In this series of articles we will be looking at how travel is likely to change in the future due to the pandemic, changing attitudes, economic factors and the environment.
In his first part we will look at the key elements of travel change once global travel starts to open up again.
Main picture Ngapali Beach, Myanmar credit Dumphasizer on flickr
Independent travel was incredibly popular prior to the pandemic.
Travellers enjoyed the freedom, flexibility and, quite often, cost-savings of arranging travel themselves rather than going through travel agents or booking a package holiday.
Many people however have found it difficult to get refunds or changes to their bookings as airlines and hotels struggle to keep up with demand and the financial implications. Many have only offered credits which may not suit many people.
Others have seen the risk of financial loss where airlines or other travel companies have failed to survive the pandemic and incredibly hard trading conditions.
We would love to hear your questions on the Future of Travel. We will answer as many as we can in the final part of the series. Contact us or add a comment below.
The other issue is the rapidly changing and confusing travel regulations around the world, quite often with local differences causing more confusion.
Travel companies and agents will be in a much stronger position to keep up to date with changes in regulations and restrictions and be able to offer professional advice and changes to bookings to protect travellers.
In the UK and Europe there are added protections in place for people who buy packages and through registered travel organisations. Always check cancellation policies prior to booking as different companies will handle issues in very different ways where they are not governed by law.
It seems likely that after a tough year travel companies and agents will see increased bookings, at least in the short-term, as travellers look to greater security and knowledge.
Quality Over Quantity
We have already seen a number of countries and tourist organisations stating that they will be targeting high value customers over sheer numbers, at least in the short term.
There has been a realisation that revenue can match, or even exceed, that provided by mass tourism, if they can attract the right tourists and encourage them to stay for longer.
A reduction in the number of tourists travelling can also have a significant impact on emissions and climate change targets.
Customers too have looked at their travel and re-evaluated what they want to do in the future.
Bucket lists of numerous locations and multiple trips are being replaced by exploring locations in more depth and truly experiencing destinations.
The privilege of being able to travel freely had been lost to many who have now realised that in the future the quality of their trips will be more important that the number of trips and destinations.
Travel agents and companies are already reporting an increase in enquiries for longer stays.
Adventure and Experience Travel
As consumers start to look for a higher quality experience on their travels, the importance of adventure or experience travel will increase.
Research in Southeast Asia suggests that younger Asian’s will lead the recovery in the region and that they will be looking for very different experiences than their, older, more traditional compatriots.
Chinese domestic tourism has seen a large increase in adventure activities and predictions are that these travellers will want similar experiences when they are able to travel abroad again.
India has seen a similar shift in demand, with seemingly differing motivations. Younger Indians are now looking for experiences with a “bragging factor” those instagrammable moments that are more unique.
Sandoval noted a similar movement in China, where investing in a unique adventure holiday or travel experience is the new designer item.
The Asian market for adventure and experience travel does seem to be different that we have seen in western countries in the past where many younger travellers have taken extended, independent trips and have pushed boundaries of safety.
The research suggests that Asian travellers will be looking for shorter and less extreme adventures generally as part of organised “adventures”. They will still need to be socially media friendly however as this remains a major factor in this market.
Outside of Asia we are likely to see more travellers undertaking experiences that they may not have considered in the past.
A number of traditional experiences are becoming less popular and culturally acceptable, elephant riding is an obvious example here, and people have had the time to understand their impact on cultures and wildlife and discover less obvious experiences.
Responsible and sustainable travel is going to become an increasing factor for many – more about that later in this series.
There is likely to be an increase in group travel as borders start to reopen.
Some consumers may only feel comfortable travelling with a small group of people and staying with them throughout their trip, only mixing with others when absolutely necessary.
We are have already seen schemes in Thailand where groups have travelled together from the origin country. Arrived at their destination, travelled together to a hotel where they stay for at least the start of their trip.
Increasingly some resorts have started to market themselves as a covid-secure destination, with vaccinated staff and customers remaining in resort for the duration of their stay.
We are also seeing initial plans for the reopening of destinations, smaller areas and resorts purely for travel groups, not necessarily booking together but travelling and staying together, to keep risk to a minimum.
Your Hotel Stay
Your hotel stay is also likely to be different, at least in the short-term.
Many hotels are requiring a temperature check when you check-in.
You may also have to agree to hotel protocols and complete a health declaration on arrival. Wearing of face coverings in public areas of the hotel will likely be required.
Most countries also have tracking apps and it is a requirement of law that you use them during your stay. Some countries may require you to take one, or more, Covid tests during your stay.
What will happen if you, or one or more of your party tests positive for Covid-19 during your stay?
You may need to have a contingency plan in place in case someone is not fit to travel. Has your travel provider and/or airline a plan in place, it’s worth checking, ideally before booking, but at least prior to travel.
You need to think about will everyone stay, and the time and cost implications involved. Will just the ill person stay? If a child cannot travel who will stay with them?
Travel insurance is going to be a key factor in these situations and it is important to understand the level of cover before you purchase and travel. Even if there are no hospital or medical fees you need to think about additional days in a hotel, any transport costs, you may need to buy a new flight home, additional testing fees and how it will affect your work.
The situation at the moment is very fluent and differs around the world. We are seeing two significant trends that are likely to continue.
Some travel companies have rewritten their policies and there are now many exclusions that refer specifically to Covid-19 and in some cases to potential future pandemics and global emergencies.
We saw similar exclusions following the chaos caused by the Iceland volcano eruption in April 2010 which left thousands of travellers stranded throughout Europe, and countless flights and holidays cancelled.
Now insurance companies are nervous of future disruption due to the pandemic, especially due to the uncertainty of how long the current issues will continue and what its future impact will be.
The other significant trend is for “Premium” policies.
Companies are stripping benefits and coverage from standard policies and are pushing the sale of much more expensive policies that include more inclusive cover.
Some of these policies still have extensive Covid exclusions and are simply reinstating more standard coverage at a far higher price than seen prior to the pandemic.
Our advice. Shop around and read policies carefully.
The days of travelling without insurance or just taking out the cheapest or easiest policy, which significant numbers of people used to do, are surely over. Can you really afford to become ill or stranded abroad without good insurance?
In the next part of this series we will look at how your flying experience will be changing.
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