From the mental health crisis to ‘trip roulette’, Globetrender editor and founder Jenny Southan reveals six trends shaping the future of travel in 2021 and 2022.
Globetrender submitted the following insights to the UK government’s Global Travel Taskforce, to help it in its decision-making with regard to relaxing rules around international travel on May 17, 2021.
1. SPENDING FEVER
By June 2021, those Britons who have seen their incomes remain much the same but their spending plummet during lockdown will have amassed £250 billion in savings.
Once the rules around international travel start to relax, we can expect a huge rush to spend on booking holidays abroad, with people staying in destinations for longer (often combining holidays with remote working), upgrading their hotels, booking luxury villas for friends and family, and splashing out on more lavish experiences.
By opening up international travel, the UK economy can start to benefit from increased spending with UK travel companies, agents and airlines.
It could also receive revenue from a rise in inbound tourism – in the eurozone, HSBC estimates that households have saved €470 billion more in 2020 than they did in 2019, also setting up this region for a major spending boom.
2. MENTAL HEALTH
Delaying the start of international travel (including holidays) on May 17, 2021, will be extremely detrimental to the mental health of the UK population. If the government doesn’t appreciate the importance of mental health, alongside physical health, then not only will it have a Covid crisis on its hands but a mental health crisis (it has, in fact, already started).
In 2020, one in five people in the UK was suffering from depression, twice the number in 2019. This puts a huge strain on the economy because of people being unable to do their jobs, as well as the NHS, and parents who need to care for their children. Poor mental health equates to low productivity, human neglect, rising crime and the general disintegration of society.
According to the Centre for Mental Health, an independent UK charity, up to 10 million people living in the UK “will need new or additional mental health support as a direct consequence of the pandemic”. (However, this is actually a conservative estimate given that these figures predate the latest wave of the virus and a winter lockdown.)
Travel is vital for people’s mental health – firstly because without this freedom, people feel confined and imprisoned. Just the knowledge that that they can go on holiday (even if they don’t immediately) will provide a significant boost to public wellbeing.
Secondly, holidays are proven to revitalise people, to boost productivity, happiness and creativity. They lower stress. They are not frivolous and unnecessary lifestyle choices.
Thirdly, allowing holidays from May 17, 2021, opens up the possibility for families and loved ones to be reunited. The pandemic has caused an immense amount of grief and heartache for people. Now, thanks to the vaccine, it is the time to let people start healing and reconnecting.
Making borders impermeable or even semi-impermeable – by implementing quarantine hotels, example – is torture for people who need to go overseas for personal reasons.
The UK should open up as much as it possibly can, with an emphasis on testing, testing, testing – and trust in the vaccine’s ability to prevent severe illness.
3. DOUBLE BOOKINGS
Travellers are hedging their bets for a summer/autumn 2021 holiday by double and even triple-booking trips within the UK and abroad for the same dates.
This is a consequence of two key things – the on-going uncertainty around travel rules and the increased flexibility around cancellations that travel companies are giving consumers to motivate them to book.
Double bookings will be incredibly damaging for the travel industry as a large percentage of people will cancel at the last-minute.
Travel companies are already in a worse position in 2021 compared to 2020 as so many consumers will be redeeming vouchers for flights and hotel stays that they were issued last year, rather than making new purchases.
Relaxing travel restrictions immediately and having a clear roadmap for international travel will be key to minimising the problem of double booking.
4. TRIP ROULETTE
Even when travel opens up and holidays are allowed, crossing borders will be a highly fraught process that will be incredibly off-putting to anyone wanting to go on holiday, travel for business or visit family abroad.
The public will be forced to play “trip roulette” as they gamble on whether or not they will get to board their flight, enter their destination of choice, manage to stay healthy and even return to their home country without having to quarantine. Travel companies are going to have to work ten times harder to make trips viable.
There is an urgent need for globally recognised, highly secure digital health passports for everyone who has had the vaccine, as well as a well-organised system of cheap or (better still) free Covid testing for departing and arriving passengers.
Even with these measures, consumers face myriad logistical problems, risk assessments and expenses when it comes to travelling abroad. This will dissuade many people from going overseas in 2021 and 2022, even if they are legally permitted to do so.
This should be reassuring to the government because initially, only those that really need to go abroad, will do so.
5. CIVIL LIBERTIES
In the noughties, travel abroad was seen as a part of daily life but this decade it will be a hard-won luxury, especially for anyone who is not part of the 1 per cent. (Wealthy people in the age of Covid can find more loopholes when it comes to travel overseas, and enjoy the ability to liberate themselves with the use of private jets and high-end concierges who manage every aspect of their journey.)
As each country fights to protect its citizens with the vaccine, governments will seek to continue to preserve public wellbeing (and redeem themselves on a political level) by focusing on keeping out variants of the virus at the cost of individual civil liberties.
For those that have had the vaccine and the likely top-ups that will be required, freedom will be back on the menu but only if they relinquish control of their health, biometric and, possibly even, location data.
After a year of house arrest, many civilians will be willing to make this compromise. But they won’t put up with on-going lockdowns and restrictions on movement. Many sacrifices have been been made by the entire UK population for the greater good. Now is the time to give back responsibility to the individual.
Anti-lockdown protests are just the beginning – if the government doesn’t give people their freedom back, they could find a rebellion on their hands.
With the UK excelling in the roll-out of the Covid vaccine, there is no legitimate reason for preventing people from travelling abroad from May 17, 2021. Keeping cases low is not the metric to be concerned with – it’s hospitalisations.
It’s important to understand that overseas travel isn’t just about boozy “fly and flops”. It’s about reuniting families, growing the economy and giving people an income (before the pandemic, the travel industry employed one in ten people globally).
If you look at the ‘right to liberty’ that is upheld as a basic human right by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, it says the right to liberty and security (article 5) focuses on ‘protecting individuals’ freedom from unreasonable detention, as opposed to protecting personal safety.’
“It says: ‘You have a right to your personal freedom. This means you must not be imprisoned or detained without good reason.’ These reasons do include ‘for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases’ but with infection rates so much lower, and so many people in the UK now protected, now is the time to give the public back their freedom to travel.
Quarantine hotels, travel declarations and fines are draconian – they are not measures to be tolerated for long in progressive, democrative societies. With vaccine passports and rigorous Covid testing in place for departing and arriving passengers, containing the variants of the virus can still be achieved.
6. VIRAL INSURANCE
The need for Covid cover in the viral age will be key to getting travel moving again and savvy providers will benefit.
However, the UK travel insurance market has suffered greatly as a consequence of the pandemic. In 2019, the industry grew to 614.2 million in gross written premiums. The travel insurance market is expected to have contracted by 58.2 per cent in 2020.
According to Research and Markets, the revival of the travel insurance market will depend “massively” on economic recovery following the outbreak of the pandemic. “Changing customer behaviour given the revocation of the European Health Insurance Card by the end of 2020 will also be a factor, as will the Financial Conduct Authority’s new rules on signposting for consumers with pre-existing medical conditions.”
In 2021 and 2022, the optics around travel insurance will change. No longer will it be an annoying expense but a material requirement that every traveller will need to invest in.
Now, a growing number of travel insurance providers, destinations, airlines and hotel programmes are offering Covid-specific insurance in a bid to breathe life into the ailing industry, some of it even for free. (The Canary Islands was the first region in Spain to offer free travel insurance for overseas visitors, for example, while Virgin Atlantic introduced free cover through Allianz Assistance.)
The revival of holidays on this spring would give a huge boost to the travel insurance industry, with positive ripple effects on all the people it employs and families that rely on this income.
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