No one could have predicted how long Covid-19 would impact the world (especially the travel industry) these last two years, but it seems as though things are different now. Vaccines have become widely accessible, restrictions lifted and many people’s cautious attitudes have become more lax in stark contrast to the days of sanitizer hoarding.
The Wise International Travel Survey actually found that travel is one of the most anticipated post-pandemic activities people are looking forward to. I feel the exact same way. I miss a glass of wine (or two) at the airport bar and the mini snacks on board. I’m even starting to miss flights without Wi-Fi for an excuse to completely disconnect.
As we look to the future and what it holds for the travel industry, I’ve seen different themes arising around what people are looking for in terms of where they’re going, what they’re willing to spend and what they’d like to get out of their time away. Here are the three that have piqued my interest:
Driven by the stress of a 2-year pandemic…
It’s been a stressful couple of years and that’s taken a toll on people’s mental health. In response, I’ve seen all sorts of headlines around the idea of “slow travel.” Wikipedia describes it as “an alternative tourism choice in contrast to mass tourism […] part of the sustainable tourism family, different from mainstream tourism and emphasizing the tourist’s greater personal awareness.” I recently listened to a CN Traveler podcast on How We’re Making Slow Travel a Priority and it also provides a great context into how different people are taking part.
One excellent example of a business leading this charge is luxury hotel chain Four Seasons. Sensi Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort opened just prior to the pandemic and did plenty of market research to land on their current concept which requests that guests check in five or more days for “optimum wellness results.” This aligns with the prevailing trend we saw of travellers increasing their average length of a single hotel stay by 43% in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic visits according to Virtuoso. Before you even hop on a plane to Sensi Lanai, you choose a goal -- whether it’s relaxation, establishing better sleep habits or learning a new skill -- and a pre-arrival specialist and sensei guide help to develop a personalized itinerary for you. I’m feeling more relaxed just thinking about it.
Driven by the ample time spent alone indoors…
I think most of us are all feeling pandemic fatigue and that we’ve missed out on opportunities whether that be celebrating key milestones or getting to see relatives abroad. As a result, we’re seeing organizations like Zicasso,
a luxury trip planning organization, reporting that bookings for six or more people increased 57% from 2019 to 2022 as well as luxury event companies like Olive Sky at work non-stop for clients planning everything from proposals to corporate parties.
Expect more multi-generational trips to occur, expect a pent-up destination wedding industry to flourish and expect celebrations of other milestones from birthdays to honeymoons to be a prominent fixture in the near-term horizon as people reconnect and make up for lost time.
Driven by uncertainty about safety…
A survey from Destination Analysts this year which tapped into 4,000 American travellers found that compared
to pre-pandemic numbers, 32% of people plan on taking trips closer to home and Americans are avoiding international travel at a historical low. Some of this has to do with residual cautiousness about covid and some of this sentiment is also being impacted by the war unfolding in Ukraine.
We’ve seen a whole host of businesses pop up around this shift including local Canadian offering Get Out Toronto that offers “short but authentic outdoor adventures […without] hours of planning or complicated logistics.” There are several tour companies including Classic Journeys that have doubled their US-based itineraries and Ambercrombie & Kent who have created brand new US-based offerings. It’s interesting to note that while many consumers have been impacted by rising inflation and soaring gas prices, yet 61.3% are still saying travel is a high budget priority and 40% say luxury travel experiences are an important part of their trips.
I'll be watching to see how these travel patterns change in 2023 and beyond as we hopefully get more distance from the pandemic and we see the pendulum swing in potentially new directions.