Travel and tourism experiences trends like every other industry. But of course, 2021 will go down as one of the most significant industry disrupters to date. Because now, as borders begin to re-open and commercial activities resume, we can expect travel to look pretty different to the way it did in previous years. According to recent research by 35-45% of travellers will defer travel until the virus is under control with a further 15% of potential travellers halting long-haul travel until the virus is completely contained. This will have a huge impact on the travel industry and those who depend on it. That said, travel is happening and will slowly increase as the months go by. So, what can travelers and hospitality businesses expect as we head deeper into 2021?
A fresh take on destinations and attractions
The first shift is around how destinations and attractions are judged by travellers. If you think of Disneyland and beach holidays for example, crowds are typically a big deterrent for tourists, but Covid has made confined spaces a very necessary concern that has stretched beyond inconvenience and into a place of real health implications. This is causing travellers to find alternatives by seeking out remote locations, outdoor spaces, or attractions that take into account careful social distancing measures. This trend will persevere well into the third quarter of 2021.
Hygiene and flexibility protocols
All of this reflects the travellers heightened interest in the safety and hygiene measures in place at the destination they book at. You will notice, for example, this communication is now a permanent fixture on airline websites. It plays a significant role in the decision-making process and is necessary for travellers to feel comfortable enough to hit the ‘buy’ button. With these factors in mind, there has also been a rise in Air BnB bookings. In relation to this, developed a new Cleaning Protocol for hosts, guiding them on top hygiene measures. They are also offering a new opt-in measure called a ‘Booking Buffer’ where property owners commit to a vacancy period between stays, to allow for optimal cleaning.
Another aspect of the buyer’s decision-making process, is linked to flexibility. Tourists want to understand what the refund policy for bookings is, in the event of another wave. The more flexible the booking, the more likely the traveller is to plan a trip.
Local tourism on the rise
In order to plug hole, the tourist industry really needs to reconsider their target audience and start drawing in the locals. This has its own upside as locals are more likely to revisit or bring friends and family along. So incentivising local travellers with memberships and local pricing can offer long-term relationships and return business. This will require a fresh marketing strategy, amended pricing and strong Covid protocols in order to ensure that customers are confident to book.
An interesting example of this can be seen in Qantas’ latest attempts where they are innovating by reviving a fun initiative from the 90’s: Mystery flights with a twist. Here they are operating a series of exclusive ‘Mystery Flight’ adventures where you book a flight without knowing what destination you’ll end up in until you join 120 others on a surprise adventure day outing. The destination will be revealed as the aircraft commences its descent. You’ll also be able to live track your flight path on the seat back screens. This is a fun way to explore your local surrounds and is gaining a lot of media attention.
As the world regenerates, people are becoming more and more interested in environmental impact, giving rise to off-the -beaten track holiday destinations. This is sparking interesting and alternative holidays like community immersion experiences and regenerative travel, where tourists can connect and contribute to local economies in mutually enriching ways.
The bottom line
Travel habits are changing and with it, the tourism industry has had to shift with the times. The good news is that travel has an aspect of necessity in it (when it comes to headspace at least) because people need to have time away and spend quality time with family. Especially during such stressful times! So, while travel businesses have their work cut out for them, tourists are looking for options and may opt in if the thinking and positioning is right.