It was the first glimmer of hope for the beleaguered travel industry in 2020 when locked-down citizens started doing something new amid the pandemic: not working from home, but working from anywhere. Off they’d go for weeks or months at a time, to any locale with good surf and better Wi-Fi, to show off a new Zoom background after early morning swims.

Today the era of decamping from your hometown might seem as far in the rearview mirror as a five-day, in-person workweek might appear on the horizon. But a new version of the trend is emerging—and it could prove a serious boon for the travel industry.

The ability to work from home is profoundly, and permanently, changing the way we travel. More lenient office policies mean many workers can travel anytime, even during busy workweeks, as long as they can hit deadlines from far afield. That, in turn, has made it easier for people to travel more frequently and for longer amounts of time, sometimes unlocking farther-flung destinations. The mixing of work and play, which some industry insiders (annoyingly) refer to as “bleisure” (business + leisure) travel, has greatly helped airlines make up for lost traffic.

“The ‘great untethering’ isn’t a trend, it’s permanent,” says Chris Lehane, global head of policy and communications for Airbnb Inc. “It’s a durable and enduring pattern that would have ultimately happened as society moved forward, even without the pandemic.”

“When you think about the technologies that have transformed travel, what we’re doing now, communicating and working on Zoom, is maybe even bigger than the advent of steam trains or commercial flight,” Lehane continues. “The entire construct of travel is in the midst of a change right now.”

That’s why companies as wide-ranging as Airbnb, Deloitte, and travel trade publication Skift have called the continuation of remote work the greatest change maker in travel for 2022. Here’s how it will affect your own experiences on the road well beyond the pandemic’s end.

You’ll Take More Trips
According to a 2022 travel industry outlook from Deloitte, people with the intent to fit work into their journeys also planned to travel twice as often as those who sought time to unplug. “Laptop luggers,” as Deloitte refers to them, will take two to four trips a year, compared with one to two for “disconnectors,” and 75% of them will add extra time to their vacation. (Only 6% will extend by several weeks, but a majority—38%—will add from three to six days.)

“It’s a benefit for the industry,” says Eileen Crowley, Deloitte’s travel leader. “These work-from-home travelers are spending more. There’s more potential there. They also fared a bit better financially during the pandemic, so they can increase their travel budgets as well.”

Kayak Chief Executive Officer Steve Hafner agrees. At a Skift conference previewing the megatrends that will shape travel in 2022, he said, “When you work from anywhere, that means more leisure travel. If you’re liberated from an office, you can go to a lot of other places.”

Airbnb’s Lehane says the ability to take work where your family wants to go means that “now you can organize your work life with your family at the center, as opposed to working your family around your job.”

And that also benefits hotels and destinations, as they become less reliant on excessively busy peak periods that have traditionally been deemed convenient times to travel—say, school vacation weeks.

Stays are getting longer, too. In a trends report for the year ahead, Airbnb shared that in the third quarter of 2021 (for which the most recent data were available), almost half of the nights booked on its platform were for stays of at least seven days, up from 44% in 2019. One out of every five gross nights booked in the quarter were for stays of 28 days or longer.

And data from vacation property management platform Guesty suggest the trend of extended stays has continued to grow during the pandemic. In 2021, 14-plus-day bookings grew 33% from a year earlier, with a cumulative rise of 121% since 2019.

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