The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many industries, and the travel and tourism industry is among those that have felt the most significant impact. With the lockdown measures implemented to prevent the spread of the virus, there has been a decline in traveling and movement of people across different locations. We have all seen news of deserted hotels and destination tourist spots online, and even some of the world’s biggest and most anticipated events were cancelled.
But as some countries begin to open their borders again, partially as a result of the vaccination rollout against COVID-19, it can be said that traveling is becoming a possibility that we will be getting to experience once again. With safety measures such as coronavirus tests and fit to travel certificates becoming the new norm for travel, it is undoubtedly true that safety is still the top priority as we ease up restrictions on traveling and movement.
It is undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape for traveling and tourism. With the further easing of border restrictions and lockdown measures, some travel and tourism trends have emerged, which we can expect to see in a post-COVID-19 era.
Staycations and Local Travels
One of the most significant changes in the local travel landscape is the emerging popularity of staycations. Some luxury hotels have offers of an ideal staycation experience, which is appealing to a travel-starved population. Staycation promises the idea of getting a holiday getaway treat, all while having the reassurance of safety without the need for stringent PCR testing. Staycations have been popular in the south of England and in boutique hotels across the country.
Isolation/ Off the Grid Holidays
The experience of taking a break devoid of crowds is also becoming ideal in a time of isolation from others as private villas, boutique hotels, and quiet locations see a rise in popularity today. Isolation holidays offer the promise of being secluded from the virus during the pandemic and ensure safety since there will limited interactions and exposure to COVID-19.
Vaccine passports or digital health passports could prove vaccination against COVID-19 and other coronavirus test results from PCR test or rapid antigen test. While it is currently not officially a travel requirement, there is a possibility that it will be in the future, which can also significantly impact travel.
Digitalization of tourism services and processes
The shift to digital means of distributing and marketing travel experiences will continue to be a part of 2021 travel trends. It works well to have an online presence and direct distribution channels that can easily reach people and tap on the desire to discover and unfold new worlds. This includes the emerging online or virtual experiences that can offer travel experiences that can also be conveyed on online platforms. Additionally, touch-less travel and automation are considered the most visible change in the travel and tourism industry, which is likely to become part of the new normal in a post-COVID-19 era.
Exploring the outdoors and the wilderness
In the age of social distancing, nature breaks are becoming more appealing to travellers who crave wide and open spaces with inspiring outdoor views. Experiences related to outdoor tourism are examples of ensuring safety measures being observed continuously during the pandemic.
The emerging popularity of camping and glamping holidays continuously attracts new devotees eager to immerse themselves in the wilderness and the great outdoors. Besides this, there is also a rising trend in rewilding and conservation holidays where travellers play an active role in preserving the ecosystem and helping it return to its natural state. Additionally, this is considered to be placed in the great expectations cluster that refers to the desire to have a psychologically rewarding experience. It is no longer enough to be satisfied with a particular product or service in a time like this. The goal is now cantered on being fully happy in terms of the authenticity of the experience.
Regeneration and wellness holidays
It is undeniable that the increasing emphasis on the importance of the well-being of the mind is becoming more popular in 2021. Many travellers are likely to seek solutions that are in line with their regeneration needs as a way of recovering and processing such a long and uncertain year.
With that in mind, leisure or the possibility of combining work and relaxation is also a growing phenomenon that is appealing to workers and travellers alike. As remote working becomes the new normal in the working environment during the pandemic, people are looking for ways to make longer trips in the future in efforts to combine work and pleasure. We will also likely see an increase in “workcation” where travellers seek to extend their vacation and traveling experience to new locations by staying for another week or two to work remotely.
Tourism academic Fabio Carbone explained that post-COVID-19 tourism is expected to focus more on people rather than destinations. People who are eager to take a break from social distancing are more likely to use travel as a way of embracing and nourishing existing relationships with loved ones and seeking new and safe encounters with others. Carbone suggests that post-COVID-19 travel will emphasize and prioritize human development, dialogue, and peace. With that in mind, some popular types of tourism could include travel for visiting friends and loved ones, volunteer tourism, and peace tourism.
- Volunteer Tourism
Volunteer tourism or voluntourism is a niche tourist activity that essentially means volunteering travel time in a foreign destination. While there are questions about whether it contributes positively to developing countries and communities, it can be said that voluntourism activities such as educational field trips have generated valuable humanitarian work.
- Peace Tourism
Peace tourism refers to the interest in visiting a specific travel destination to examine how peace is developed and celebrated through conducting research or studies or contributing to various efforts in establishing peace after conflict. Peace tourism commonly involves peace memorials or conflict zones wherein there is an aim to learn from mistakes throughout history and help resolve or prevent existing conflict today.
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