Travel predictions for a brave new world

10 trends shaping the future of travel

By: Ann Ruppenstein

Let’s look into the crystal ball.

Travel Courier caught up with a panel of industry experts to get a sense of what the future holds for travellers and the trade. Here are some top travel predictions for a brave new world.


Travel advisors will be key

The value of using a travel advisor has been in the spotlight since the pandemic first hit. As travel resumes, consumers will turn to travel professionals for security, expert advice and up-to-date knowledge.

“Advisors are needed more now than ever, and this is great news for the travel agent community,” Caroline Hay, National Director of Sales and Marketing for TPI, tells Travel Courier. “Advisors are here to help navigate their clients through the trip planning process as well as the new protocols and travel restrictions. We’re seeing more advisors set up a service fee program to ensure that they are paid for their knowledge and expertise. We’re also seeing many new clients that previously booked their own travel turning to a professional to assist them.”


Luxurious and experiential vacations will be in demand

After more than a year of not being able to travel, Ian Elliott, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, TravelOnly, says they are fielding requests for vacations that go far beyond the popular flop-and-stay beach holiday.

“Our clients are looking at more experiential and cultural trips for their next vacation,” says Elliott. “They are willing to increase the budget and increase the level of luxury for their next trip. Private villas or vacation homes are in very high demand – for those that are willing to travel in the next six months, they want to keep to their family and close friends in a fully contained, safe atmosphere. For that, many of our travellers are happy to pay a premium.”


Safety — no surprise here — will be the top priority

The greater attention to space, cleanliness and hygiene will stick around for the foreseeable future. Susan Catto, Head of Content and Head of Production, Canada at Travelzoo, says the majority (53%) of its Canadian members say they are evaluating hotels based on different criteria in comparison to previous years.

“Specifically, 73% say safety guidelines are equally important as price and amenities when selecting a hotel for 2021,” she says. “Even when the pandemic is under control and most travellers have been vaccinated, the new norms around hygiene will continue across all areas of the industry. I don’t think you’ll see mask-less crowds pressing together at the Louvre to glimpse the Mona Lisa, for example. Hotels, travel providers and tourist attractions that do a good job of implementing safety measures and conveying them to the public will have an advantage.”


Travellers will look to tour operators for security

With health and safety being a top priority, people may be more inclined to travel with a tour operator.

“A lot of people who might have pre-booked and planned travel on their own are now looking for the peace of mind that comes with a guided tour in a small group, led by a specialist local guide who is on hand to offer advice and knowledge about the area,” says Robin Brooks, Director of Marketing and PR, North America at Exodus Travels. “Health and safety charters, Covid refund commitments — it’s incredibly important that travellers feel safe and secure during the planning and booking process as well as while travelling.


It’ll be all about trips of a lifetime

Any time travel is interrupted, the reopening period is characterized by a surge in bucket list travel. In a January survey, 64% of Travelzoo members said they’re interested in taking a bucket-list vacation in 2021.

“This trend is reflected in the deals that people are buying now for future travel,” says Catto. “We’ve seen high sales for Travelzoo’s more exotic offerings – deals for overwater bungalows in the Maldives, for example – plus a surge in upsells to higher room categories.”


Even though the future is murky, the industry will recover

Although the impact of the pandemic on the travel and hospitality industry cannot be underestimated, Beata Cieplik, Regional Vice President, Marketing, Commercial, Revenue for IHG Canada says they passionately believe it will recover in time.

“People will always want to explore the world, relax or reconnect with friends and family, the wheels of business must turn, and events still need to be run,” Cieplik says. “But while we’re confident of that journey, how long it takes to put this crisis behind us is less clear. We understand that it will not be linear across markets, and much depends on advancements in track and trace testing, therapeutics and, ultimately, how quickly the recently developed vaccines can be produced and rolled out across different countries.”


Travellers will head into the great wide open

Opportunities to explore the great outdoors will remain popular in 2021 and beyond.

“For one thing, it’s easier to carry out social distancing when you vacation outside the big city – and ventilation doesn’t get much better than an ocean breeze or a healthy forest,” says Catto. “Canadians are always eager to get out of the house after a long winter, but the drive to reconnect with nature will be even stronger after weeks or months of being confined to our homes.”

Catto says Travelzoo has seen a rise in wilderness travel – such as RV rentals and camping or fishing excursions — as well as more upscale “isolation holidays” such as private cabins or villa rentals.


Multigenerational vacations will be on the rise

After all this time apart, there will be a surge in vacations focussed on spending time with family and friends.

“In the short-term – at least through 2021 – we anticipate travellers will book vacations that allow them family travel opportunities via multigenerational-friendly vacations,” says Stéphanie Bishop, Managing Director, Globus family of brands. “And, of course, travellers will want to be reassured now – more than ever – that their vacation is safe, easy and enjoyable.”

Bishop also predicts closer-to-home getaways and more off-the-beaten-path trips to lesser-visited and undiscovered destinations will be on the rise, as well as off-season trips for better deals and fewer crowds.


Recovery will start through domestic mainstream travel

With more than 80% of international flights still facing some form of restriction, IHG Canada’s Cieplik points out that staycations and domestic leisure trips have been fuelling returning demand in many markets. Although it’s not a linear process, she says RevPAR declines across its markets are improving each month and occupancy is slowly increasing.

“At the centre of that improvement is domestic mainstream travel, which is coming back first around the world, as has been the case in previous downturns,” she notes. “Drive-to destinations are in demand as consumers seek the assurance of trusted brands offering accessible accommodation, booking flexibility and consistently high safety standards.”


An increase in workations? It’s likely!

With work from home becoming the new norm, Canadians are no longer tied to one location and the desire to work from idyllic destinations is certainly tempting.

“We are seeing more extended stays, or workcations, as it’s now possible to log in from almost anywhere,” says Catto. “Countries including Barbados, Bermuda, Estonia, Thailand and many others now offer long-stay visas, and we could see a new type of snowbird taking advantage of the chance to live abroad some of the time.”

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