What type of traveler are you? (Armchair is not an option.)

June 29, 2021 | By Vicki Hyman

Maybe you consider a 25-hour airport layover completely reasonable if it saves you $25. Or maybe you consider a hotel without room service roughing it. When you get to your destination, do you head to the hottest restaurant in town or to the hiking trail least trekked?

Whatever your budget or taste, your travel plans were likely stalled by the pandemic. But Mastercard’s “Recovery Insights: Ready for Takeoff?” report on travel trends in 2021 reveals some notable shifts among types of travelers. As travel starts to pick up again, with one in five countries close to pre-pandemic levels of domestic bookings, budget travel has been the big leader, while long-haul and luxury travel continue to lag.

So what kind of traveler are you, and what do the reopening of borders and the loosening of restrictions mean for you?

Are you up until midnight comparison-shopping vacation rentals and flights? (The country cottage is $50 cheaper a night, but it means renting a car — let me check my spreadsheet of local gas prices!)

No surprise: You’re a Budget Deal Seeker, and that means you’re in good company. Budget deal seekers dominated leisure travel in most markets in 2020, accounting for just over half of all travelers in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru, and just under half in Japan.

Is caviar something you eat, or is it an ingredient in your  favorite spa treatment?

Either way, you may be a Luxury Aficionado. These are travelers who love to shop, especially for luxury goods and health and beauty items, and they spend more on boutique hotels and exclusive resorts. In 2020, Luxury Aficionados traveled less across the board, with the exception of those from Australia and New Zealand, where they traveled from their home countries for hidden gems. But the ranks of Luxury Aficionados could grow. Lockdowns and  stimulus payments have resulted in pent-up savings — $5 trillion globally since the pandemic began. Americans have amassed the most savings as a percentage of their personal consumption expenditures, followed by Canadians, Belgians and Australians.

If you prefer four wheels (or two, for that matter) to a pair of wings, and you’re always on the lookout for your next adventure, you may be an Escapist.

Also known as destination snackers, they are on the lookout for new, less crowded locations away from the mainstream. Escapists  take short getaways mostly within their region or their country, and they helped to  jump-start the travel recovery in 2020. With local jaunts the only option for many during the pandemic, Escapists grew — in Japan, the Middle East and, most notably, the U.S., almost on a par with Budget Deal Seekers — or stayed steady compared with 2019. And it looks like this trend will continue for the near future: Global gas spending is up 13% over its 2019 peak, suggesting that ground travel is on the rebound.

Is “It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere” your personal philosophy? If you don’t wait for your week off to enjoy life to the fullest, you’re a Rejuvenator/Recharger.

These travelers are just as likely to spend on dining, bars and beauty services in their everyday lives as when on vacation. In many markets, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa, Nigeria and Mexico, Rejuvenators, combined with Budget Deal Seekers, formed the largest share of leisure travelers in 2020. The big exception: the U.S., where it accounted for the smallest segment as many destinations were on the Rechargers' "map" were highly crowded or considered less safe.

Replace the Rejuvenators’ tapas with trail mix and facials with fishing, and you’ve got an Adventurer.

These hardy types are always up for the great outdoors, but they’re not likely to spend any more – or any less – when they’re on vacation than when they’re at home. Adventurers grew as a percentage of total travelers from 2019 to 2020 in the U.S. and Australia, but stayed flat or dropped slightly in most other markets.

Some of us go on vacation to escape our relatives; for others, family is the point of vacation, particularly when our loved ones live far away.

If you’re willing to cross continents for stays with family and friends that last longer, you’re a Long-Haul Traveler. Traditionally one of the smallest segments, it shrank even further during the pandemic, when lockdowns and travel restrictions made international travel difficult, if not impossible. The drop was most notable in Singapore and Hong Kong, from 9% to 3%.

On the horizon

International travel will continue to recover much more slowly than domestic, but with even cautious border reopenings, there are certain air travel corridors that are meeting and even exceeding pre-pandemic levels — between Australia and New Zealand, for example, and the U.S. and Latin America and the Caribbean, for example.

Vaccination rates are rising, and although we’re unlikely to see international travel return in full force in the near future, there is the tantalizing potential for travel beyond just where our two feet can take us, no matter if they’re clad in hiking boots, flip-flops or spa slippers. Bon voyage!


Illustration credit: Jihoon Kang 

Vicki Hyman, director, communications, Mastercard