From virtual art tours to winter holiday booms, Globetrender identifies ten travel trends that are emerging in the coronavirus era
The Covid-19 pandemic is an undeniable disaster for the travel industry but for those who can afford it, holidays will merely be postponed and bookings made for a time in the future when it is safe to start flying again.
At the moment, this might be the summer but in reality, it probably won’t be until autumn 2020. But with many airlines and hotels happy to grant free reservation changes, it makes sense that people are going ahead and putting trips in the diary so they have something to look forward to (provided they have the insurance/ATOL protection to cover them if the providers go bankrupt).
With dozens of airlines grounded, travel may “feel” like it is on hold but behind the scenes, it is still very much alive. Although most people won’t be freely talking about the trips they are planning (it feels insensitive in such sombre times) that doesn’t mean they aren’t setting about making them happen.
Just as restaurants and bars that survive months of social distancing will be rewarded with a boom in trade when people are finally allowed out of their houses again, so too will hotels and airlines as people rush to embrace their new-found freedom and desire to see the world again.
Here are ten travel trends Globetrender has observed emerging in the age of coronavirus…
1. Discounted holidays
In a bid to generate short-term revenue, many travel companies are selling amazing packages to tempt people to book holidays later in 2020 and even 2021. For example, the Inspiring Travel Company is offering 40 per cent off stays next year at the Joali in the Maldives, while Healing Holidays is providing a 10 per cent discount on 2021 getaways to Vana in the Himalayas. Conde Nast Traveller lists other deals here.
2. Flight sales
At the end of March, Easyjet grounded its entire flight network but that didn’t stop it selling cheap £30 one-way flights to a range of European destinations for between October 2020 and February 2021, meaning quick-acting punters could snap up great deals.
Robert Carey, Easyjet chief commercial officer, said: “We’ve taken the decision to put our flights for the winter season on sale today in order to support customers as much as possible during this time. For the first time flights will also go on sale with a flat fee of £29.99 including taxes and charges. Customers are also able to change their existing plans should they need to, or book a new break, with the reassurance that a change fee will not be applied.”
3. Short-notice trips
Not everyone can be sure of dates that are available to travel in the long-term so the alternative is to be ready to book short-notice getaways as soon as travel restrictions are lifted. This means there will be a rush when things get back to “normal” and an exodus of tourists leaving and arriving in destinations. There may initially be cheap deals to be had but this could change quickly as “dynamic pricing” adjusts to demand.
4. Luxury lockdown retreats
Globetrender has heard from some high-end travel companies that a sub-set of wealthy luxury travellers that were quick to act have managed to find themselves beautiful, isolated boltholes in which to spend lockdown, taking advantage of remote working and enforced career sabbaticals.
Other evidence of this comes from privileged people on Instagram who have set up camp in their own holiday homes in idyllic rural and coastal settings, as well as elite billionaires such as David Geffen who have even boarded super yachts to protect themselves from the virus and enjoy their isolation in supreme comfort. (Here is a piece on The Guardian reporting it.)
5. Virtual travel
As a journalist I can attest to the overwhelming number of press releases I have received announcing various “virtual tours” that armchair travellers can try while housebound. You can, for example, take a virtual tour of the Audi factory in Ingolstadt, Germany, or take part in a live salsa lesson in Puerto Rico, simply from your laptop.
I am not surprised that people are turning to technology to satisfy their wanderlust – in fact I wrote a whole piece about it for Conde Nast Traveller. In it, I describe how Google Arts and Culture has compiled virtual tours of hundreds of the world’s best museums and galleries – from MoMA in New York and Florence’s Uffizi to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and Tate Britain.
Here’s an excerpt: “As cultural institutions such as these are shuttered during the pandemic to help facilitate social distancing, Google’s endeavour means that not only can people explore their famous halls, but they can also do so without queues and crowds, with the option to zoom in for high-definition examinations of colours and brushstrokes.”
6. Dream trip planning
With entire populations of people trapped at home for weeks on end, now is a time like to other for planning dream trips abroad, meaning it’s an ideal opportunity for travel companies, social media influencers and magazine publishers to inspire people.
Key will be focusing on destinations that will be safe to travel to in the coming months, so for those in the UK, Europe will be a safer bet than, say, India, which is going to be grappling with the crisis for longer. With Japan having postponed the Olympic Games until 2021, this means potentially cheaper stays in 2020 once it has coronavirus clearance, while Italy will be favoured as people come to help revive its economy.
As rolling news about the pandemic fills the public with dread and anxiety, thinking about holidays is a way of focusing on more positive things. Although many new hotel openings will be delayed, that doesn’t mean wannabe jet setters won’t be interested in updates and ideas about where to splash the cash when they are able to.
Consumers will also be desperate to have some fun and may have more disposable income after a considerable time indoors with little to spend their money on except groceries and online retail. With this in mind, modest mini-breaks will be swapped for blow-out bonanzas when it comes to holidays in the post-coronavirus world.
7. Unprecedented booking flexibility
As airlines, hotels and travel companies face a massive existential threat from government bans on travel, they are having to offer unprecedented levels of flexibility when it comes to making booking changes. Although many are not willing to offer refunds (they desperately need to keep the cash to survive), they are offering the ability to change the dates of trips for free – both to existing and new bookings.
8. Elite status extensions
Elite members of frequent flyer schemes are being granted extensions to their “gold” or “platinum” status. into 2021. This unusual decision is to acknowledge the fact that their associated perks would otherwise expire and they would not be travelling the usual amount to maintain their status.
Airlines that have been doing this include Qatar Airways. Its chief commercial officer, Simon Talling-Smith, said: “At Qatar Airways, we realise that the people travelling right now are those who are trying to get home to their families, with the majority of business and leisure trips being postponed or cancelled.
“As travel restrictions increase, we want to reassure our Privilege Club members that they will not lose their hard-earned membership status. As such restrictions are outside of our control as an airline, we are honouring the loyalty our members have shown us by offering to extend or reinstate their tier membership and benefits for 12 months.”
9. Travel gift vouchers
As travel companies beseech customers not to give up on going abroad, many are selling travel gift vouchers for future holidays on unspecified dates. Examples include Luxury Scotland, which offers vouchers up to the value of £1,000, which may be redeemed against a stay, experience or meal at a variety of participating properties in the collection.
At the Atlantic Hotel, on the Channel Island of Jersey, people can choose from a range of gift vouchers, whether monetary of experience-specific – for example, an elegant afternoon tea, a three-course market menu dinner, or a seven-course gourmet dinner with wine pairings at the hotel’s Ocean Restaurant.
10. Winter holiday boom
It’s hard to know when we will be allowed to travel again but booking a holiday for the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021 seems like a safe bet. Plus it can be a way of making Christmas extra special. According to digital travel marketing solutions firm Sojern, there has been a “notable spike in travel searches for January 2021 from the UK to Spain with a year-over-year increase of 1,626 per cent”.
It adds: “From the data we see an early upward trend of travel searches from October this year onwards to Spain, France and even domestic travel within the UK. Travel searches from the UK to France in January 2021 show an early increase of 409 per cent year-over-year and even Italy shows a significant above average year-over-year increase of 385 per cent.”
What’s coming next? Trend reports available to download HERE