Travel and tourism have been two of the most affected industries during the past year, with the whole world being placed on hold. This turbulent period will forever go down in history, and despite how unsettling it has all been, blue skies are anticipated ahead. We will however need to learn to navigate differently, given that travel will not be the same as it used to be, which is not necessarily a bad thing (Earth breathing in the background). Nevertheless, understanding the future of travel has never been more important.
After the prolonged confinement, and according to the latest survey of the UNWTO Tourism Recovery Tracker, we are seeing a 24 per cent increase in positive sentiments towards travel. People are craving that sense of adventure, along with widely-open-travel spots where they can escape to, enjoy being active, and soak in some fresh air without feeling restrained. Such destinations will definitely be in high demand and travellers have already started planning their trips as highlighted in the latest research done by Sojern (An increase of 70 per cent in searches when it comes to hotels, and 61 per cent for airlines). They will obviously be more cautious about how they travel by carefully selecting hotels and travel companies that offer flexibility and safety first. Their choices will also primarily be based on reviews and word-of-mouth. With this said, it is paramount for advertisers to be specific in their messaging and reassure consumers about the Covid-19 precautions which they have in place, along with reiterating to all travellers, that their bookings will be protected in case of any last-minute new restrictions cropping up.
Travellers will also be seeking reassurances from Governments about their safety and the flexibility in travel arrangements which they can avail. Authorities as well as tourism boards, have already made some progress and have started adapting to changing habits and preferences to inspire potential travellers and remind them why they love travelling so much. Tourism boards will need to leverage this approach and push communications about their vaccination rates, increasingly rapid testing protocols in airports as well as the availability of testing facilities across the country, which would ultimately help boost confidence and tourism throughout the year. The UAE has already set the tone and proven to be a great leader when it comes to taking measured precautions against the Pandemic. It has moved to the top of the global rankings for vaccination rates (70 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated, as stated by the official spokesperson for the NCEMA), which explains its high influx of tourists.
On a different note, a more meaningful shift, whereby people are opting to fly to a single location (instead of taking trips to multiple locations for Instagram “likes”) is taking shape. Given that people have been at home for so long, the journey will be as important as the destination and travellers will be looking to enjoy new cultures, landscapes, activities, cuisines as well as finding ways to reconnect with nature. Research studies about such topics and content are also on the rise (a trend that has been noted across our trusted publishers). Travel-related videos and articles, promoting such tailored wellness-focused experiences will be key for advertisers, while offering travellers greater reassurances about their flexible cancellation policies.
The Pandemic also forced people to slow down a little and not rush through life. This has brought about a rise in “Slow Travel”, which encourages people to really enjoy open-air and nature-based tourism activities and was foreseen by the UNWTO panel of experts. In addition, we now live in a world, where multitudes of digital nomads are working remotely, which will lead to a surge in “workcations” – periods where travellers will be combining work commitments with their vacations. No one is in a hurry to return to the fast-paced office environment and people now want to take their time and enjoy local experiences. Within this context, it is very important for hotels to meet their clients’ expectations by promoting flexible booking extensions and adapt to this new travel trend.
All in all, while this pandemic has had detrimental effects on the global economy, there are thankfully blue skies on the horizon. Travel has already picked up, as people have started preparing for their holidays. As per Adara Traveler Tracker, the volume of flights booked has increased by 200 per cent compared to the last 2 months, while hotel bookings have shot up by 250 per cent. Despite the previous turbulence, they are now opting to play it smarter about their travelling ways and will be looking for low-risk travel destinations with an easy-return guarantee and lots of flexibility, which hotels and tourism boards have already started working on.
Let’s fasten our seatbelts, shall we?