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Key Themes in Travel and Tourism for 2021 – Thematic Research

The future of tourism has fundamentally changed. As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc in the tourism sector, the consequences will – and already have – fundamentally changed how consumers travel and companies operate. Long-standing changes to the sector will occur on technological, macroeconomic and industry levels. Some of these changes will impact more than one level. For example, hypervigilance around health and hygiene has caused a change in traveler demands that will create established changes at all three levels. An increased need for health to be a priority in travel will surge:

• The implementation of ‘no-touch’ technology through the means of AI and IoT (Technology)

• The popularity of the sharing economy through the provision of cheap, secluded accommodation provided by the likes of Airbnb (Macroeconomic)

• Online travel sales due to consumers looking to avoid high street locations (Industry)

The companies that recognize how these changes in traveler demands impact their operations on these different scales have the best chance of accelerating recovery during and post-pandemic.

Many of the key themes outlined in this report are naturally linked, irrespective of the pillar in which the theme sits, whether it be technology, macroeconomic or industry. This point can be illustrated when focusing on the technology themes of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. As well as strongly linking to the majority of other technology themes, Artificial Intelligence is strongly linked to themes in the industry pillar, such as:

• Personalization – Major and small scale travel companies are using AI to personalize the planning experience and showcase the best deals to the traveler’s feed instantaneously. The more a customer uses the service, the more information the AI algorithm has available to further customize the search results.

• Online Travel – OTAs are heavy adopters of AI to achieve objectives such as personalization. They often use AI to personalize travel recommendations and boost the user experience. Once a user searches for a specific location on an OTA website such as Booking.com, the algorithm based on machine learning provides personalized results tailored to the specific interests of the user.

“The reason why tourism executives may not view AI as disruptive is because the technology is already heavily utilized in a range of operations and is enhancing capabilities from an internal and external standpoint.” – Ralph Hollister – Travel & Tourism Analyst, GlobalData


This report provides an overview of the key themes in Travel and Tourism for 2021.

This report clearly defines and explains what the key technology, macroeconomic and industry themes are in Travel and Tourism and how they interlink.

This report outlines the importance of specific themes within tourism and why it is vital that companies invest in the ones which are relevant to them.

This report provides examples of what companies and organizations in the Travel and Tourism sector are doing in reaction to specific themes, along with the outcome of these reactions.

Key Highlights

The increasing importance of cloud technology can be seen through job openings during the pandemic. There was an (xx)% increase in cloud-related job postings by travel and tourism companies globally between mid-September and early October 2020, according to GlobalData’s Job Analytics database. The shift in consumer attitudes to more online communications has spurred businesses to become more digitized and streamline operations. This in turn has led to businesses adopting cloud technology more vigorously in order to further optimize processes during this current period of sustained low demand, caused by the pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, the impact of COVID-19 has also severely impacted the revenues of travel intermediaries. However, particular companies have fared better with the pandemic in comparison to others. Companies, with a bigger and better online presence have tended to fare better than companies with a more of a presence on the high street. More ‘traditional’ tour operators are realizing the value of an online focus at the expense of a high street presence. The recent relaunch of Thomas Cook as an online-only travel agent shows this. This asset light business model is seen as a sensible move in times when online travel sales are expected to grow at a CAGR of (xx)% between 2020 and 2024 compared to (xx)% for in-store sales, according to GlobalData’s Travel Intermediaries Database.

Reasons to Buy

To understand the key themes in Travel and Tourism and their current and future impact on the sector.

To recognize how key themes in Travel and Tourism are often interlinked.

To assess the general usage of themes in specific tourism industries.

To become aware of the strategies that tourism companies and organizations have adopted in order to tap into different themes, as well as the success of these strategies.

GlobalData’s thematic research ecosystem is a single, integrated global research platform that provides an easy-to-use framework for tracking all themes across all companies in all sectors. It has a proven track record of identifying the important themes early, enabling companies to make the right investments ahead of the competition, and secure that all-important competitive advantage.

Key Players

Booking Holdings, Hilton, Airbnb, Ryanair, Expedia, Black Tomato, Royal Caribbean, Hostelworld, Sixt, P&O Ferries

Table of Contents

Contents –

Executive Summary

T&T Theme Map

Technology Themes

Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

Cloud Computing


Internet of Things

Mobile Payments


Virtual and Augmented Reality

Macroeconomic Themes


Generation Hashtag

Mergers and Acquisitions

Sharing Economy



Experience Economy

Low Cost Evolution

Online Travel


Sector Scorecards

Airport Sector Scorecard

Airline Sector Scorecard

Attraction Operators Sector Scorecard

Rail and Road Transport Sector Scorecard

Lodging Sector Scorecard

Travel Intermediary Sector Scorecard


Further reading

| Our thematic research methodology

| About GlobalData

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