Globetrender editor and founder, Jenny Southan, discusses the future of travel with American presenter Kristen Soltis Anderson on her radio show The Trendline. Here is what she predicts…
Anderson: One of the things I see people – particularly seniors – most excited to do once Covid is “over” is go on vacation. Are people looking to book their big dream vacation or are people thinking vacation but smaller/closer to home to start?
Southan: As we know, older people around the world have been among the first to receive the Covid vaccine. At Globetrender, we call these people Vaccine VIPs, as they are going to become the most privileged people in society. They are going to be given more freedom, especially when it comes to travel.
However, the problem is, travelling abroad in 2021 is going to be really complicated – even if you have had the vaccine. Many countries will continue to restrict who comes in and out, demanding covid testing, and putting people in quarantine. This will make it incredibly difficult for consumers to plan vacations abroad as there are so many things to take into consideration.
People will have to do a lot of research into country-specific regulations, get the right travel and health insurance, make sure they have contingency plans for if their flight gets cancelled and they are stranded, and make sure the companies they book with offer full refunds.
Last year, in our Travel in the Age of Covid-19 trend report, we highlighted Dream Trip Planning as a major trend. But I think that because we have experienced disappointment after disappointment when it comes to our ability to travel internationally – and even domestically – people have accepted they need to lower their expectations in 2021.
I think the big bucket-list trips need to wait until at least 2022. In the meantime, domestic travel is the answer – we are observing a huge rise in road trips and glamping experiences, for example, as well as villa rentals.
For older people, one of the top priorities will be spending time with family and booking Reunion Vacations, so renting a gorgeous property somewhere in their own country, ideally with a pool, will seem like a good bet.
I’d like to add that the great thing about the US is that it is such an enormous and varied country, with so many different landscapes and climates and vacation opportunities. For people in the UK, there are very limited places to go on holiday and we joke that it always rains, which is why we like to head overseas.
Anderson: The pandemic had disproportionate economic effects on those middle and lower income. What will rebound first – luxury travel or budget travel?
Southan: Definitely luxury travel. People with lower incomes will really struggle to afford the cost of an overseas vacation in the Covid age as it will almost certainly require paying for pre-departure tests, which can be hundreds of dollars, and in some cases, paying for hotel quarantines.
Although there are good deals to be found, once travel gets moving, airlines and hotels will start hiking prices to start recouping losses. All this will be very off-putting for budget travellers. Budget travel, as we knew it, will become a thing of the past.
People with high amounts of disposable income, on the other hand, will not be dissuaded by these price-based barriers. Money opens doors. At the top end of the market we have already seen private jet usage rocketing.
In the months ahead, we will see luxury travellers turning to elite concierge companies to arrange trips for them and provide support when and if anything goes wrong. They will charter yachts and book out entire private islands for their friends. Travel abroad will become a luxury in itself.
Anderson: How are airlines handling this? I noticed one airline that has added more domestic routes to places like Savannah, Hilton Head, Maine, places Americans might like to spend time this summer domestically. Will domestic travel increase while international doesn’t?
Southan: Yes in the US, summer 2021 will be huge in terms of domestic tourism. Airlines are wisely opening up their regional networks to accommodate pent-up demand. Everyone from Delta and United to Southwest and Spirit are launching new routes to domestic leisure destinations.
Meanwhile, American Airlines, for example, has announced it is cutting international flights for 2021 by 25 per cent compared with 2019. Networks will be much smaller but they will be highly strategic.
Anderson: What about things like RV rentals and camping – will we still have a focus on outdoors things once indoors is safe again?
Southan: The problem is that it is not going to be safe again for a long while. Unless you have had the vaccine or have recovered from Covid, the risk of getting ill is always going to be there, and the subsequent health and safety protocols such as temperature checks, social distancing and health certificates are going to be something we all have to navigate for a while.
For this reason we predict that outdoor hospitality will continue to be popular, especially in the US where you have so much incredible wilderness and natural beauty. It makes sense to go and enjoy it. Plus it gives people a real sense of freedom after being confined for so long.
Of course, a lot of people will also want to embrace more hedonistic lifestyle and go back to drinking in bars, partying on the beach in Miami and eating in restaurants so that will happen too. For families, a road trip in an RV and camping will prove the perfect vacation.
Anderson: How are the theme parks doing? Are they bouncing back well?
Southan: In the UK, theme parks are set to reopen after a number of months of closure on April 12 so we don’t have any data yet on how popular they will be. They are outdoor experiences, though, in the main, which means they are probably going to be quite popular. They offer people fun, which is something we have really been missing.
The downside is there will be lots of new regulations that could take some of the joy out of visiting theme parks, such as a ban on screaming and shouting, which is what some Japanese theme parks are requiring. I am not sure how that would go down in the UK or US.
Anderson: I’m particularly curious how cruise lines will do when this passes. Cruises were where some of the first big outbreaks happened that we knew about. Will that industry recover? Did they use the downtime to upgrade ships, etc do maintenance that might have otherwise been costly to do if it meant losing possible revenue?
Southan: Cruising is a big topic but what I can say is that we can expect ships to only allow people who have been vaccinated to board. Many companies, from Celebrity Cruises to Royal Caribbean have already said that they are making this a requirement for all crew and passengers. I believe that some cruise lines will accept a negative PCR test for those under the age of 18.
Once onboard, this means that cruise ships will actually be one of the safest places on the planet to be, so I hope this means that masks and social distancing will not be a requirement. Hopefully they will offer a chance to really let go and have fun once at sea.
Anderson: What changes will be with us for a long time?
Southan: One of the big trends were are following closely at Globetrender is the rise of workations, which is connected with widespread adoption of remote working. I was reading in the Financial Times today that we can expect a huge shift in people moving out of cities to more rural locations because people won’t need to commute on a daily basis to an office.
This shift to working from anywhere will see people spending longer amounts of time overseas in elsewhere in their own country, combining work with leisure. Overall, we can expect there to be a long term trend for flying less and staying longer. We will appreciate that travel is a privilege and not a right.