Pent-up demand means 2021 will be the “year of the big trip” with enquiries and bookings “well ahead” of normal levels, according to Kuoni’s annual Travel Forecast.
The operator said average spend per booking had risen by £683 from £8,549 in 2019 to £9,231 for 2021, based on advance sales so far.
Kuoni reported more clients upgrading their 2021 holiday with business class, helicopter transfers and experiences like hot air balloon flights.
Derek Jones, Kuoni chief executive, said: “Our phone lines are busy with new enquiries to places like Greece, Italy, The Maldives, Antigua and Kenya, which are trusted favourites, as well as adventurous multi-centre itineraries to destinations such as Botswana, Japan, the Seychelles, Thailand and Sri Lanka.”
He added: “We’re seeing two types of travellers emerge, those who are prepared to book and travel at short notice and those who are planning much further ahead, aiming to travel in a year’s time or more – they’re enjoying making plans and are excited about the idea of heading off to see the world again.”
Kuoni’s traditional best seller, the Maldives, once again tops the list of long-haul destinations in demand. During the pandemic, it has been boosted by a travel corridor with the UK, direct flights and the appeal of isolated island retreats. The Maldives has recorded 100,000 visitors since reopening to international visitors on 15 July.
Next on the list of Kuoni’s best sellers for 2021 is Italy, followed by Kenya, the Seychelles and Greece.
The Seychelles has been another beneficiary of direct flights and a travel corridor. “It’s proving to be a big winner for next year with couples looking for a castaway vibe,” Kuoni said.
The operator added Kenya’s popularity was due to demand from “those dusting down their bucket lists”.
It added: “Botswana enquiries are also building, as it is just the type of big-ticket wildlife holiday garnering interest not just for next year, but also 2022.”
Kuoni also said the Caribbean was selling well, particularly for the early months of next year, with Antigua its sixth bestseller. The island benefits from non-stop flights and a willingness to receive visitors who test pre-travel.
Bali is also in Kuoni’s top 10, particularly for couples planning summer weddings next year. It is one of the few long-haul destinations whose peak weather dovetails with the British summer, making it popular with honeymooners.
Kuoni also expects demand for Sri Lanka to return next year. The operator has added more options on the east coast, where the weather is at its best from April to September.
Kuoni’s top 2021 destinations: