Where is tourism going?26 January 2021
/ Tourism and travel: a look at future trends /
2020 was the year that changed tourism. While many industries have suffered from the pandemic and the limitations imposed because of it, tourism and travel have been particularly hard hit: according to data by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), there were 900 million fewer international tourists worldwide between January and October 2020 when compared with the same period of 2019, a decrease of 72% that translates into a loss of US$ 935 billion, i.e. more than 10 times the loss in 2009 under the impact of the global economic crisis.
The situation is bleak and it doesn’t look like it will get better anytime soon. Travel restrictions continue to weigh on the system, people are still worried about the heightened risks in traveling, not to mention that money is tight for many, caught in the economic downturn. And while many hope that 2021 will be the year of the rebound, and people are missing the chance to travel and see the world, most experts believe international travel will not return to the levels we were used to anytime earlier than 2025. A survey conducted by the Frankfurt University in collaboration with travel technology company Amadeus among travelers found that most people do not believe that normal traveling will be possible before 2022.
However that turns out, tourism, hospitality and travel will be forever changed. Here’s a look at some of the trends that will catch on from 2021 onward, according to the experts.
With the pandemic and the sudden limitations it brought, people have learned to put a higher value on booking flexibility: what happens if your flight is canceled but your hotel does not accept cancellations, or if you suddenly find yourself quarantined and have to cancel the whole trip? In the past, people accepted the risk willingly, but rigid terms will not fly any more, and fees for changing details of a trip are probably a thing of the past. “Having a flexible cancellation policy on a hotel website will be vital in ensuring direct bookings,” said GlobalData Travel & Tourism Analyst Ralph Hollister. Travel insurances may see a growth as well.
In the same vein, last-minute holidays will be on the rise. In their “Travel Trends 2021”, specialist booking portal lastminute.com wrote: “When lockdown was lifted we saw a massive spike in lookers turning to bookers […] and we predict this trend to continue into 2021.”
In 2020 people got used to staycations and to remote working. 2021 will be the year of the workation: a longer stay in a destination, combining regular work from your accommodation and exploring the area in your free time. After all, by now employees have proven that the job can be done from anywhere, even the beach. Travelers will be expecting fast WiFi and practical workstations in the comfort of their accommodation.
Digital nomads already existed, but the shift in work style will allow many more people to work from a vacation spot. On the island of Madeira, in the Atlantic, Europe’s first digital nomad village is opening in February: it has space for 100 people, but has already garnered interest from more than 300. “I predict that Portugal, Croatia, Greece, Spain, and Cape Verde in the central Atlantic Ocean are going to be among the most sought-after digital nomad destinations in the near future,” said Gonçalo Hall, who launched the project in collaboration with Startup Madeira and the regional government of the island.
Domestic tourism is the one niche that saw increased interest in 2020, and the trend is expected to continue. In a survey conducted by Airbnb in the US, 62% of people expressed interest in a vacation within driving distance from home. “Looking back at September 2019 for trip planning in 2020, for US guests, cities like Paris, London and Rome were all top destinations,” wrote the company on their website. “Next year [i.e. 2021], a range of domestic locations in national parks, winter ski and beach towns are becoming the most popular.” Around the world, media outlets have already tapped into this idea, touting local beauties as the perfect vacation.
Local tourism will also favor a growth in outdoor activities (because travelers feel safer outdoors), road trips, camping, and RVs. “With travel restrictions forcing people to take domestic holidays, traveling by road (rather than rail or air) is the obvious choice in the viral age, as being in your own vehicle provides the most security. Plus it gives a wonderful sense of freedom after a prolonged period of being at home,” commented travel journalist Jenny Southan.
Hygiene and privacy
For those who prefer a traditional accommodation, replace “vehicle” with “apartment”: people will veer towards private apartments that afford more privacy and safety. More generally, they will put a premium on hygiene measures. According to a research conducted by Expedia, “eight [travelers] in 10 plan to make accommodation decisions based on pandemic measures in place – such as reduced capacity, hygiene protocols, the use of masks, and contactless check-in and room service.”
Therefore, all the measures taken during the pandemic will see a greater application: contactless payments, reserved check-in areas, hand sanitizer dispensers, touchless systems with mobile apps and QR codes to reduce touchpoints that may spread germs. Limited personal interaction will also spread to food and beverage, be that focusing more on room service or QR-code menus.
When the world stopped, we all saw how nature reclaimed its space, with dolphins swimming in the canals of Venice, but we also saw just how much our normal life hurts the planet: the lack of pollution was such that it caused shifts in weather conditions, it was reported. Eco-tourism, already a growing trend, has definitely been boosted by this new collective awareness.
In this context we applaud the project launched by…
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