What’s Ahead in Travel: 12 Experts Share Surprising Predictions
When this pandemic passes, where will the travel industry be? Where will we want to go? Or will we want to, in the same ways we have before?
Here are predictions from travel experts at 11 travel organizations around the world:
Tourism Exchange Japan
Tomohiro Muraki and Mika White, Founders
“While we anticipate Japan remaining a top destination to visit, especially with the Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021, we can expect more travelers heading to less dense cities. Japan-bound travelers will likely venture out of over-populated cities like Tokyo and Osaka and seek smaller, lesser known areas and prefectures, a trend that has slowly increased in the last few years.
Instead of spending the majority of a travel trip in dense cities, we foresee the reverse, and travelers will spend the majority trips in off-the-beaten path communities and locales. We also anticipate greater shoulder-season travel, where travelers can still enjoy all that a country can offer without the crowds.”
“Following this period of social distancing, hoteliers need to take into account that travelers behaviors will be forever changed. I expect consumers to seek out more off-the-beaten path experiences, private accommodations and adventure activities where they are able to be outdoors and surrounded by open air. We’ll be keeping that in mind when planning our summer programming, to ensure we can give our guests the most well-deserved vacation of their lives once we’re on the other side of this.”
Edward Donaldson, Director of Sales & Marketing
“We predict that there will be a pent-up demand that people will want to travel. However, there will be consideration about health safety, which will extend past what the industry has seen in other pandemics. This will also extend to airlines and hotels, but destinations will play a large part in the recovery: what they did, how they are involved in making it safer for their staff/locals, and even the rates of infections being a part of the overall calculation of consumers selecting destinations. If we can assuage people’s fears, it won’t matter if it is individual or group related, people will travel again.”
Larry Korman, President & Co-CEO
“We predict traditional business and planned leisure travel will make a comeback sooner than frivolous travel, therefore creating more opportunities for the extended-stay sector. Our feeling is that travelers will now be more selective, and think more carefully about details in service, cleanliness, space, size and security — whereas in the past, price may have driven a traveler to sacrifice on some of these key elements.
For our brand, which specializes in longer stays with apartment-style amenities, we feel there will be more of a demand for a better work environment within the residence. From the furniture to the need for small printers and other work supplies, we will ensure it’s implemented. Most of our locations are under 100 residences, with amenities that are private to residents (guests), which we hope will continue to provide an extra level of comfort.”
James Henderson, CEO
“COVID-19 has brought family, friends and loved ones closer together and even once things go ‘back to normal,’ people will have an emotional need to travel with people they know and trust. [We are] already planning group bonding activities and adventures; people will be hungry for human connection and fun.”
Paul McGowan, President and Founder
“We should remain hopeful for the bounce back while also preparing for a more conservative flow of travelers far before a major influx. There will be businesses and industries that will come back sooner than others. For instance: we are fortunate to operate in university markets — which typically stick to a cyclical schedule we can count on — and so as we emerge from this crisis, we expect an accelerated ramp-up of occupancy as students and staff address unfinished business on campus, and another as we get closer to their return in the fall.
Above all, we must remember that travel is an antidote to all this: providing positive, aspirational feelings in the wake of our current confinement.”
Phil Hospod, Owner
“Now, more than ever, when we are allowed to travel again, we expect to see families, friends, and couples jumping into their cars and hitting the open road. We also predict we’ll see more travelers choosing convenient, nostalgic vacation destinations.”
Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council of New York
Lisa Burns, Executive Director
“We’re all eagerly awaiting the warmer months and hopeful that the industry will find its footing in time for summer travel. However, it is important that we understand behaviors will be changed and we’re already beginning to see new trends take shape. For example, travelers will be wary of public transportation and plane travel, choosing to drive via their own cars to explore nearby destinations.
For the Finger Lakes region of New York, that would include local and region and state-wide residents, New York City, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and even Canada. We also predict there will be a larger emphasis on outdoor, open-air attractions and destinations as social distancing phases out slowly.
For us, we’ll see an uptick in travelers visiting our hiking trails at places such as Letchworth State Park, the 100+ waterfalls of Ithaca and water activities on our 11 pristine lakes and Lake Ontario. Lastly, private, stand-alone accommodations and entire home rental will be preferred over hotels.”
Dan Yates, Managing Director
“‘Shorter, closer, later’ is how we’ve characterized booking trends for years now, but this summer may embody it more than ever. Even if government gives the green light before summer, many will be reticent to travel and will choose remote, domestic locations like campgrounds over densely populated areas, certainly avoiding transport hubs like international airports.
Staycations are likely to be top of mind, and we predict these will be booked at the last minute. Limited time to plan and a desire to ‘test the water’ may mean a succession of short trips instead of an immediate long vacation. We also anticipate an increased interest in low-cost travel given the economic impact Coronavirus has inflicted on so many.”
Mitch Whitten, Executive VP Marketing and Strategy
“We anticipate that drive markets and Fort Worth’s free activities will be big parts of the destination’s story when people are ready to travel. We’re a great value for people who need an easy escape.”
Mary Quinn Ramer, President
“While our world and the way people travel will forever be changed, we believe the industry will bounce back. Following this long period of social distancing, we’ll find many people revisiting the places and experiences that fill them with joy. We anticipate many travelers will still play it relatively safe by traveling in smaller groups and choosing closer-to-home, more familiar domestic travel after restrictions are lifted.
However, after being cooped up, people will start to put plans in place for destinations that have always been on their bucket list, and they may even be more apt to try adventure-filled experiences with their renewed sense of freedom. We’re preparing for the many ways travelers may choose to travel moving forward – and are putting our efforts and initiatives together that beckon them back.”
I see several challenges. First, and foremost, some people in the industry (as well as the general public) still have not grasped the probable length of this health crisis. Scientists say we are seeing wave number one of the pandemic and that it will continue to echo for more than a year. And a vaccine is still 12-18 months away.
Second, human beings are inherently bad at risk analysis. Infection probabilities are just that—probabilities—and they are based upon mathematics. It is no safer to travel to a “familiar” destination than it is to visit someplace you have never been before. It’s all about the number of potential exposure points during your travel, whether it is across the state or across the ocean.
And some familiar travel modes are inherently unsafe during a viral outbreak. Cruises are at the top of my list. Thousands of people in a small place with limited medical facilities, sharing the same common areas, dining together, constantly interacting….for multiple days (or weeks)? Give us a 5-hour airline flight any day. Taking a cruise should be avoided like the plague. But it probably won’t be.
If travelers are going to judge vacations by perceived risk, then we suspect that the availability of health care in travel locations is going to be a big factor. One problem that overseas travel entails for Americans is that their health insurance (if they are lucky enough to have it) does little good abroad. Older travelers especially, have zero overseas coverage from Medicare.
So, the travel insurance business should see a huge boom. That assumes the insurance industry survives the current crisis, of course. And as many travelers have already experienced, some travel insurance companies are notorious for delaying and waffling on claims payouts.