The future of travel examined

For the third spring in a row we have scoured the Internet, travel magazines, world news and statistics to bring you a summary of the expected travel trends. In 2021 it's certainly not travel bloggers and influencers or sector statistics that show the way forward. This year it will be the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic guiding our travel behaviour. The roll-out of a vaccine presents a light at the end of the tunnel BUT we're not out of the woods just yet. The average human being is certainly dealing with lockdown fatigue. In this article we'll be delving into the immediate future of travel: what it looks like in 2021 and beyond, the mindset of travellers in a pandemic, who benefits (and who doesn't), old and new travel trends. It's time to rise from the ashes of 2020 like a Phoenix and look the future of travel straight in the eyes!

The trauma of 2020 – having spent a year or more feeling literally and mentally confined by the Covid-19 pandemic, the desire to travel is growing by the day. Despite the approval and roll-out of a vaccine at the start of 2021, the issues we have so bravely faced in recent months are likely to continue in some way for as long as most of the population hasn't been vaccinated or herd immunity is not achieved. Either way, we want to travel. We will adapt!

Optimism vs Realism – At the moment there is no clear picture about the effectiveness of the vaccine or how long it will take for us to receive it. Not everyone may have received their (two) shots before we need to start over again. Throw in the issue of supply, and it seems possible that at some point there will be a bottleneck situation. To give travellers what they need to feel safe, flexibility and reassurance is essential.

The pandemic is changing the face of travel – that much is clear. "Vaccination passports" are a big topic of discussion at EU level but with so few vaccinated and uncertainty surrounding the vaccine, they find it too early to decide. Not all countries are on the same page. Some, like Greece, demand it to boost tourism, others fear a vaccination passport requirement for cross-border travel contradicts the optionality of being vaccinated.

Safety, Hygiene & Rules

The need to keep our families safe and to feel comfortable in our temporary environments blankets just about every aspect of travel.

Circumstances created by the pandemic not only dictate our travel decisions, it also turns the decision making process on its head.

  • what are quarantine demands at our desired destination and upon return home?
  • how will we get there?
  • how soon can we get home?
  • how isolated do we want to be (social distancing) once we arrive?
  • what do we want to do at destination?

Only when these questions have been worked through will we  determine our destination:

  • where will we go?
  • what are the local protocols for hygiene before we arrive and during our stay? Is it safe enough?

We are born with an instinct to protect. Additionally, travelers are on a time leash and a budget leash. For a time we will need to work around

  • quarantine rules demanded for travel across borders
  • (multiple) tests needed upon return home may increase our travel budget by... a lot
  • uncertainty

European travel to neighboring countries is key. It's easier, closer, and there are plenty of beautiful spots to choose from. Local (in-country) travel will be more popular than ever.

Suggestions for hospitality businesses: focus marketing efforts on local travel (department, state, and country) and immediately surrounding countries.

  • Use website and social media to show what potential guests can expect for safety and hygiene during their stay (home page) AND share what is expected of your guests
  • Also: spot-check local businesses before recommending them. Not up to your standards? Don't recommend.

You have every right for your own safety. Showing people what they can expect while letting them know your expectations creates mutual trust, closing the door on negative reviews about your hospitality business.

When guests feel comfortable during their stay with you in a pandemic, their positive reviews will the best free advertisement you can get!

The past couple of seasons imagination and lifestyle had a direct impact on the type of accommodations booked. In 2021, the engine that drives travel is fueled by pragmatic needs and demands rooted in the pandemic, to begin with safety, hygiene and travel regulation.

Cancellation & Last Minute

It's not a secret that lots of people, especially those who used a travel agent to book a holiday, lost a lot of money in 2020. Governments can change the rules with little notice, leaving people stranded.

As long as the pandemic is in full force the experiences of last year plus possible income reductions in 2020, create a degree of uncertainty and anxiety.

Respect, flexibility, and reassurance is essential.

Travel agents (specialists) will not benefit from the Covid-19 situation in 2021. Customers will not forget feeling cheated any time soon. Even the experiences of others will be reflected in how we plan our own vacations this year.

Rather than booking early, people will want to be sure of their holiday. As a result, last minute bookings in combination with travel insurance may prove to be the winning formula. Travel insurers will benefit from the pandemic.

In the hospitality business, it will be beneficial to adopt a clear and flexible cancelation policy. This is no time to hide it in the fine print. In giving people incentives to book with you directly, present a clear plan. Do this on the home page of your website! It is the FIRST thing travelers will be looking for. Include your contact number on every page so it's easy for them to find.

Should the governments decide on lockdowns or restrict travel, keep clear lists and notes of guest information (conform to GDPR!) The first people to cancel a booking should be the first people you contact in person to re-book once the coast is clear.

Crowded travel is passé

The airline and cruising industries are likely to be in for a rude awakening in 2021. So are locations that could previously bank on mass-tourism.

Crowded beaches and no longer instill a sense of vacation and relaxation. Tranquil areas like the countryside and undiscovered beaches will be the winners. It may be less convenient (e.g. little to no amenities like sandwiches, drinks, ice cream, or cabanas) but social distancing will not be a source of anxiety.

Travel by car or motorhome will be a winner in 2021, as will small, family-run campgrounds, holiday homes, gites! 

People's widespread reports about traveling by plane say that despite the risk of disease it's mostly business as usual on flights.

Social media travel -and expat groups are filled with nightmarish stories of shoulder-to-shoulder seating, and food/beverage service prompting everybody to remove their facemasks at the same time! (insert shock emoji)

It all comes down to revenue. It's just not profitable to fly so few planes at half-capacity. CDG airport in Paris saw only 22 million passengers last year, down 70% of its normal capacity. Due to strict government regulation, international travel from North America to France is down 80%.

Cruises also present challenges of hygiene. In 2020 we saw plenty of ships with Covid-19 outbreaks docked for weeks with passengers unable to disembark, followed by mandatory quarantine upon return to their country of origin.

These challenges leave some 30 million cruise enthusiasts alone looking for different ways to travel and new places to stay. Present them with an offer they can't refuse.

To encourage social distancing for those who wish it, offer sightseeing / beach picnic baskets for sale. Extra work it is, but don't underestimate their marketing value. They make for great social media fodder. Free advertisement is priceless.

Eco-conscious & regenerative travel

If there is one palpable benefit to lockdown it's that our planet was given an escape from humanity's heavy carbon footprint. Statistics aside, we were able to see it, hear it, and feel it.

Spring brought more birdsong. a greater variety of flora, and a streak-free sky. It brought about a silence that made us realize just how noise-polluted our world really is.

Before the pandemic clawed its nails into life as we know it, mass tourism was a problem ever on the rise. When we were forced to take our foot off the accelerator, the environment began to heal.

It was the gentlest and yet the loudest of wake-up calls. We're listening.

What is the difference between eco-conscious travel and regenerative travel? How can hospitality businesses adjust their offer to meet these eco-travel trends?

Eco-consciousness has everything to do with reducing the affect of 'living' on the environment. The desire to do better at home extends right into our decisions about travel. It goes deeper than the carbon footprint of getting to -and from our destination or green accommodations through sustainable construction.

The changing eco-trends offer a golden opportunity for hospitality businesses to meet the future of travel. Some eco-conscious suggestions:

  • Marry support in the local community with sustainability by providing artisanal, environmentally friendly bath products
  • Provide environmentally friendly dish soaps, sponges and laundry soap
  • Reduce plastic by going the re-fillable route
  • Reduce plastic water bottle use by providing daily water delivery service (think old fashioned milkman deliveries in sterilized glass bottles)
  • Offer bamboo products e.g. toothbrushes and straws.
  • Sell reusable bottles with your logo
  • Reduce energy and water use e.g. by using thermostats and a timed water supply to shower
  • Reward train travel with free pick-up at the railway station and a breakfast or picnic basket voucher
  • Buy local and talk about it. Point guests to purchasing local, in-season produce too.
  • Talk about nearby sightseeing specifically for those guests who wish to keep their carbon footprint low while on holiday

Fairly new (but not really) in the mainstream travel vocabulary is regenerative travel. It means the "renewal or restoration of an [in this case] ecosystem following events or injury that cause disturbance or damage."

Regenerative travel means proactively giving something back to the planet to balance things out e.g. making a donation for research into renewable energy, or becoming involved in a sustainability project to help the environment at a travel destination.

Meeting the desire for regenerative travel. Suggestions:

  • dedicate some land toward the planting of trees and involve guests in planting
  • allocate 5 euros per guest toward a future eco-project (and talk about it)
  • provide info about where guests can make donations to green-travel eco research to offset their carbon footprint
  • look for volunteer eco-projects you and or your guests can sign up for
  • involve guests in your sustainability upgrades (e.g. installing solar or wind energy)

Look for inspiration at this website launched in 2019 

Travel is bad for the environment. But we can travel more responsibly and that is why the ecotourism trends of the last couple of years are now morphing into much more complex eco-conscious and regenerative travel trends.

Remote work trips

At we've been looking forward to the world waking up to the remote-work business mentality/ model.

Certainly, working from home requires discipline and a routine.

Forced quarantine showed business managers that it is possible for employees to be as productive in meeting deadlines at home as in the office. Just think about the value of removing commutes on the environment and on the psyche!

If anything (beyond the pandemic) the benefits to working from homefrom cost savings for the company to a better work-life balance and happier employeeswill make it a mainstream practice rather than an emergency measure.

Enter the emerging travel trend of remote work trips, a trend that benefits long-term travel with the family just beautifully. Airbnb has even added a feature specifically for long-term stays to meet the demand of remote work trippers.

Create attractive offers for long-term stays and do ensure your WiFi can support work-from-home guests. Shady spots by the pool are an added bonus!

Microcation & off-season travel

The pandemic sent us on a discovery tour of the staycation in 2020, and we learned the benefits of shorter trips. In 2021, staycations will morph into microcations.

With a lingering measure of uncertainty surrounding the duration and intensity of the pandemic,  microcations offer a way for us to get away more often, closer to home.

It opens the door to everything we long to get away from like getting back to nature, wellness travel, natural beauty and outdoor adventures.

Off-season microcations have the added benefit of stretching the travel budget. Cycling and walking specific trips are the preferable choice over citytrips. Additionally these activities can be done in any season, for free.

All seasons have their own charm and personalities.

What does your area have to offer that can meet a guest's desire for microcations and off-season travel?

From summer to fall, road-cycling can be switched for mountain biking. Languid strolls can become vigorous winter walks on endless beaches.

Find ways to meet the Vendée Expansion Tourisme Vendée-4-Saisons campaigns. Offer attractive booking packages year-round, highlighting the benefits of your area for each season. 

Revenge travel

It's an odd term but it has everything to do with the Covid-19 pandemic leaving us feeling cheated and imprisoned...

...going through long periods of separation from parents children grandchildren and friends. The pandemic has caused and is causing stress and social "homesickness". We want our people back!

We're all dealing with lockdown fatigue.

In addition there are the people who lived through Covid-19. who have suffered the illness and all its repercussions; who have suffered personal loss of loved ones.

Revenge travel may just be the match that lights our post-vaccine life, the flame everybody needs to ease back to 'normal'.

Those of us who were lucky enough to retain job and income without the usual opportunities to spend are likely to allocate a larger travel budget. For the avid traveler this could either result in longer vacations further away from home... or more luxurious ones for a shorter time closer to home.

Revenge travel is a new trend growing from an innate need to take our life back, the life we feel the pandemic ripped right from under our feet.

Group travel

Leading right up to the group travel trend, which is not new but is likely to grow exponentially in our post-vaccine world. 

Being separated for many months has been socially debilitating. Family, multi-generational, and ‘skip-gen’ vacations where grandparents take grandchildren on holiday were on the rise even before the pandemic.

As was solo travel especially for women  has also been on the rise. But safety is as important as the freedom and independence. The notion of safety in numbers goes hand-in-hand with the group travel trend.

Camaraderie and support found among like-minded women has grown a movement with a massive social media following. It's called Girls Love Travel, a terrific platform where ladies share information, look out for one-another, and even book holiday homes together to stretch the travel budget.

Group travel is a great compensation to having been separated as well as to those people who may have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Among family and among friends, group travel offers attractive benefits. Post lockdown it's unlikely we'll be tempted to get together... at home!

Offer attractive group -or family travel packages. And if you have daughters with the travel bug, point them to the Girls Love Travel and Women Love Travel platforms. 

Trends and statistics are very useful!

By the way, SPACE TRAVEL is still very much a travel trend and this will not go away any time soon. But since most of us are too poor and we can't shoot ourselves to the moon from the Vendée, we chose to omit talking about it.

Travel trends are very much a snapshot of our society. The way we travel hinges on changing weather patterns, geopolitical issues,  economy, dreams, and since 2020 on a pandemic too.

We don't yet know what the eventual rules will be for cross-border travel. The temporary ones are changing in response to the evolution of the pandemic.

In a survey we did in our Facebook group,  2/3rds of the participants wanted people to have received the vaccine before they travel across borders again. Others thought a negative Covid-19 PCR test was enough.

Clever hospitality business proprietors in the Vendée are moving towards a golden period!

The Vendée area has  everything the average traveler will be looking for. The rest can be met through business strategies.

Tourism has been growing steadily in the area. Tip 2021 – check the Travel Report 2019 issued by Vendée Tourisme to research the travellers who visit the area and what they like to do.

These reports as well as the newest travel trends are ammunition to forge niche marketing on social media.

By connecting the dots through updating your offer, strategic planning and targeted advertising, travel trends can translate to your business.

Sources Euronews, Travel Report 2019 issued by Vendée TourismeNewsweek, Globetrotter, Reuters, the Economist, National Geographic, Lonely Planet, The New York Times and more

Share this Post