If you’re like me, you were more than ready to say adios and good riddance to 2020!
It was a rollercoaster ride in so, so many ways. There was civil unrest, political divisiveness, and a pandemic which really had a huge impact on all of us (and still impacts us as of the writing of this post).
Although many different industries were affected by COVID-19, the travel and hospitality industries were hit exceptionally hard and will be recovering from it for several years.
A lot of the trends we’ll continue to see this year are a direct result of the pandemic. Following are some of the trends that we will see this year.
Since there have been so many changes in the world of travel, more of us will be turning to travel agents to help us plan our trips.
Travel agents are a wealth of information and they have so much knowledge in their back pockets about the best destinations, the best hotels to stay in, which companies have the best tours, and so on. They also have had to stay on top of all of the changes with the testing and what states and countries are opened and closed.
Instead of travelers trying to navigate all of these changes, more of us will be turning to these professionals to help us plan our trips and give us some peace of mind.
NO-FEE TRIP CHANGES
Last year, many airlines, hotels, and other travel- and hospitality-related companies stopped charging a lot of the fees that they normally would charge when customers make a change to or cancel their reservation.
In 2021, we’ll be seeing more and more hotels stop charging resort fees. We’ll also see more airlines pause or stop charging change fees altogether.
American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Airlines have stopped charging change fees for domestic flights; United Airlines announced that they have stopped charging them all together and according to them, this is a permanent change.
Hats off to United! I hope we see other airlines follow suit.
Another thing that has become the “new normal” and will continue into 2021 is the requirement to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to traveling (and often another upon return).
Yes, it’s inconvenient but requiring a negative pre-travel COVID-19 test lessens the number of outbreaks and at many destinations, it eliminates the requirement to quarantine upon arrival.
A lot of airlines and airports have begun offering rapid COVID-19 tests to passengers. For example, United has led the way with 15-minute results for passengers flying certain routes. Some at-home tests are available now as well.
As you probably know, several pharmaceutical companies have developed and tested COVID-19 vaccines. However, we don’t know how quickly they’ll be distributed.
As vaccinations become more widely available, we may begin to be required to carry and show a Certificate of Vaccination when you travel.
This is still very new but that’s something to keep an eye out for.
If there is a silver lining to the pandemic (I know – using the words “silver lining” and “pandemic” in the same sentence seems crazy), it’s the demand for revamped cleaning and hygiene standards.
Travel-related companies such as airlines, cruise ships, hotels, Airbnbs, and so on have had the time to reflect on their cleaning and safety protocols and look for areas for improvement.
Some of the improvements that have resulted include:
- The filtration and cleaning methods on airplanes
- The requirement of cruise ships to pause sailing to examine and revamp their cleaning and safety protocols according to CDC guidelines
- Enhanced cleaning and safety protocols at hotels
As a result of the pandemic, travelers now base their level of loyalty to a company or organization on how dedicated travel- and hospitality-related companies are to protecting the health and safety of their travelers.
In fact, almost 50% of travelers surveyed in 2020 said that cleaning and safety protocols are 1 of the 3 deciding factors that affect their decision-making.
This has become so important to people that this is one of the new filters you will see when you go on travel aggregator sites such as Travelocity and Expedia, even Airbnb.
Look for this when you’re making your next reservation.
Following the cleaning and safety protocols is the implementation of additional touchless tech. Prior to the pandemic, we were able to check-in for flights remotely, either by using the airline’s website or an app. You were also able to print out a boarding pass at a kiosk in the airport. However, there’s been more and more implementation of touchless tech.
For example, Hilton CleanStay is a new, contactless option Hilton offers travelers, allowing them to check-in, choose and access their room, and check-out – all by using the Hilton app.
Another positive outcome that resulted from the pandemic is the increase in nomadic travel. Also referred to as “location-independent” or “remote work”, “nomadic travel” refers to the ability to work from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection.
If you’re fortunate enough to be able to work remotely, now is a great opportunity to relocate to another state or another country.
Barbados was the first country to offer what they call a digital nomad visa, which allows people to go to their country and work remotely for up to 1 year.
Several other countries have taken their cue from Barbados and also offer digital nomad opportunities including Bermuda, Anguilla, Georgia, Dubai, and Estonia; Aruba and Croatia are next.
Many people who are traveling are taking longer holidays with their family so they can work while still spending time with their spouse and children.
Take the opportunity when you can!
The coronavirus caused a lot of countries to close their borders, especially to U.S. citizens. This resulted in an increase in domestic travel.
Since many of the destinations that travelers were no longer available, many people are exploring their own country or state instead.
This is a great time and opportunity to visit the local and national destinations that you have put off seeing until now.
Last year, we saw a big increase in the number of road trips.
People were more comfortable traveling by car than they were by airplane because of the proximity and quantity of other people on planes.
In reality, road trips can be a blast with a little advance planning. They offer freedom and a sense of adventure while still being able to remain socially distant from others (except, of course, any travel buddies who accompany you on your trip).
We also saw an uptick in the number of people that opted to take their road trips in an RV. There was a significant increase in RV rentals last year, a trend that will continue this year.
WHAT TRAVEL TRENDS IN 2021 HAVE YOU SEEN OR HEARD ABOUT?
Share in the comments below.