“What a time to live in! As I sit here at home, looking out my window at the gardens blooming (and wild animals roaming in northern New Jersey suburbia), I pray daily for all the people on the front lines of this fight against COVID-19, and support them whenever I can. Be well, stay safe.” ~Theresa Jackson, Travel Planning Specialist and Advisor
The COVID-19 Wave Splashes Over the Travel Industry
That COVID wave hit the travel industry very hard. You know this from the news. You hear mostly of airlines and cruise lines. Naysayers predict this or that won’t come back, some small businesses will die off, travel will look so different in the future.
Stay Home Safe
In travel, first came the wave of canceled flights, closed borders, travel warnings, quarantine orders, closed national parks and beaches, strong messaging of “stay home for now”. For travel professionals such as myself, we worked to bring home clients safely. Then we helped clients postpone or cancel in their spring and summer travel plans.
Where Is the Travel Industry Going After COVID-19?
Now I have been privileged to be a part of the conversation of where we in the travel industry are now, and where we are going. The travel industry is huge. It encompasses all travel needs, from transportation to accommodations, from guides and drivers to experience providers, to support staff and concessions. All are affected deeply in this time of no travel.
So, while in the past I gave you lists such as the “Top 20 Places to Visit in 2020”, now I am going to tell you what I think is going to happen in travel for the remainder of this year into next. Keep in mind that things are changing, seemingly minute to minute; I am thinking ahead based on some trends we are seeing.
First, I believe travel will return this year in other countries first, and then in the U.S.
There seems to be a 60-day halt period that works and improves the virus contagion numbers, and some countries now have picked a date – with caution – as to when they will open borders again.
Traveling first in our own backyard.
As for travelers from the U.S. when we open up again, I believe today that we will travel first in our own “backyard” and closer to home rediscovering our own country’s and continent’s wonders, followed by Latin America (where COVID is better contained), then Africa, Asia and finally Europe. For me, after a spring of cancelled plans, my plans for Ireland at the end of August are still a go, and then I will be in South America in the fall.
Second, when travel does open up to us, you’d better believe your experience is going to be extra special.
But…. It isn’t going to come extra cheaply for long. Airlines will be offering their best and newest planes. Hotels now in hibernation will be so happy to welcome back guests and their first wave will enjoy some really special attention and happy gratitude. You will feel the extra love from guides and drivers, from anyone lucky enough to be your host.
Bargains and Deals Forever After CORVID-19?
But a strong caution here: bargain-basement pricing, mad cut rate “deals”, or advisor fee discounts are not going to be the rule of the day in the future. Many have learned hard lessons from that in the past decades, and those of us with something truly special know our worth to you. Sure, I expect some attractive pricing initially to get people moving, and this will apply as each country’s people can leave their homes and explore their own “backyards”. But the price of discounting services is not sustainable, and those things that have weathered the storm will go back to their pricing models from February, and projections for 2021 pricing after an initial “get back to travel” lower pricing are on the increase.
Your investment in travel makes the world better for all. Discounting does not help economic recovery.
How else will they maintain their incredible worth in the experience they provide to you; how else can they support all the people or projects that really are at the base of this, the world’s largest industry? How else can we continue to change the world to be a better place, one where potential poachers become conservators instead, or large scale ranchers see the value in changing their model to more sustainable practices because that brings travelers and their money to their home, or hoteliers continue to strive for the most environmentally sustainable model in the running of their accommodations while providing clients the best possible service and comfort?
There are hundreds of examples of the wide-reaching effects the best of travel accomplishes, all funded by the money needed to invest in it.
Travel tip: NOW is the time to capture the best air deals, and booking now is more risk-free with eliminated change fees and extended rebooking periods. Check with the airline you prefer for their policy and ticket type for most favorable terms – or ask your Travel Advisor (who can save you the time and manage the ticket changes easily). Planning travel now in anticipation that the late summer and fall may be the perfect travel window for light crowds in popular destinations, lower prices and hosts who are excited to welcome guests back with stellar service.
A word of caution: ask your travel advisor about insuring your investment; there are current new policies in place. And be open to flexibility in your plans; vouchers for future travel are being offered, not refunds to keep businesses afloat.
Third, Your way of travel is going to change.
One thing this virus has reminded us of, in a way we have forgotten with the flu and other viral illness, is the extra care we need to take in crowds and popular tourist attractions. We are hyper aware now – even to leave our homes to do the marketing or (for those lucky enough to live in less populous areas) go for a walk or run. We are will carry this with us when we venture back out into the world.
Initially, being in crowds may be exactly what we want to avoid.
That is great for those who dream of getting off the beaten path, who wish to explore those special far recesses, to get outdoors with a sense of adventure. I think this is the way people are going to want to travel, whenever they can in the future.
- We are going to want our own guide for our group; we will not want to mix with too many others we don’t know (or know with whom they have been in contact).
- We are going to look for more spacious accommodations, or our own private places with vetted and COVID tested staff.
- We won’t want to travel by public transportation unless we can see the steps they are taking to ensure our health; otherwise, we will want our own driver and vehicle.
Higher safety procedures in exchange for staying healthy.
Changed airline procedures or checking in and boarding perhaps fewer seats filled to create social distancing. There is the added possibilities of on-site rapid testing for COVID-19, a health screening with a temperature read before boarding, use of mask and gloves, a change in on-board service. And this is just the airlines; there will be changes in hotels as well. And travelers are going to want to know the level of cleaning and disinfecting being done where they stay, in what they use as mode of transportation in the destination, and with whom they come in contact.
Fourth, travel may become more regulated
During this worldwide pause, countries are taking a serious look at overtourism and the detriments to historic monuments and sites, wildlife, natural resources. Many places are already making new policies for crowd control. This means that when it comes time to plan your vacation, you will have to know the dates and times places are open for you to discover.
An example: before this crisis began, Croatia had set limits on the numbers of people entering its most famous cruise port destination, Dubrovnik. There was an hourly cap on the number of people who could enter the ancient city by day and by hour, so extra care was needed in timing and ticket purchase.
Fifth, your travel will have to mean more to you.
Traveling with a meaning.
When we travel, it is going to have to mean something more, because it is going to require a bit more to do it. Since we need this level of privatization and insight into new policies and procedures, we are going to want the personalization of our travel itineraries that will enhance our lives, and the lives of those we take with us.
In the end, we will need the travel expert to guide us through the new normal of travel.
And lastly, expertise is needed now and going forward.
The fact is, most of us in the travel industry are not going away. That old chestnut of the “travel agent is dead” has been around after every bad event or natural disaster. I would argue that yes, the travel AGENT is dead – no expert in the travel field takes orders as if off a menu.
Instead, we have developed into TRAVEL ADVISORS with strong knowledge born of (in my case, at least) constant travel and training in destinations my clients dream of going, and those they will want next.
People are always going to want to travel.
In fact, I am getting calls now to start future planning, many saying “as soon as the planes are clean”; “as soon as a border opens”. People want to know what is the first safe place they can go.
Advisors come with reliable partners.
Add to the advisor, or front line of the industry, our partners who supply the accommodations and experiences for our clients, to fulfill their deepest dreams. We in the sustainability realm know that people traveling supports communities and conservation. It is not just hotel staff; in the best travel cases, this means the people who supply the locally-produced food, the guide, the driver, the art expert, the hiking guide.
Travel advisors, in other words, are the people who make your travel an EXPERIENCE you can’t book online or pick from a menu.
Remember this: online bookings didn’t get people out of a tough spot when they were stuck abroad; online bookings didn’t reach out to see how you were and to give you options for the travel you had planned this spring; online bookings decided who would get refunds (and who would not) based on mathematical algorithms that had nothing to do with the individual, and everything to do with their own bottom line.
TRAVEL ADVISORS HUMANIZE YOUR EXPERIENCE IN TRAVEL
They are providing the great travel your dream about AND that safety and ease when things go wrong. The future of travel brings to the forefront the professional travel planner. As Forbes has noted in March, it isn’t a question of if to use an advisor, but why wouldn’t you.
What can you do now to take advantage of what is coming in the world of travel?
#1 Don’t stop dreaming.
Use this time to dive into travel destinations from the comfort of your home. You can have fun exploring travel destinations that interest you and your family (I call it your Wanderlist) by joining me on Enlightened Journeys Travel, where I will be posting opportunities like:
- speaking with travel experts via Zoom seminars,
- take a cooking class from a chef,
- take a tour of a city or a museum with an expert guide.
Or you can contact me to schedule a private conference with a travel destination expert, just for you and your travel tribe.
#2 The best thing you can do is be ready to launch to take advantage of the best pricing and experiences when travel does open up again.
Oddly perhaps, the time is right now to work with a travel advisor who can take your bucket list of travel dreams and your interests, and turn them into a workable plan. The ones who can do this will have an eye out for the best pricing and low-crowd timing for those things on your bucket list.
Theresa Jackson is the owner of the boutique experiential and adventurous-based online agency, Enlightened Journeys Travel. She helps people discover the world’s wonders in private journeys.
If you’d like to have more ease in your travel planning in 2020 and 2021, I’d love to help!
You can stay informed and inspired in planning your travel by reading more of my blogs. You can also follow me on Facebook. Twitter @enlitndjrntrvl, and Instagram @enlightenedjourneystravel. Sign up to receive the blogs and a newsletter filled with more insights and offers so you don’t miss a thing.