With only very few aspects of our lives and world unchanged by the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, travel too will be forever changed and re-shaped by this challenging moment in time. Innovation within the travel industry will accelerate to respond to changes in travel trends, expectations, needs and behaviors. Travelers will look for an increased level of travel safety and more sustainable regenerative travel offerings, as well as fine-tune their preferences for travel destinations and travel partners. Newfound appreciation for discoveries in your very own backyard will exist alongside wanderlust, and travelers will find new ways to combine work and travel. All of which will increase a demand for deeper value from the trips we book in the future.
1. GROWING WANDERLUST
Amidst new waves of travel hiatuses, restrictions and ongoing uncertainty, our innate human desire to travel has not been lessened. Travelers plan to take a similar number of trips both domestically and internationally in the 12 months after travel restrictions are lifted in the city, as they did in the year pre-pandemic (March 2019 – March 2020).
Our time at home has made us crave the world outside more than ever. Many of us show an increased desire to see even more of the world, and to travel more in the future to make up for lost time. Many intend to plan a trip to make up for a missed celebration (such as a milestone birthday or wedding), and several people will rebook a trip they had to cancel. With this, we can expect travel agents to get very creative in 2021 with new travel itineraries and suggestions designed to capture the imagination of travelers who missed out on trips last year.
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2. REGENERATIVE TRAVEL
With many travelers wanting to travel more sustainably in the future, we expect to see a more eco-conscious mindset in 2021 and beyond, as Coronavirus has increased people’s awareness about their impact on the environment and local communities. Many of us expect the travel industry to offer more sustainable travel options, and travelers will consequently visit alternative destinations to avoid traveling during peak season, and stay away from crowded tourist attractions. This indicates that destinations will need to come up with new and smart crowd management measures to appeal to potential visitors.
The impact of Coronavirus has also inspired travelers to consider reducing waste and/or recycling their plastic when traveling, showing that people are not just committed to protecting themselves, but also the environment of the destinations they visit.
Travelers believe that the industry must adapt to this sustainable mindset long-term by offering more attractive off-season travel packages and proposing alternative destinations to prevent overcrowding. There are also strong signals for travel companies to be more transparent about how travelers’ money is being used to rebuild a community, paving the way for more regenerative travel. People want their travel choices to also support the destination’s recovery efforts.
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Working remotely has irreversibly become mainstream during the pandemic with the effect that people will look to take longer trips in the future that effectively combine work and pleasure more than ever before. No longer confined to five days a week in an office or Working From Home (WFH) and desperate for a change of scenery, we’ll see a significant rise in the “Workation”, with travelers looking to extend their vacation experience in new locales by staying an extra week or two to work remotely – or conversely factoring holiday around a stint of remote working. Expect laptops to become even more of a mainstay in luggage than ever before, and an attractive spot on which to rest them a must-have when choosing where to stay.
Numerous travelers have already considered booking a stay in order to work from a different destination, while many people would also be willing to quarantine if they could work remotely. Travel platforms and places to stay will prioritize showcasing home office facilities and Wi-Fi speed in an attempt to attract this new wave of digital nomads. Likewise, the world of corporate travel will see increasing demand for privacy, cleanliness and longer stays among those traveling for business, requiring alternative accommodation to seriously up their ‘work-friendly’ game. While companies will undoubtedly reassess their approach to business travel in the future, workers will continue to maximize the trips they do take, with several travelers saying they would extend any business trip to also enjoy leisure time at the destination.
4. SIMPLE PLEASURES
As we learn to live with the consequences of the pandemic in 2021 and beyond, travelers will be keen to embrace a new and stripped-back way of experiencing the world. So much time spent in our own homes with our loved ones has given birth to adjusted travel priorities and a desire to enjoy more of our natural resources. Globally, the use of simple pleasure-related endorsements such as hiking, clean air, nature and relaxation have increased since the start of the pandemic, while research also shows that travelers will look to appreciate more simple experiences such as spending with the family while on vacation. Many people will also seek out more rural, off-the-beaten-track experiences to immerse themselves more into the outdoors.
Considering the renewed emphasis on privacy, sufficient space and personal control over cleanliness and hygiene, it is not surprising that we will see travelers look for accommodation ‘closer to home’, such as staying in a vacation home or apartment rather than in a hotel. Many will opt to eat in more as opposed to eating out at restaurants, so a well-equipped kitchen will be essential for any vacation rental in the future. Relaxing and wellness-related trips will also be high on the travel agenda in the ‘new normal’, with many people saying it was their preferred type of trip followed by city trips and beach breaks.
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5. DOMESTIC TRAVEL
In a new Coronavirus world, local travel has risen to the fore as it remains easier, safer and often more sustainable. Looking ahead, staying closer to home and becoming familiarists rather than tourists will continue to be at the forefront of this year’s travel agendas. Many people plan to travel within the city in the medium term (7-12 months’ time), and many travelers also intend to travel somewhere they’ve already been previously for its familiarity.
Doorstep delights offer both cost and time savings to which destinations and accommodations will respond by offering more historic and cultural heritage tours to educate and entertain visitors, as well as vying for tourists’ affection through original offerings such as guest chefs and bespoke drinks.
Pet-friendly hotel options are also increasing, as furry travel companions will also need catering for as we look ahead. All this in turn will fuel a renaissance of road trips to explore forgotten local gems, a renewed passion to support local businesses and communities as they seek to rebuild, and inspire a newfound sense of pride in the history and beauty that’s just around the corner.
Our appetite to consume travel content, get creative with our travel plans and share our travel dreams with each other will continue to grow enormously over the coming year. Seeking comfort and distraction during weeks in lock-down, the overwhelming majority of travelers spent time looking for vacation inspiration, researching potential travel destinations as often as once a week. As restrictions continue to change, we can expect destinations and accommodations to come up with even more inventive ways to capitalize on travelers’ desire to escape reality and connect them with the experiences that await – from hotels revamping their social media presence by leveraging content created by influencers who visited pre lockdown, to local tourism boards creating inspiring Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) content to visually showcase the best these destinations have to offer.
Yet, social media is not the only source of inspiration when day-dreaming about their next trip. Word of mouth recommendations by friends and family still spark most people’s travel creativity. Many people also feel nostalgic looking through old photographs from previous vacations, which helps them decide on a future trip. While we will see heightened mindfulness about how, where and when we share our traveling experiences in a more restricted and evolving environment, the benefits we derive from exchanging stories, will fuel new innovative trends in sharing tips for entire trips with interactive, shareable itineraries for our friends and families.
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7. TRAVEL SAFETY
Travelers will take more precautions due to Coronavirus and will look to the travel industry to help them gear up for this new normal. Governments, travel associations and providers will have to work together to set consistent standards to help keep travelers safe, and with expectations heightened, some destinations and businesses will need to work harder to regain visitors’ trust. Many travelers will avoid certain destinations, and tourist attractions will have to adapt to allow for social distancing. Many travelers will only book a particular accommodation if it’s clear what health and hygiene policies it has in place, with people often favoring accommodations that have antibacterial and sanitizing products.
Short-term there will also be a change in transport preference and provisions, with many of us opting to avoid public transport for fear of contracting Coronavirus. This will cause a longer-term shift in how people will travel to and around their vacation destinations, with more people choosing to rent or drive their own car. The ‘new normal’ will also see travelers prioritize and adhere to increased health and safety measures. Just as we have become accustomed to traveling without liquids in our carry-on luggage and removing shoes to go through airport security, the majority of travelers will accept health spot checks on arrival and wearing a mask in public. Quarantine measures will remain less popular with far fewer travelers willing to accept these in order to travel to a particular destination.
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8. MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
The financial aftermath of the Coronavirus will inevitably see people demand more bang for their buck in the future. Many travelers will be more price conscious when it comes to searching and planning a trip in the future and are more likely to hunt down promotions and savings, behaviors that are predicted to last years. But the value consumers expect will go beyond price tags. Many people want travel booking platforms to increase their transparency about cancellation policies, refund processes and trip insurance options. Many of us consider refundable accommodation and flexibility to change dates without being charged must-haves for our next trip.
And while travelers are keen to support the industry in its recovery and want their future bookings to help rebuild communities around the world, they will expect much more from the travel industry in return. The industry will need to come together to respond inventively to offer deeper value, better choice, increased flexibility and transparency as well as more thoughtful experiences for tomorrow’s travelers as they scrutinize spend in 2021 and beyond.
See also: 10 New Wellness Hotels Opening in 2021
9. TECH & TRAVEL
Tech innovation will play a crucial role in rebuilding travelers’ confidence and we will see the increased use of tech to adapt to a new type of traveler. Tech will help us regain the spontaneity, confidence and ease of times past, while at the same time help people travel safely and responsibly. Most travelers agree that technology will be important in controlling health risks when traveling and many say that accommodations will need to use the latest technologies to make travelers feel safe. Almost half of the population wants tech options to make last-minute restaurant reservations and more than a half wants more self-service machines instead of ticket desks. More than half are also excited about tech’s potential to further personalize their travel experiences in the future. This reliance on technology will only continue to grow as tech proves its worth and becomes more fused with our travel experiences.
The innovations we’ll see next will bring even more change, with enhanced online experiences influencing future travel behavior and planning. Over a third of travelers would feel more comfortable about going to an unknown destination if they could scout it out beforehand by using virtual reality (VR).
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