As the northern hemisphere enters the summer months, for the first time in over a year we are feeling an excitement, a cautious excitement, that we will welcome a new, truncated, travel season in 2021.
Predominantly from the United States, Great Britain and the European Union, changes are finally happening, in the right direction. Travel restrictions are being lifted. Vaccine certificates are being developed. Flight schedules are being re-established. Air bridges between nations are being agreed. New ways are being discovered to ensure that safely, responsibly, and cautiously both domestic and international travel opens once more.
Travelers are once again joyfully reaching for their passports, holiday clothes being packed and making plans for the now requisite PCR test results. And we, the travel experience delivery community, are excitingly again booking travel and looking carefully at how we can fulfil delayed travel dreams allowing guests to once again, explore, see, smell, hear, taste and enjoy the sensation of new discoveries, with peace of mind.
We have seen over the past year that the mindset of the traveler has changed. Why? Because the value and the values of travel have changed. By being grounded, not only has there been a strong desire to reconnect with dearly missed family and friends, re-explore once more, but there is also extreme caution. Travelers remain fearful, not necessarily of contracting COVID-19, but of regulations changing. Sensitivity is growing as government policies incorporate ‘hand brakes’ into their travel regulations for non-essential travel, allowing immediate changes to policies should governments deem it necessary due to the return of COVID-19. The past year has demonstrated, repeatedly, the risk and rush when suddenly borders are closed, flights are cancelled, self- isolation is imposed, or hotel quarantines being enforced.
These very real risks remain a reason for traveler concern. The need for a degree of certainty is a new travel requisite. According to the latest passenger surveys conducted by IATA, the desire to travel is undeniable with:
- 68% agreeing that their quality of life has suffered as a result of travel restrictions,
- 57% expect to be traveling within two months of the pandemic being contained (improved from 49% in September 2020),
- 72% want to travel to see family and friends as soon as possible (improved from 63% in September 2020), and
- 81% believe that they will be more likely to travel once they are vaccinated.
- 84% said they will not travel if there is a chance of quarantine at destination (largely unchanged from 83% in September 2020), and
- 84% believe that COVID-19 will not disappear, which means we need to manage its risks while living and traveling normally.
We as the travel and tourism industry need to step up. This is our moment of truth. This is our opportunity to demonstrate that when we talk about inviting the world to travel once more, it is beyond simply our opportunity to create remarkable experiences that create memories of a lifetime.
A number of The Travel Corporation brands are now a month into operating trips in the new dynamic world. We have unequivocally seen that travel is one of the most powerful remedies for getting out and rediscovering the joy of living. To date, we have seen that 90 percent of our guests have been vaccinated. Our on-trip protocols are proving to be extremely comforting and effective for our guests. As expected, even with destinations open, travel is an adventure, with numerous changes occurring almost daily. We have cherished stepping into this new world, leveraging our local knowledge and expertise to ensure that despite the shifts and changes, we connect our guests to the heart of the places they visit. Here is a link to Trafalgar’s Instagram, where you too can see the genuine travel smiles on a recent ‘Welcome to Colorado’ trip we operated with Tyson, one of Trafalgar’s first Well-Being Directors.
Trafalgar guests enjoying our first-ever “Welcome to Colorado” tour along with Tyson, Trafalgar’s Well-Being Director (link to Tyson’s story here).
The joy of travel, the wonderful memories both past and present it stimulates, as we reopen a whole new world are as strong as ever. But in speaking to our teams, I hear how it is also transforming our thought processes and our perspectives.
It is wonderful to once again witness how tourism can not only positively impact the local economy, but also regenerate the culture and lifestyle of the destinations visited.
And finally, ensuring peace of mind for travelers. This is no longer an option. Nor is it a competitive edge. It is an expectation. And it is completely understandable. Today’s travellers want guardian angels. Their appreciation is self-evident by the bookings demand we see, as well as the feedback we hear. Travellers want to know that not only do we understand and respect health and safety protocols – carefully following the science from the CDC, the WHO, and governments to activate what is required for safe mobility of people within their communities and across countries – but we are putting these in place with them, watching over them daily during their travels. But doing so, so that they can just be, and enjoy the beauty of travel once again.
As I look forward, I do see light. However, what concerns me, is that many destinations are opening up willing to play health and safety roulette. A number of tourism officials have made public statements that the opportunity to re-establish livelihoods is critical, even if it might cost a few lives. This is absolutely unacceptable. This is not what global travel stands for. This is not what any of us at The Travel Corporation, believe in.
This is a unique new window of opportunity that has opened. What travellers can see is, in 2021 at least, based largely on which destinations are open, our responsibility as the travel community is risk mitigation. We are on the frontline of rebuilding trust and confidence. We cannot help our guests make these big decisions without recognising that the future of travel is not only interconnected, but interdependent. We must ensure that we are unwavering in our delivering of great experiences as well as in the protection of the wellbeing of travellers.
The reality in the short-term is this: things are going to change, in countries, in regulations, and therefore in travel plans. Linear travel is gone. Now it’s about agility, being flexible. And importantly, it’s about remembering that we, as the travel and tourism community, must ensure that travelers never lose sight of the ultimate gift of being able to travel once more.
There is a high degree of complexity as the world slowly reopens, complexity that will evolve in the months ahead. This is where the travel and tourism community, again, must step up. It is our responsibility to ensure that the future of travel is considered, is sustainable, is secure, and is a dream able to be fulfilled. We must provide enough confidence and enough comfort to enable travellers to make the decisions to go. I know our travel brands have embraced this and today see ourselves as being the most relevant way to explore the new world.
This truly is the travel and tourism community’s moment of truth. This is the moment in which we must all come together. This is the moment in which we need to remember that we too are travellers, and that there is nothing that a traveller is desiring more than being able to return to creating travel memories effortlessly, free of fears, complete with fun.