Here we are...basically at the one year anniversary before everything shut down and still no resumption of travel and no roadmap as to how things may look as we move forward. But, despite that lack of clarity, I do see many emerging trends for when the world starts moving again. Some of the trends are based on surveys of both Canadian and American travellers, others purely from conversations from my clients and others have no "scientific" backing but rather just things that seem to make sense to me with my 30 years in the industry. Like everything relating to Covid, take this with a grain of salt because the situation is constantly evolving!
Ok, so, everyone is saying that they can't wait to travel but what does that really mean? Is it a plane ride a couple of provinces next door to see family and friends? Maybe it's recharging on a beach in the Caribbean? Or maybe it's setting off on a long awaited bucket-list trip? My point is that "travel" looks very different from one person to the next and while I'm anxious for ALL of it to return, I don't think we are going to get a green light from government and then with the flick of a switch everyone is heading out in all different directions! I believe it will be a slow and gradual build and if "they" (whomever "they" are) are correct, it will be well into 2023 before we see all of the flights, routes, destinations, and volume of travellers back to pre-covid levels. Let that sink in for a moment. That means more than 3 years to regain the business that I had in February 2020. If you could actually see me know, you'd know that I'm shaking my head in disbelief. Even though I'm living it every single day, I still can hardly believe it. Anyway....I digress (as I often do).
So let's break this down. WHO is going to travel? It seems those between the ages of 18 and 31 are first up as are those 45 - 55 and then followed by the 66 - 72 age categories. There are many reasons these demographics are trending to be the first to resume travel.
- The youngest have a desire to travel and have been one of the least affected age groups by Covid. Yes, they have maybe done their university courses online and limited their social circle, missed out on family gatherings but many have been able to carry on a relatively normal routine.
- The second age bracket has either continued to go to work as usual or had to transition to a work from home routine. Either way, their life has involved making sacrifices, like so many others, all while trying to help their kids with schooling, while trying to keep a balance.
- For the oldest demographic of the group, it could be that they have many things they want to see and do while they are able and after a year of limitations, they want to be bold and start doing! Being housebound was not their vision for retirement.
- For our younger travellers, their focus may be on more authentic experiences and depending just how things progress with Covid or any variants, this group may start to be on the move as early as January 2022. They tend to see life as an adventure - be that the destination itself or the style in which they choose to travel.
- For the middle group, I feel they may be more inclined to resume All-Inclusive style holidays but at resorts that may be smaller, possibly boutique style resorts, that are adults only properties. These resorts will have a high focus on new protocols and customer care and may be more upmarket than perhaps they may have gone to in the past. Again, depending how these next months go, they might be ready to holiday in this upcoming winter season. This group of travellers also seem to be looking for a longer duration when it comes to holidays and many are siting 11 days or more as their preference.
- For the oldest group, IF they have been vaccinated, I think we will see their return to travel in the second quarter 2022. There will be some comfort knowing they have been vaccinated and that specific destinations are well set to welcome tourists. It seems there is an interest in longer trips (ie: 16 days or longer). Travel for this demographic may be in the form of river cruises and escorted holidays where the number of travellers is limited and within a confined group. Multi-generational family travel is likely to surge as well as everyone has the desire to be together an make up for all these lost months.
WHAT kind of travel do we see as the hottest trend?
- The market with the highest uptick is definitely river cruising. The ships are smaller, more intimate and have a high degree of attention to the details. No other industry has made such strides in their cleaning protocols and healthy and safety as the travel industry.
- Bubble or pod travel is all the buzz as well. This works well for the escorted holidays, multigenerational travel and even for the youngest demographic looking for local, socially conscious options.
- Adults only all inclusive holidays will remain popular but only with the resorts that have done the work to ensure their standards have gone above and beyond to ensure guests wellbeing.
- Ocean cruising will see a spike in 2023 with many looking to cruise for durations of 14 days or more.
- Self-drive holidays - whether this means here in Canada or renting a car in Ireland and exploring on their own, there is a sense that travellers can be in control of their own safety when driving and in many respects that is true.
- Bucket-list travel will be on the climb. No longer will travellers be ok to put off their dream safari in Africa or that epic Italian adventure. Too much has been given up and now is the time to reclaim the dreams.
- Wellness travel is another huge trend. After all the months of being cooped up, we see the importance of self-care for mind, body and soul.