It has been a year now since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Summer season is coming, and it is instinctive to wonder what to expect? Can we look forward to the future with optimism and safely plan our vacations?
There is a strong pent-up demand for travel. We are all eager to pack and hit the road, dreaming of exotic places, beautiful views, and lots of relaxing. After all, we have suffered a long period of fluctuating rates of the virus, lockdown restrictions, and quarantine tiredness.
According to Vrbo survey of more than 8K people, 65% of Americans plan to travel this year more than they did in 2019.
The advancing vaccination campaign certainly leads consumers to look more optimistically to the future, but always with caution and respect to the rules that are now a part of this “new normal”.
The tourist operators are noticing more interest, and even business, in vacations that start as early as this spring. However, the experience of travelers, the habits and behaviors acquired during this period, for better or worse, will also influence future travels.
Technology plays a crucial role at this stage, and the tourism industry is adapting and driving this transaction towards innovative solutions. Consumers excited to travel again are demanding that tour operators comply with safety protocols, sanitization, and flexibility in cancellation options.
How does technology really help?
Safety: According to research conducted by Booking.com, more than half (64%) of travelers believe technology will play a key role in controlling health risks while traveling. When it comes to accommodation, 63% of global travelers believe properties will need to use the latest technology to make them feel safe.
Flexibility: Considering the uncertainty of this time, an important factor is a flexibility. 53% of global travelers require convenient technology options to make restaurant reservations, even last-minute. And nearly a full 21% want more self-service machines to reduce human contacts and buy tickets more quickly at stations and airports.
Travelers experience: Technology will improve and personalize the traveler experience even more in the near future, and this is what 55% of people think.
Our travel behaviors will be increasingly influenced by technological innovations, including enhanced online experiences. More than a third (36%) of travelers say they would feel more comfortable visiting a destination they have never been to before if they could look ahead using virtual reality.
What are the most common traveler behavior patterns?
We have all experienced the imposed lockdown, pausing of our lives as we used to. That is why there is a growing desire to resume our activities, to catch up - and this, obviously, includes travel and leisure. With a rough 2020, a lot of people plan to travel more than they did pre-COVID. Almost 55% of American adults would be comfortable taking a vacation right now.
However, since the new normal will continue to include social distancing and other restrictions, consumers will be inclined to make certain choices. For instance, 71 percent of Americans feel comfortable taking a road trip but for about 52% the first choice would be their own car.
Less than 30% is choosing to travel with domestic flights, with an even lower percentage for international flights so far (currently, considering the restrictions imposed between countries).
According to American Express Travel, 69% of respondents are interested in visiting less-known destinations to avoid crowded places. For example, Dallas and Charlotte saw a higher share of bookings from international card members in January 2021 than the year before. For the same reason, many families are more likely to visit an outdoor destination rather than an urban one.
Additionally, 74% of Americans are choosing local destinations for their vacations. It’s not just about comfort and safety, but mostly to help increase tourism revenue and the local economy.
Additional data on air traffic
By now, air travel has significantly recovered, with the Transportation Security Administration monitoring the highest number of passengers in March 2021 since the pandemic started.
Air traffic is still low compared to pre-pandemic. However, it is growing considerably, and airlines are feeling more confident and just started reintroducing paused routes and offering new services: “Hawaiian Airlines just launched new nonstop service from Orlando, Florida, to Honolulu; JetBlue Airways will soon begin flying between Hartford, Connecticut, and Miami; and American Airlines announced 10 new, return and seasonal routes from Austin, Texas”.
So far, the growth in U.S. air travel is limited to domestic flights, as there are still restrictions on international travel between the U.S. and many countries, but more people are booking flights online.
Whoever decides to travel, in any case, must be careful and stay up-to-date on Covid-19 protocols for the destination country, monitoring hot spots and required travel documentation. Moreover, people will be more likely to travel if hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions ensure compliance with the rules and measures to protect their guests, to guarantee a safe and pleasant experience.