Travel after the pandemic is not going to be quite the same as it used to be, but it’s definitely coming back.
As people emerge from lockdowns and limitations in the coming months, and look toward getting out and exploring the world again, travel is anticipated to become a popular and valued activity.
The E-Commerce Times spoke with several industry experts to get their perspective on new trends in travel and tourism.
“In the short term, travel has become more complex,” Christina Pedroni, senior vice president with Liberty Travel, told the E-Commerce Times. “It’s not as easy as just booking a flight and grabbing your passport, given various Covid-19 testing requirements in place for almost every destination.”
Because of all the changes in the world over the last year, travelers — or those helping them to plan their itineraries — must do a fair amount of research before heading out.
“There is a lot to know and understand about travel in the current environment,” explained Pedroni. “The value of a travel agent has never been more obvious as navigating entry, testing, quarantine and government requirements are still very fluid.”
It’s not just leisure travel that will be increasing, either. Business travel is already starting to tick upward, as people seek to return to in-person meetings.
“As Covid slows, a significant number of people are returning to business travel,” Mike Putman, CEO of Custom Travel Solutions, told the E-Commerce Times. “While Zoom has been an exceptional substitute, it doesn’t provide the level of relationship [an in-person] face-to-face meeting does.”
Because of all the suppressed energy out there, as people begin to break loose and travel, this increased demand is likely to limit availability of rooms, cars, flights and other amenities.
“Of course, there is a tremendous pent-up demand,” explained Putman. “Still, some services are limited due to capital restraints — not enough rental cars — and service restraints — restaurants haven’t been able to rehire employees, causing limited dining capacity.”
This increased demand will affect availability and pricing.
“In the medium term, there will be tremendous demand for travel and the most popular hotels, resorts and destinations will have limited availability, and, as a result, prices will rise with this demand,” said Pedroni.
Travel itself has changed because of the pandemic, and one of the primary changes has been an increased concern with health, wellness and cleanliness.
“First and foremost, health and safety protocols are important to all travelers and have become a must-have for travel providers rather than a nice-to-have,” explained Pedroni.
“People are willing to pay more for that peace of mind. Travelers are looking to escape beyond their four walls, and although destination is important, it’s likely not as important as it was pre-Covid. It really is the journey, not the destination — the ‘act of travel’ — whether for relaxation, for a new experience, or for an adventure,” she added.
Also as a result of the pandemic, travelers are looking for new kinds of amenities — including often the ability to work remotely even while they’re on vacation.
“There is a growing demand for privacy and exclusivity, as well as longer vacations and remote working scenarios,” Juan Vela Ruiz, vice president of Velas Resorts, told the E-Commerce Times.
In response, Velas Resorts released its Home to Grand program. Privacy features include an area set aside for a private beach and another for a private office, as well as personalized classes and exclusive dining experiences.
Travelers have also become concerned with maintaining points status and other perks that might have dropped off with decreased usage during the pandemic — in part because they hope to use those points as the pandemic wanes.
“Prior to the pandemic, program members were looking for greater convenience and ease of use when it comes to booking travel, more redemption options with reasonable rates of redemption, and an overall more personalized experience,” Len Covello, CTO for Engage People, told the E-Commerce Times.
“These all remain a top priority, but as travel restrictions begin to ease, program members also are seeking ways to retain their hotel and airline statuses, despite a significant decrease in use — just as many airlines and hotels lower their qualifying thresholds for particular loyalty levels,” he remarked.
Even paying for travel — especially in emerging markets — has been affected by the pandemic.
“The travel industry is one of the industries most impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Sue Ann Seet, head of Asia for dLocal, told the E-Commerce Times. “It is also one of the first to respond to the changes that the situation demanded. Dlocal has seen an increase in domestic flights versus international flights.
“When it comes to payments in emerging markets, we see an unprecedented move into the digitalization of payments. While this might be no surprise in more mature countries, emerging markets are still very cash-based and are still in the middle of their digital transformation. The pandemic accelerated the process,” she observed.
It’s not only travel that has changed, but the kind of shopping that people do while traveling. People increasingly want, for instance, to bring home luxury souvenirs that they will actually use — including wine — and they’re looking for luggage to keep it safe during the journey.
“Tourists want to buy wine and get it home to enjoy the memories of their travels,” Ron Scharman, CEO of FlyWithWine, told the E-Commerce Times.
“We are in the fourth generation of VinGardeValise wine suitcases, as we have added features to improve the product and consumer experience while traveling to make sure their wines travel safely, regardless of the deteriorating baggage handling situation in today’s airports,” he noted.
Finally, travelers are more environmentally conscious than ever, and they’re looking for sustainable alternatives to traditional travel.
“Ongoing, there is a new focus on sustainability in travel, both for travelers and for destinations,” explained Pedroni. “There are incredible initiatives happening throughout the travel industry that showcase exactly how we can travel responsibly throughout the world, and this will become the norm and the expectation as the next generation becomes the dominate travelers.”