new British Break from our website (eBook format) by the end of the month. In addition to publishing these staycation-oriented guidebooks, we’re publishing supplementary articles online, and our local experts in Scotland, Wales, England and Ireland are ready to work with you to create and book your personalised trip.


The Pennine Way, walking in the English countryside © Duncan Andinson/Shutterstock

4. Deeper pre-trip research

Given the unpredictability of the current situation, travellers are investing more time in research before booking their holidays, and are therefore gathering more information on a greater range of destinations and options than ever before. Whereas Rough Guides once only published guidebooks, we now provide all sorts of valuable content online – from destination guides to inspirational features – making sourcing information that bit quicker and easier. This trend towards deeper research also means that companies will be doing more to vie for our attention – so you can expect some great deals in 2021! If all that research sounds a little overwhelming, talk to one of our local experts today; they can offer up-to-date destination information and suggest and book a trip itinerary to match your tastes.

5. More freedom for flex

In the unpredictable climate we’ve already mentioned, travellers naturally want increased flexibility. In light of constantly evolving travel restrictions and local lockdowns, we all need to have the option to change dates, and to postpone or cancel bookings last minute. Umpteen travel organizations – from airlines to hotels, tour operators to car-hire companies – are upping their game to offer improved terms and policies. As travellers, this is one of the first things to look for when booking a trip to avoid last-minute changes causing disappointment or leaving you out of pocket. Fortunately, if you book a trip through Rough Guides, our local experts are able to be very flexible with your cancellation terms to remove all your anxiety.

Walking through Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

Walking through Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica © Louis-Michel Desert/Shutterstock

6. Increased individualism and personalization

In our experience, travellers are moving away from choosing ready-made trips and designated itineraries. To paraphrase the ethos of our own trip-booking platform, travellers don’t want to follow the crowd – they want to find their own path, which translates into an increased demand for personalized options. In short, off-the-shelf group travel is out and customized trips are in – and on the up.

At Rough Guides, all of our tailor-made trips are fully customizable from start to finish. Each one is planned by a local expert who will help craft the trip of your dreams to your preferences.

7. A surge in slow travel

From younger travellers taking gap breaks, to professionals taking career sabbaticals, to time-rich retirees, we’re seeing a surge in demand for slower, more extended trips. Slow travel creates a shift in the sort of services visitors want on-the-ground, too: holiday-home rentals rather than hotels, for instance, and an appetite for curated guided tours that go beyond the well-trodden tourist routes. As per point 4, slow travel also means deeper pre-trip research, and scores highly on sustainability too, given longer stays are good on the green front.

Hiking in the Alps

Hiking in the Alps © Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

8. More multi-generational escapes

With many families separated in 2020 by coronavirus, we anticipate a revival in multi-generational travel next year. Of course, different generations holidaying together are likely to have different expectations, so look for trips you can customize (we’re back to that all-important need for personalization again). The best travel companies will be able to ensure there’s something for everyone.

Here at Rough Guides, not only do we offer tailor-made trips organized by local experts, we also aim to provide plenty of tailored information. Is the accommodation toddler-friendly? Is the locale lively enough to keep teenagers entertained? Is there a range of restaurants to suit everyone’s tastes? Where will grandma get her fitness fix? If you can’t find the answer to any of your questions, just ask our local experts!


9. Improved insurance and healthcare offerings

As Covid-19 will be with us for some time, we can no longer afford to merely follow health and safety protocols – travellers also need to know detailed information on destinations’ healthcare systems, and to search around for comprehensive insurance. As ever, be sure to read all the small print; the best policies will clearly state all the details, which goes a long way when it comes to easing anxieties and uncertainties.


Rough Guides is partnered with World Nomads, who provide comprehensive travel insurance for total peace of mind while you’re away from home.

So, that’s our evaluation of 2021’s key travel developments. While 2020 has been dominated by coronavirus – an incredibly tough year for the global population – we’re hopeful that the forced reset of the travel industry will lead to better travel practices in 2021 and beyond.

Relaxing on a hammock ©  soft_light/Shutterstock

Top and above image © relaxing in the evening light/Shutterstock

Helen Fanthorpe

written by
Helen Fanthorpe

updated 29.09.2023

Helen worked as a Senior Travel Editor at Rough Guides and Insight Guides, based in the London office. Among her favourite projects to work on are inspirational guides like Make the most of your time on Earth, the ultimate travel bucket list.

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