It has been nearly 9 months since the COVID-19 pandemic started here in North America. Since then the travel industry has been decimated. Air traffic is down nearly 95%, hotels are more than 50% vacant, and tour operators are barely working. Despite this, travel will come back. However, it won’t come back the way it was prior to the pandemic. We asked a few of our travel influencers for their predictions and we’ve noticed a few trends on how they think travel will be different in the coming year.
- More suburban and rural experiences, less cities and urban experiences. Cities were hit hardest by the pandemic as social distancing is made harder by the density and proximity that defines our globe’s major cities. Even after vaccination, people still won’t feel comfortable packing into a rush hour New York City subway car, walking across Shibuya Crossing, or getting a quick glimpse of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Instead, people will be seeking out more suburban or rural experiences. One where they can establish distance from their fellow traveler and most likely one that will be outdoors. United States National Parks, the Great Wall of China, and the monuments of Egypt will be among the likely outdoor destinations for travelers.
- More single family homes (AirBnb, VRBO), less hotels. Hotels were hit very hard by the pandemic with more than 2/3 still less than 50% occupied. The trend unfortunately will continue as the social distancing habit continues. Private amenities like pools, gyms, kitchens (see below), and other perks will not want to be shared in this transition period. The “Work From Home Revolution” also prompts a desire for a resort-like atmosphere in the rental as opposed to working from a single studio like hotel room.
- Less restaurants, more home cooking. As more travelers adopt their own homes and home offices, they will also be adopting their own kitchens. With their own private kitchen, travelers will be using services like Instacart to deliver their groceries and other necessities. However, we may see a boom in delivery services as well as local chefs and cook in services that are slowly emerging in urban and suburban areas.
- Less shopping, more experiences. Travelers will replace a day of shopping with a day of experiences. While this trend was already emerging prior to the pandemic, it was exacerbated by it. About 99% of what you can purchase in person can also be bought online now. “Last mile” delivery services have improved dramatically that if you can wait a day you won’t have to carry back your purchases and let the free delivery service do so for you. Experiences were the prime motivator for travel and that will continue as travelers seek memory making and social media bragging rights.
- Longer stays, desire for local connections. As the above trends continue, travelers will still yearn for human connection. Outside of major cities, in their own private home, eating in their own kitchens, travelers will want activity partners to share their experiences with. Travelers may start to move in large groups as we saw with “quaranteams” (groups of friends that travel and isolate together while working from home) or want to connect with others via Meet-ups or the dreaded dating apps. With the ability to work from anywhere, travelers will become semi-permanent residents for months at a time, and will want to have their own communities beyond their virtual ones.
These changes will take some time to percolate through the population as the pandemic has shocked the globe into realizing what matters most. As global travel writer Erin Levi pontificates, “I think people are now looking for more unique experiences that are closer-to-home. The perspective has shifted and even simplified — less is more, and farther isn’t better. We’re rediscovering what has been long overlooked: our ‘backyards’”.