Travel 2021: Top destinations and trends
These places are set to sizzle with visitors in the new year.
2020. What a year.
International travel was banned and interstate borders opened and closed with what felt like seconds of warning.
Practically no one travelled. At least not for leisure.
But it's not all doom and gloom. With many interstate borders now reopened, talks of a travel bubble with New Zealand well underway and airlines ramping up their flight schedules, travelling in 2021 is looking very promising.
Where is everyone going? We've got a hunch these local destinations are going to be big winners in 2021.
Top 10 destinations for 2021
- North Coast of NSW
- Sunshine Coast
- South Coast of NSW
- Great Southern Western Australia
- Regional NSW
- Arnhem Land
- The Whitsundays
- New Zealand
Western Australia kept its borders closed to the rest of Australia for months on end this year. While this served to protect its residents from the pandemic, a side effect was an increase in interest by the rest of the nation to pay it a visit.
Once permitted, naturally.
According to Skyscanner Broome was the third most searched for destination by Aussies for 2021 travel on its platform. It was beaten only by bigwigs London and Tokyo.
Data by Expedia also saw an almost 50% increase in hotel searches in Broome for the 2020/2021 summer period compared to last year.
With its family-friendly activities, iconic beach camel rides and famous sunsets over the beach, there's little questioning why.
North Coast of NSW
The North Coast of NSW takes in everywhere from the Hunter Valley and Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay and Kingscliff. Driving this coastal stretch you'll be met with sleepy towns, quiet beaches and relaxation in spades.
While it has always been popular with the family crowds over summer, more and more are flocking its way. It could be because of the interstate travel restrictions, it could be because celebrities have made it their homes (think Chris Hemsworth and Zac Efron).
Or, it could be that they're the perfect spot for a little R&R. Something we all need right now.
Skip the Gold Coast for the more underrated but no less sunny and picturesque shores of the Sunshine Coast. Expedia found it to be one of the top three destinations Aussies were hightailing it to over summer 2020/2021.
Expedia also found it to be one of the trending destinations Aussies will be spending New Year's Eve 2020 at.
Another Queensland favourite bound to make waves in 2021 is the Tropical North. Cairns in particular made it into Skyscanner's top 10 destinations around the world that Australians were hoping to visit in 2021. Luxury Escapes has also called Tropical North Queensland the most popular place for domestic travel in 2021 with 33% of its customers wishing to go there.
This little pocket of paradise is a gateway to many adventures. From its shores you can drop into the ocean and explore the Great Barrier Reef, drive north through the Daintree Rainforest or take on a great Australian road trip headed west across the nation through the Northern Territory and Western Australia via the Savannah Way.
South Coast of NSW
There's been so much chatter about the South Coast of New South Wales this year, if you haven't heard something about the bushfires or the campaigns to revitalise tourism, then you must be living under a rock.
This perfect stretch of coast takes in Wollongong, Illawarra (a New Year's Eve hotspot), Shoalhaven, Batemans Bay and Jervis Bay and is overflowing with charm.
Bring the kids for a quiet break, your better half for a romantic one or hit the open road to challenge yourself to the many bushwalks that scatter the land.
Great Southern Western Australia
Where Broome is for those seeking a true blue Aussie outback experience, the Great Southern of Western Australia is for the foodies and the beachy-keen.
Vacaay names it one of the top 5 micro-destinations in the world to visit in 2021 while Expedia named it the number one trending destination for this summer, with an almost 105% increase in interest compared to last year.
And why not? In its corner is the delicious Margaret River region, known for its local produce and world-class wines, and Albany and Esperance, which are peppered with marine life, bush walks and ocean vistas as far as the eye can see.
Our tip? Road trip it from Perth. Then, splash out on a helicopter ride over Lake Hillier, a bubblegum pink lake that will make your Instagram followers turn a bright shade of green.
Regional NSW, Victoria and South Australia
With international flights on the backburner, adventurous Aussies have their eyes firmly fixed on regional destinations. And our flagship carrier Qantas knows it.
It announced an expansion of its regional network across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. New South Wales is particularly getting a boost with Merimbula, Griffith, Orange, Wagga Wagga and Newcastle all set to benefit from extra services.
More services, more points and greater competition in the skies. Do you need any more convincing to check one of these regional beauties out?
Named one of the top 5 micro-regions to visit in 2021, Arnhem Land is an unspoiled region of Australian wilderness packed full of Aboriginal history and culture.
Best accessed from Darwin it's a world apart, rife with native wildlife, savannah woodlands, gushing waterfalls, white sandy beaches, Aboriginal bark paintings and ancient rock art. East Arnhem Land's Groote Eylandt is also a popular fishing spot, if that's your flavour.
Whether you want to play it differently in 2021 or reconnect with the land and its history, Arnhem Land will not disappoint.
Sun, resort accommodation and heaven-sent beaches. If you're looking for a pamper, a romantic getaway, a honeymoon destination or a local destination that'll make you feel like you're on that Bali vacation (too soon?) then the Whitsundays is where you need to be in 2021.
Luxury Escapes' Travel Trends Report for 2021 has it down as the 2nd most sought after local destination by its customers (28%). It also found that snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef (15%) and staying at a top lodge (14%) were top of their bucket list experiences.
FYI you can tick those boxes off at the Whitsundays, too.
Of all the international destinations Aussies could possibly visit in 2021, New Zealand is top of the list.
Our neighbours across the pond have already started talking about creating a safe travel corridor to allow for quarantine-free trips between the two nations. And there's a good chance that the moment that opens, Aussies will be flocking to New Zealand with glee.
According to Luxury Escapes data, it's the number one place we want to visit when borders reopen (34%).
Top 3 travel trends for 2021
The pandemic has no doubt shaped our travel habits for the near future with Australians eyeing more flexible travel options and remote trips to keep them safe. Here's what travel sites are predicting will be trending in 2021.
COVID-safe travel is at the forefront of everyone's minds and greater flexibility is key to this. According to Luxury Escapes, 38% of those surveyed noted the importance of flexibility and free cancellations.
This is partly due to safety and partly due to new flexibilities with work that have arisen from the pandemic.
"In a post Covid world, retaining some of the advantages of workplace flexibility is important to people; over the past several months people have experienced an improved work/life balance, spent time with their families and have had more time for health and fitness. To support these positive changes the travel industry must innovate and reimagine workspaces and services (safety, spaces and social interaction) to accommodate shifting consumer needs," said Simon McGrath, Accor Pacific chief operating officer.
Airlines around the world have already responded to this call with options to change your travel dates or cancel for credit, both at without penalty. Most hotels and hotel booking sites already allow for free cancellations within a specific window of time.
No flexibility? While most of the travel world is offering some form of leniency, you may like to consider domestic travel insurance. Yes, it exists. It's still very limited in who offers it and what it can cover, but with domestic travel on the rise, we're expecting to see more innovative products around it in the near future.
Campervanning and road tripping
Caravan hiring program Camplify coined 2020 the year of the road trip, seeing a 125% increase in winter camping holidays in 2020 compared to 2019.
While that was this year, it feels like the trend is here to stay.
It could be the freedom of hitting the open road, it could be the remoteness of this form of travel, or it could just be that you're not comfortable hopping on a plane quite yet. Whatever the case, there are stacks of campervan hire companies that can get you driving into your next adventure.
All this staying at home has no doubt made us think about the bigger picture.
Where are the destinations we've been putting off because of time and money constraints? What are the bucket list experiences we'd regret if they weren't around anymore?
Well, 2021 is the year to tick them off. According to Luxury Escapes, bucket list experiences is the number two indulgence Aussies wish to do this year. This is behind nabbing a room upgrade which we reckon is a bucket-list experience in itself too.
New research by Toyota Australia and YouGov furthers this, finding that 8 out of 10 Aussies are on the hunt for adrenaline-fuelled experiences such as skydiving, snorkelling and off-roading.