American writer Henry Miller once said, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
Every one of us who are travel lovers are asking the same questions: When can we travel again? Where do we want to go next for new and rewarding experiences? What exactly can we expect from travel in the future?
As a travel writer, I’m also a TravMedia member. TravMedia is a global media network—the world’s largest online news portal for travel media and travel industry PR professionals. I was privileged to join their webinar, “Travel PR During Coronavirus,” this past week. The overall message was enlightening, hopeful, positive, and encouraging.
Prestigious panelists brought together for this webinar included Arnie Weissmann, Editor in Chief, Travel Weekly; Catharine Hamm, Travel Editor, Los Angeles Times; Elizabeth Harryman, Travel Editor, Westways, and six other AAA publications. They were joined by Jacqui Gifford, Editor in Chief, Travel + Leisure; Laura Davidson, President, Laura Davidson PR; and Tori Emerson Barnes, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy, U.S. Travel Association.
The panel, led by Nick Wayland, CEO and Founder of TravMedia, focused on how travel writers and brands are inspiring travel during the isolation of COVID-19 and how they’re preparing to optimize efforts once the travel rebound arrives.
Though the pandemic has had a profound effect on the travel industry as well as keeping travelers from trips they’ve been dreaming of, the panel’s consensus is that travel will indeed return. It’s very likely however, that we will see some changes, many, perhaps, even for the better.
So, what exactly are these travel projections?
2021 Travel is Heating Up
Travelers are future-oriented, and though none of us knows what the remainder of 2020 holds, many are looking ahead to 2021 with great promise. Planning ahead provides aspiring travelers a sense of hope and anticipation of better days ahead. This advance planning is a great way to even land some of the more competitive destinations like the Hawaiian island of Maui.
Travel by Car
Many experts believe that road trips will be the first to return. After months of isolation, travelers will be anxious to get out and explore again. Think weekend getaways and places closer to home for starters. These are comfort zones for many returning to travel and a great way to reconnect.
Domestic Will Bounce Back First
Travelers venturing out by air may likely choose destinations that have easy connections from their hometown airports. These include other places within the U.S. or the Caribbean, and then Mexico and Canada. They represent a safe introduction into somewhat longer distance travel.
Emergence of Less-Traveled Destinations
One of the predicted travel trends for 2020 had already been the avoidance of popular but overcrowded destinations. With the emergence of COVID-19, future travelers won’t likely be choosing places like Venice, Dubrovnik, or Barcelona.
Venturing off-the-beaten path, even as little as 20 miles outside these major tourist sites, can allow travelers to experience the same culture and beauty of the region without the crowds. Think Riviera Maya versus the busy Cancun.
Less Travel Postponement
How many times have we heard these comments? “I really wanted to go but just kept putting it off,” or “I’ll get there someday.”
Lessons we’ve learned from the Coronavirus is that life is precious and family and friends are of the utmost importance. When all is said and done, we’ve lost a lot of time this year, so, no more procrastinating. Travelers are antsy, they want to seize the moment, and putting off travel for many just isn’t going to happen.
Increase in Luxury Travel
According to some panel experts, we’re likely to see an increase in luxury travel sooner than later. Why? Number one, there are those who can afford it. Secondly, private jet trips are being offered at half the typical cost. These charters can fly to more remote places where travelers can rent private homes and continue to practice social distancing.
Safety, Trust and Flexibility
Though travelers are anxious to get back to adventuring, there’s a stronger desire for the traveler to feel more “in charge.” Safety considerations will be a number one concern. Some travel experts even speculate that the dreaded airline middle seat may go away entirely. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
And let’s talk about the trust factor. Travelers will want to know that airlines are stringent in their cleaning processes. The same goes for hotels. They need to make us feel confident that they’re doing everything in their power to minimize our risk.
During periods of uncertainty, travelers are wanting airlines to be more flexible in cancellation and change policies. In light of the impact of the rapid and unexpected Coronavirus restrictions, the travel insurance industry business will go through a major overhaul.
Travelers need to fully understand their policies. “Cancel for any reason” insurance will no doubt increase in popularity. Though these premiums will undoubtedly be higher, for many travelers the peace of mind is worth the cost.
Four Phases of Travel Recovery
On a related note, Kristy Mosolino, owner of Wishes Travel in Birmingham, Alabama, provides an insider look at the return-to-travel trends after attending a virtual presentation targeted to travel agents by renowned travel service, Pleasant Holidays.
According to Kristy, travel is projected to return in four phases.
Phase #1 will include: Domestic Travel Destinations, Close-to-Home, Rental Cars and Personal Vehicles, and Weekend Trips.
Phase #2 will see travelers venturing out a bit more, but to destinations more within their comfort zone, like Hawaii, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Costa Rica.
In Phase #3, travelers will venture further to destinations like Europe, Asia, the South Pacific, and South America.
Cruise ship travel will be the last to return in Phase #4.
It’s important to understand that although these projections are from the global travel industry, they are coming from professional, experienced sources, giving us hope that we’ll be able to travel again.
There’s no doubt when all is said and done, we’ll all appreciate travel that much more. Until then, we have the license not only to dream, but also to plan and prepare.