When American Express launched their Global Travel Trends Report earlier this year, they found that 64% of travelers surveyed across seven countries missed traveling so much that they were willing to give up social media for a month to go on vacation safely. 76% reported having started a destination wish list for future travel, even though they might not be able to travel just yet, and 56% said they’d be willing to book a trip even if they might have to cancel in the future.

As vaccination rates increase, people across the globe are craving a return to travel. According to a recent survey by McKinsey, in fact, travel is the second most desired activity for respondents, proceeded only by dining out. Meanwhile, this summer, air travel hit two million passengers daily in the US, rebounding from 90,000 in April of 2020. In November, the country will reopen to vaccinated air travelers from 33 countries, lifting an 18-month ban.

To coincide with the cautious return of travel, many have taken advantage of the “trip-stacking trend,” booking multiple trips at the same time in case of cancellations. Airlines have introduced rebooking guarantees for more flexibility, adapting to the needs of customers longing to reunite with family or explore someplace new. Car rental prices have boomed, with the demand outpacing supply in some cases.

As the industry rebounds, the visual culture surrounding travel continues to expand and evolve. Below, we’ll discuss four trending themes to keep in mind when shooting for your Licensing portfolio in 2021. Consider incorporating one or more of these ideas into your upcoming photo sessions to improve the marketability of your work.

Spotlight on: The new normal

While travel is slowly bouncing back, it looks dramatically different than it did a year and a half ago, and brands will continue to look for images that reflect that reality. In the US, for instance, the CDC has extended mask mandates for mass transit, so face coverings will be required until at least 2022. Nations around the world have implemented various testing protocols, vaccine passports, sanitation rules, and more, with regulations evolving as the situation unfolds.

Visualizing these changes might mean capturing the steps people take before traveling to ensure their safety, from getting tested to educating their kids on mask-wearing and sanitation rules. It could mean photographing someone using hand-sanitizer on the bus or train, or perhaps it means visualizing self-check-in or contactless payment systems for hotels.

Consider every part of the process, from planning to arrival. Expedia Group’s 2021 Travel Recovery Trend Report revealed that four in five travelers plan to make accommodation decisions based on pandemic measures implemented, so travel companies will continue to seek out visuals that demonstrate their commitment to safety.

Of course, people are also traveling in smaller groups, meaning that photographers can easily work with their own immediate family to create images that resonate—without the need for additional models. Changing regulations can feel confusing, so remember to stay up-to-date on safety protocols, and consider simple, straightforward ways to illustrate what they look like.

Spotlight on: Local travel

In January, survey data from Airbnb revealed that 56% of respondents preferred a domestic or local destination, as compared to just 21% who want to travel internationally or visit a faraway destination. On top of that, one in five said they wanted their destination to be within driving distance of where they live.

In May, further research from Airbnb indicated that a year into the pandemic, nearby travel was still the second most popular type of trip, following visits to the beach. Additionally, they found that interest had shifted from big cities to smaller destinations. In 2019, the ten most popular cities on the platform accounted for 10% of nights. By the summer of 2021, that number had fallen by more than half.

The road-tripping trend that began last summer is still reshaping travel, so look close to home for locations, and consider setting up a photoshoot with friends in your local park or coffeehouse. Keep in mind that you need a property release, signed by the owner or tenant, to feature any privately owned location in photos you plan to license for commercial use. Model releases are required for any identifiable person.

Spotlight on: Workations

A May report from Airbnb also offers insight into another trend: working while traveling. From 2019 to the first quarter of 2021, long-term stays of at least 28 days increased from 14% to 24% of nights booked, with 55% of those who booked long stays saying that they’d been working or studying during their trips. In 2020, 19% of Airbnb Homes guests used the marketplace to travel and work remotely, and in 2021, 11% of those who booked long-term stays reported living a nomadic lifestyle.

The possibility of remote work has given rise to the popularity of digital nomadism, with people traveling and working remotely from anywhere in the world. According to the Global Travel Trends Report by American Express, 54% of survey respondents said that the freedom and flexibility to work while traveling is more appealing now than it was before the pandemic.

In turn, some destinations have pivoted to advertising and catering to remote workers amid the pandemic. While many might hear the phrase “digital nomad” and imagine a trendy millennial on the beach, there are countless ways to visualize this trend. For some, it could mean renting a house in the woods for a few months; for others, it could be setting up a workstation in a beach town in the off-season.

Work with your models to show what remote work looks like for them personally. By shadowing them and documenting everyday micro-moments, you’ll end up with natural photos that don’t feel staged or scripted.

Spotlight on: Sustainable travel

American Express’s Global Travel Trends Report also found that 55% of respondents said they were interested in carbon negative travel, with 60% saying they want to book airlines that have made a carbon neutral commitment. Even as air travel returns, interest in sustainable destinations and ethical commitments remains at the forefront of many of our minds.

This summer, Booking.com marked a significant moment in sustainable travel when their research revealed that 83% of global travelers think sustainable travel is vital—with 61% of respondents reporting that the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably going forward. As part of their 2021 Sustainable Travel Report, the online travel agency also found that 79% of travelers wanted to use more environmentally friendly modes of transportation, opting for walking, cycling, or public transport over rental cars or taxis.

Beyond that, Booking.com reports that 53% of respondents said they get annoyed if the place where they are staying stops them from being sustainable (e.g., no recycling facilities). 81% said they want to stay at a sustainable accommodation within the next year, up from 62% in 2016. Of course, visualizing sustainable travel starts with traveling sustainably as a photographer.

When possible, choose transportation that leaves the smallest possible footprint, and consider ways of offsetting that footprint. Do your research into accommodations, and visit places that aren’t facing overcrowding due to tourism. Finally, give back to the community by buying from local farmers and businesses or volunteering with an environmental group. When you believe in what you’re doing and the places you’re visiting, that commitment will shine through in your pictures.

Not on 500px yet? Click here to learn about Licensing with 500px.