Contrary to expectation, travelling in the post-COVID world might become more common, not less. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be exactly the same as before…
After a year of lockdowns and social distancing – in which travel opportunities have largely been limited to enviously scrolling through Instagram photos of sunlit beaches – it’s almost a cliché to say that our travel preferences will never be the same again. Does that mean we’ll be reluctant to travel far beyond our front doors ever again? If anything, it could be the opposite.
We may end up thinking of travel in a totally new way. It could be more normalised – a necessity rather than a luxury. Our time spent cooped up at home has made us all realise the importance of self-care, and getting some space and a change of scenery is the ultimate example of that. It’s been termed ‘wandermust’ – a fresh appetite for travel, not simply because we’ve got itchy feet but because we have come to appreciate its value on an essential level.
But, while we’ve not had much to do since lockdown began, one thing we’ve had in abundance is time to think. When it comes to travel, that means thinking about every aspect of a trip (whether domestic, short- or long-haul), what bits we really look forward to, and what we suffer through but could really do without.
Travellers in 2021 will be keen to have it their way: to craft their own experience rather than sticking to the obvious destinations and activities, to have everything they want and nothing they don’t, and to make their trips meaningful on a human, experiential level (rather than just checking off a list of attractions and taking selfies to prove we were really there).
What does all this mean, in practice? Here are a few examples:
- We’ll challenge the notion that the holiday of a lifetime requires a 12-hour flight. You can go long-haul if you want to, of course, but many people are discovering equally memorable delights on their own doorstep.
- Along with staycations comes the rise of the ‘workcation’: with so many people now working from home, we have found that we can stick a laptop in the travel bag and work from, well, anywhere.
- The ‘bucket list’ trip still exists, but the destination may have changed. One travel agent reported that their three most popular long-haul destinations were Peru, Ecuador and… Antarctica.
- A ‘life-changing experience’ is something travel companies are used to peddling, but now we really expect it – and not just for ourselves. Responsible tourism is on the rise, aiming to make a positive impact on destinations through techniques such as carbon offsetting, volunteering, or simply pumping revenue into areas that have been affected by a crisis.
- When it comes to money, everyone is looking for value. Travellers have learned to challenge everything, and don’t want to pay for something they don’t need. In the world of last-minute reservations and travel apps, everyone wants to feel like they are getting a personalised experience.
So when should you book that big trip? No one can say what our recovery from the pandemic will look like, or when travel opportunities will ‘open up’ again. We’ve been waiting long enough – we know better than to make predictions. But there is no reason not to start doing your research, planning, and just a little bit of dreaming. Nearly everyone admitted to spending time looking for travel inspiration during lockdown. And what’s wrong with that? Half of the fun of a trip is in looking forward to it.