Watching the ball drop and ringing in the new year, many of us had big travel plans for 2020. Maybe you were counting down the days until that family vacation, amazing class trip or finally checking another country off your bucket list.
By March, most of those plans were on the back burner as the world's attention shifted to the COVID-19 pandemic. As optimists and people who are eager to explore, we look forward to 2021.
We've learned we cannot take travel for granted—and next year, it will return. Whether you look to tap into an immersive cultural exchange, relax on a cruise or reconnect with loved ones, here are a few things to expect in 2021.
We've missed spending time with those we care most about. That's why a greater portion of 2021 travel plans will include family and friends.
As one safari company co-founder wrote, "... we have seen an increasing number of requests for multigenerational trips and trips which include large groups of friends who are looking to reconnect with one another following an intense period of isolation."
These trips focus our attention and time on the basics—being close with each other and strengthening relationships.
People Will Seek Spacious Destinations
Many who deferred 2020 trips will seek destinations offering grand vistas, an escape from city life, and plenty of physical distance from other travelers—places like wilderness retreats, national parks, mountain resorts, and quiet beach towns.
A co-founder of one of Europe's most popular travel sites pointed out they've seen an uptick in new bookings to beach destinations that "are isolated, remote and support social distancing."
Revived Regional Destinations
It may take a few years for us to feel the full economic impact of this pandemic; with uncertainty comes a desire to stay closer to home. As attractions, restaurants and activities reopen, we can expect people to seek nearby adventures.
We're seeing a resurgence in domestic tourism that's more budget-friendly and avoids complex international travel requirements. People will plan to bypass jet lag and lengthy flights. This renewed interest in "backyard" destinations creates an increased demand for a more sustainable nostalgia, which may inspire revitalization of bygone resort towns.
Different Priorities – Leisure Focus
Companies have learned that, thanks to technology, more work can be done with less travel. We simply don't need to fly as much to do business. The drop in business travel makes space to plan travel prioritizing local culture, food, scenery and arts over rushed business transactions.
Unexpected change brings new challenges. Group leaders, planners and even the individual traveler will need to think differently to still benefit from travel. Each will have to prepare for uncertainty, mitigate any margin of error and have a plan. Shared knowledge—learning from others, working with experienced professionals, online courses and listening to experts—will make this possible.
Stephen Ekstrom has joined the team at TourismAcademy.org as Chief Strategist. In addition to holding leadership roles within the tourism industry, he's been profiled by the New York Times, lectured at leading universities, appeared on numerous television and radio programs, and been published by trade publications around the globe.
This article originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2020 issue of Groups Today.