Before COVID erupted onto the global stage, we were consumed by wanderlust. We have always been the type of travellers that sought out destinations based on their proximity to scenic cycling routes and zen-filled spaces for an inspired yoga practice. We are adventure hunters, and physical activity is our treasure – cycling 10,000 feet up to the summit of Haleakalā (the largest dormant volcano in the world) or holding a yoga posture atop the soaring red rock monoliths of Sedona. Now, there are growing indications that the future of travel could belong to adventure seekers, like us.
Here are our predictions for travel and tourism trends in 2021 and beyond.
The lockdowns and border shutdowns imposed by political leaders and public health officials to contain the spread of COVID wreaked havoc on the travel industry – from airlines and hospitality to tour operators and more. However, anecdotal evidence suggests a travel comeback triggered by pent-up demand as vaccination campaigns are rolled out en masse, restrictions are eased, international borders gradually reopen, and a degree of normalcy returns.
Increasing demand is just half of the equation. The nature of the future of travel could be different, too. We predict bucket list destinations to grow in popularity (think trekking to Machu Picchu or taking in a breathtaking safari in Kenya's Maasai Mara, which we are grateful to have experienced years before the pandemic struck, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, which is still on our bucket list, or exploring other far-flung destinations across the planet).
We predict travel destinations will be predominantly remote and off the beaten path and that travellers will opt for physically-distant or 'bubble'-type travel within one's existing social network (think stand-alone cabins set against the stunning backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Appalachian Mountains range for a cycling adventure or a yoga retreat) in lieu of massive hotel chains, bustling cities, and other tourist hotspots upon which hordes of people converge. Paramount to travellers' expectations will be an environment that promotes a safe, contactless experience and that aims to reduce any harm or risk of exposure to the virus.
While various predictions abound, what we could say with a degree of certainty is that the COVID pandemic has fundamentally transformed travel and tourism, and that we are all headed into uncharted territory.