Travel in 2021: Gaze into my crystal ball
Happy New Year! Good-bye and good riddance to 2020.
As I write this page, the first Covid-19 vaccines are being administered to health care workers (including my daughter) while the rest of us watch with equal amounts of hope and trepidation. For the sake of my daughter, and the travel industry, I am praying that the new vaccine is effective and side-effect free. If the supply chains and distribution logistics are efficient, there is a good chance that anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to receive one by early summer.
So what does this mean for the travel industry? We all are hoping for a surge of travelers and there is no doubt there is going to be huge demand for travel. Whether it comes as a surge or a steady stream is yet to be seen, but there is no question there will be a strong recovery in 2021.
There are a lot of factors and conditions that will dictate when, where and how mainstream travel will start to return. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
As for when, if the distribution of the vaccine proceeds according to plan, expectations are that inquiries and bookings should start picking up by late winter/early spring. At that point, people will have a good idea of when they will be able to get the vaccine and will start looking at travel options for post vaccination. The outlook is very strong for travel late summer and beyond.
As for where your clients will want to go, think off the beaten track options. So far, the Caribbean and Mexico have seen the majority of Covid era travel, largely because they were the only options. As other countries start to open their doors for tourism, your clients will be seeking travel focused on the spending time outdoors and away from crowds. Major cities will be slower to recover for this reason.
Domestic travel will continue to be strong with RV and self -drive vacations leading the way for this spring/summer. National parks and beach destinations will show strong growth through 2021.
How will your clients be traveling? As just mentioned, through mid 2021, self-drive vacations will continue to be popular. Many tour operators have developed complete itineraries for this market and you should familiarize yourself with these and market them to your clients. As for air travel, it is entirely possible that major airlines, especially on long haul routes, will require proof of vaccination in order to board the plane. This will lead to a slower recovery for long haul destinations but, increased confidence in air travel.
Of particular importance to your clients will be the terms of travel: deposit refundability, change fees, cancellations policies, etc. Once bitten, twice shy travelers will want to know that they have flexibility should anything happen outside of their control that might affect their travel plans. Travel insurance will be a much easier sell in a post-Covid travel world.
All in all, 2021 promises to be a year of recovery for the travel industry and I want to wish all of you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2021.