Graphic by K8 Strassman

It’s Not Too Early to Start Planning Holiday 2021

It’s [gonna be] May… but we’re already seeing momentum for Holiday Season 2021.

Never too early to start planning for the holidays!

No, we don’t mean Memorial Day and the 4th of July… if you haven’t planned your summer holiday travel yet, might be too late… We gave you the heads up in December that 2021 would bring a summer of travel!

Why does the 2021 holiday season have momentum now? We are seeing a major shift in consumer sentiment, from people seeing light at the end of the tunnel to people feeling the light on them. Thanks to all the imminent state re-openings (New York being the latest!) the re-opening finally has a deadline.

It will be no easy feat getting everything back up & running… With Danny Meyer as chair of the NY EDC, it is clear that hospitality will lead the recovery, warming us up for Holidays 2021 when we’ll be more than ready to eat, drink and be merry.

“For too long, New Yorkers have not been able to gather together to hear the clinking of glasses in restaurants or see the lights on Broadway. We’re ready to safely re-engage the culture, travel, and hospitality industries — and the people who make them so special — and get back to the business and heart of what makes our city beloved by all,” said Danny Meyer, founder and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG).

How will the Holiday season be different this year? Ditch the sleds to Grandma’s house! This year we’ll be traveling by plane, hosting over the top events with all of our friends, family and colleagues, doubling down on holiday traditions, and finally gifting experiences again.

In 2020, momentum for the holidays was driven by eagerness to get on to the future — people weren’t interested in celebrating with the usual holiday spirit… they were just ready for 2021.

This year, people won’t be eager for the holiday season to end. We are going to get into the spirit, savor the moments and celebrate to the extreme.

ON THE DOWN: Zoom Celebrations

No more sending Zoom invites to cut the turkey or figuring out where to position the computer so everyone can be seen and heard… We will be celebrating IRL!


Hospitality will be the cornerstone of all holiday gatherings. Some will be the ones ready and willing to host as many friends & family in person as they can, excited to go over the top to make them feel warm and welcome.

Others will be taking their much awaited winter vacations, ready to clink glasses at the hotel bar and embrace room service breakfast in bed.

People will be gifting experiences for all the in-person activities they can finally do again.

In 2020, Black Friday sales were polarizing because for the first time, they came early, were primarily online, and went on for more than 1 day. Some consumers appreciated extended deals without the drama (lines, early mornings, crowds, etc), others missed the rush of the chaotic, single day Black Friday sales.

In 2021, consumers will want the best of both worlds: It will be a clicks & mortar holiday shopping season.

The people that missed the excitement, energy, discovery and holiday spirit of shopping in person will start building their wishlist and holiday shopping early and in person (even as early as pre-Halloween). They’ll purchase online when they become available for Black Friday sale.

Retailers (even those that are primarily e-commerce) should lean into this tension by infusing a memorable hospitality experience while consumers shop in-person to ensure they stay top of mind when it comes time to actually purchase.

We expect spectators will once again be excited to do all the in-person traditions they skipped last year: Thanksgiving day parade, Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular, etc. Disneyland, which just reopened April 30th after its year-long closure, may be putting a pause to crowd-drawing experiences like parades and “nighttime spectaculars” for now… expect them to be back in full swing come November / December.

Charitable impact will continue to be a major cornerstone of the 2021 holidays. Brands and businesses should lean into the movement of consumers opting out of gift giving to donate to charities instead.


Looking back at holidays 2020, no retailers truly “won” the holidays because consumers weren’t interested in celebrating. It was business as usual. “Big box” retailers that were already doing OK during the pandemic continued to do well through the holidays.

In 2021, consumers will want to indulge. It will be the retailers, brands & businesses that lean in and leverage hospitality to enhance the consumer experience that will win the 2021 Holidays.

Momentum Maker, Author of Maximum Momentum, Founder & CEO of Decode_M