Saturday, May 9, 2020

Travel after the pandemic

Today’s post is by Christopher Elliott, whose latest book is “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). This column originally appeared in USA Today.

Why everyone will want to travel soon

Everyone has a touch of cabin fever after the worldwide coronavirus lockdowns. So it's no surprise that people want to travel soon. But how soon may come as a surprise.
Montana Beartooth All American Highway
 Jill Kaiserman, a retired teacher from Wayne, Pa., is eager to trade one cabin for another. She's already made plans to drive to her second home in Maine this summer. "It's the perfect kind of place for social distancing," she says.

Whether it's a cabin in the woods or a cruise ship cabin, Americans are dreaming of their next trip—and booking. 
Social distancing is easier when your vacation cabin is
far from other accommodations.
 "Travel advisors anticipate an influx of calls in the next six to eight weeks for those looking to plan future trips," says Misty Belles, a spokeswoman for Virtuoso, a travel agency group.

Why? Maybe it's because there's a pent-up demand for travel. People missed their spring break cruises and theme park vacations. Then they had to sit in their homes and apartments for weeks. Now they just want to get out of town. 

People will soon be anxious to travel again.
A new survey by Destination Analysts suggests American travelers feel the worst of the coronavirus may soon be over. One in five say they'll book a trip when the lockdowns are over.

"Traveler optimism is increasing," says Gavin Harris, commercial director of strategic partnerships at Skyscanner. His site's research suggests that 85% of Americans believe it will be safe to fly domestically by this fall and 74% think an international flight will be OK.

What kind of travel will be in demand?

Three types of travel will bounce back quickly after the lockdown lifts, according to experts.

  1. Business travel, particularly meetings and conventions.
  2. Road trips to nearby destinations to visit friends and family.
  3. Luxury getaways, including cruises, safaris and resort vacations.
    Biking from Glacier to Yellowstone National Parks allows for plenty
    of space and fresh air.
 Business travel: prepare for a deluge

The outlook for business travel is complicated. While many road warriors will switch to Zoom meetings, other types of corporate travels will need to happen soon because there's been a two-month pause in bookings and lots of pent-up demand.

"Typically, meetings are booked well in advance and during off-peak periods so that large groups can benefit from lower room rates," explains Catherine Chaulet, CEO of Global DMC Partners, a network of independently owned and operated destination management companies. 
Tapatio Springs near San Antonio, Texas is a popular meeting resort.
"Once the lockdown is over and a vaccine is available, there will be so much pent-up demand that meeting planners -- and business and leisure travelers -- will be competing for venues, and inventory will be limited as the industry plays catch-up." The meetings won't take place in the days and weeks immediately following the lockdown, but they will happen soon.

Is this the summer of the long road trip?

In the last week, I've heard from lots of travelers who have ditched an overseas vacation or cruise in favor of a road trip. 
Get out of town in your own car this summer!

"This will be the summer of driving to visit grandma and long road trips with the family and possibly the national parks," predicts Bob Barton, a former car rental executive who now consults for RentalMatics, a software developer. "It's a controlled environment and a chance to spend time as a family and see the country -- not just the airports." 
National parks should be popular
destinations this summer.

Chris Backe, a game designer from Asheville, N.C., who writes a blog about off-the-beaten-path travel, says the conditions are perfect for a summer road trip.  "No international flights needed," he says. "The roads are clear, gas is probably at a great price, and when places reopen, they'll be ready for you. Also, it's easy to maintain social distancing."

Contrarians are booking luxury travel

Another group of people who want to travel soon: luxury travelers.
Yes, cruises will resume and many people will book their preferred mode of travel.
 "There are many types of trips, including cruises, safaris, and adventure or luxury travel, that require booking 12 to 18 months in advance under normal circumstances, so it's important to keep that in mind if you're thinking of traveling in 2021," says Marc Christensen, founder of the tour operator Brilliant Ethiopia. "If you wait until the world has returned to normal to start planning these kinds of trips, you might run into availability constraints independent of coronavirus." 
Crowd control is easy on a safari--or
maybe a visit to a zoo.

Mita Carriman, the CEO of the travel site Adventurely, says she's seeing bookings from "extremely high-end luxury travelers" who can pay for high degrees of luxury isolation." 
"Think semi-private island," she says.
Beautiful beaches can be found near and
far--this one is in Costa Rica.

In other words, there were people in lockdown who were buying vacations even as the government advised against nonessential travel. It's the ultimate contrarian move. These travelers all have one thing in common. Neither a pandemic, a government-order lockdown nor a sputtering economy can keep them at home. They want to travel soon. And they're days away from booking it.

Consider these trips after the pandemic 

Activities like fishing can be enjoyed without jepardizing
health and safety. 
Camping. "Domestic travel, outdoor and nature style experiences like camping and glamping vacations will likely see a surge of popularity," predicts Janet Semenova, cofounder of Boutique Travel Advisors, a travel agency. "Vacations that minimize risks of not getting back home and avoid crowded areas such as large cities, airports and public transportation will provide a sense of comfort and security."

Couch surfing. Staying with relatives or friends experienced a resurgence during the pandemic lockdowns, as hotels closed. But experts say it'll remain popular, both for economic and safety reasons. 

South Padre Island in Texas is a popular spot for RVers to visit.
Recreational vehicles. "Renting an RV is the ideal way to travel to not only avoid large groups, but to escape into nature and spend time outdoors," says Maddi Bourgerie, a spokeswoman for, an RV rental site.

All photos from free sites. 


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