3 Ways the Pandemic Has Made Travel Better (Yes, Better!)
As we navigate through the spring of 2021, most of us have spent over a year in some form of lockdown following ever-changing travel restrictions, and we’re all itching to get back out there and start traveling again. Throughout the last year many adventurers have dipped their toes in travel with road trips close to home and excursions in nature where it is possible to safely practice social distancing. But with vaccine rollouts accelerating, we can see a return to full-fledged travel on the horizon, and we’re expecting the industry to come back better than ever.
We acknowledge that the pandemic has had many negative effects (especially economic ones) on the travel and tourism industry. However, we’re also seeing emerging trends that bode well for the future of our industry. The shift in priorities brought on by the pandemic has forced us all to evaluate why we travel and recognize how travel impacts the communities we visit. This self-reflection has us hopeful about the future of travel. Here are three ways we think travel will be better after the pandemic.
1. A Renewed Focus on Sustainability & Community
The halt of travel and tourism at the beginning of the pandemic shed an even brighter light on the impact it has on the environment, especially in destinations that regularly experience negative effects from over-tourism. As travelers begin to venture out further from home and take longer trips, they’ll be more intentional about keeping the impact of their trips to a minimum.
On the other hand, the widespread suspension of travel showed us how much certain communities rely economically on tourism. In these destinations, small businesses suffered the most when visitors stopped coming. Travelers will be more conscious of how they’re spending their money, ensuring they’re supporting local businesses. According to a recent Booking study, on their upcoming trips —
27% of American travelers plan to book independent hotels or accommodations
This enriches travelers’ experiences, allowing them to truly connect with a destination, and supports the local community. Now that’s a win-win!
Pro tip: There are lots of great ways to demonstrate your commitment to sustainable, community-conscious tourism, from working with local vendors to going paperless and purchasing carbon offsets. Share how your business contributes to these efforts to attract eco-conscious travelers. You can find some ideas on how to do this in our sustainability checklist.
2. A New Appreciation for the World Around Us
In the past year, we’ve learned we don’t have to go far for a great vacation. Local travel remains extremely popular, giving us the opportunity to step away from our routine and gain some perspective without spending a lot of money or getting on a plane. Hiking excursions, weekend camping trips, biking adventures, and visits to nearby cities provided solace during a difficult time, and they helped us realize how much there is to discover right outside our doorstep.
You can expect a lot of local travel this year (Booking) —
66% of American travelers said they prefer to travel close to home in the foreseeable future
When planning a local getaway, many travelers opt to immerse themselves in nature. Being stuck at home has reminded us how important it is to get outside, breathe some fresh air, and move our bodies. And the best part? These trips are better for the environment because they have a relatively low carbon footprint compared to flying or cruising.
Pro tip: Highlight what makes your tours and activities great for locals (or outdoor enthusiasts!), such as offering them a new perspective on a familiar location. Read more on our guide on appealing to local bookers.
3. More Intentional, Fulfilling Trips
You know what they say about absence and the heart. The moment we were no longer able to enjoy the world around us, we started to realize all the things we took for granted — sharing fun moments with friends, visiting family, going to sporting events, and of course, traveling. This new perspective allowed us to appreciate what a privilege it is to travel and experience the world.
Many travelers are inspired to be more intentional about their trips, choosing quality over quantity. For example, rather than hitting the major tourist attractions in Europe and spending little time in each city, travelers will seek to slow down and spend more time at one destination, getting to know the community and enjoying local experiences. Of those planning to travel in 2021, 24% plan to visit less frequented destinations (Booking).
The Healing Power of Travel
Travel has real benefits for our mental health. Research has shown that visiting new places can help improve empathy, energy, attention, and focus. And travelers agree (Booking) —
61% of Americans said they realized travel is critical to their emotional wellbeing
People will be looking to make the most of these benefits by choosing truly fulfilling vacations where they can learn about different cultures, connect with the local community, learn about history, and get in touch with the things that unite us as humans.
Pro tip: Throughout your marketing efforts, communicate how your tours and activities offer a meaningful experience to travelers. This could include learning about the local history, understanding the need for conservation, meeting local artisans, supporting local businesses, experiencing the wilderness, and so much more.
Make sure your tour and activity descriptions highlight what the traveler will gain from booking this adventure with you.
A thread that unites these trends is that travelers are putting more thought into how their vacations have an impact on the world at large. The pandemic allowed us to slow down and remember what is at the heart of travel: a desire to see the world and connect with our fellow humans. For our industry to truly meet this desire, we need to focus on making travel more inclusive, accessible, and sustainable. Explore our industry insights to learn more about how you can be part of this positive change!