Every year big names like National Geographic and Travel + Leisure do their best to summarize and predict international travel trends. No one though could have foreseen the travel upheaval dragged in with covid-19. Travelers have been forced to rethink everything.
The desire for international travel remains alive and well. In spite of the unpredictability of 2020, searches for international travel have dipped just six percent over last year’s levels. Something inside us longs to explore new destinations, discover unique cultures and at the same time aches to revisit a far-flung favorite destination we haven’t been able to return to. Inside is what one writer called “pent-up wanderlust” that’s bursting to explore. It’s just a matter of time before travel begins to grow.
That said, there’s no doubt how people travel is going to look a lot different. At stake is not only people’s health but their peace of mind.
“Peace of mind is now a commodity,” comments Jo McClintock, Global Brand Director of Skyscanner.
“Peace of mind is now a commodity” says Jo McClintock, Global Brand Director of Skyscanner.
Here are a few insights into what you can expect to see and what will help you plan with more peace of mind.
Traveling used to mean choosing a tour destination and package, securing a passport and visa, then packing. The last six months have introduced more guidelines and restrictions than ever. Business Insider suggests that may have people booking more with experts.
Case in point: Following a covid shut-down, Belize opened its doors to travelers mid-August. Seems straightforward, right? Pack the bags and hop a plane for sun and beach time. But someone with more expertise would have discovered the government had restricted hotel selection to 22 “approved” hotels. And renting a car to explore the rainforest and check out a few other beaches? No go. Car rentals were not allowed.
Rather than taking on the extra task of staying on top of ever-changing guidelines, travelers will be tempted to off-load that responsibility and pay an expert to secure a little more peace of mind.
The Trust Factor
Someone’s word is only as good as their character. When it comes to travel arrangements—hotels, rentals, packages–relationships and credibility are going to be more important than ever.
At Niteo Tours we’ve made a personal commitment to honor our refund policy for each guest. Not everyone is so fortunate. Earlier this year, friends of ours received a notice their tour to Europe had been cancelled due to covid. Totally understandable. What was not understandable, or acceptable, was learning that $3000 for their two tours wouldn’t be reimbursed. Their group leader has promised never to use that company again and has opted in the future to work with someone local. Why? Because trust matters.
Smaller is better
We’ve all got our “peeps” or “pod” of people we allow into our inner “social distancing” circle. For some that includes a select group of friends with a sprinkling of co-workers. Others stick strictly with close family.
That desire to manage who we’re with will extend into travel. According to 2018 Skift report, private tours were already set to grow nine percent annually. Now people have added reasons to travel in smaller private groups. This gives people a sense of control over who they are with.
Discovering the intrigue of a country’s local culture is always a highlight on an international trip. Locals connections can give you an inside look that others don’t have. But lately local connections are even more important.
Last year I was looking forward to visiting a favorite restaurant overseas. The last time I’d been there though was two years prior. Can I just say a lot can happen in two years? The setting was still pleasant, but the food was substandard and the service even worse. Turns out the restaurant had come under new management.
In the travel industry, some shifting in hotels and restaurants and different service is natural. But those changes have been magnified this year. Many venues have been hard hit, either they’ve gone out of business or aren’t what they used to be.
Certain websites give travelers a live status on popular venues. But keeping tabs on unique shops, the conditions of restaurants and hotels can be more time consuming. Knowing the in’s and outs of the local situation and even the feel of various neighborhoods is important and that’s where on the ground knowledge comes in.
Favorite destinations aren’t going to drop off anyone’s list. Even after covid, cities like Rome and London still rank in the top ten places to visit. In hard-hit Italy, for instance, the empty streets of Rome only lasted for a few weeks. But moving forward there’s going to be more consideration how and when they’re visited.
Many are looking forward to more outdoor escapes and out-of-the-way destinations. With that comes again comes the need for insider know-how and a plan to be in places when others are not. “Off the beaten path” means hunting to find tucked-away places that are yet undiscovered, or at least not booming with other travelers.
Though we didn’t plan to be “trendy”, at Niteo Tours we’re proud to say we’ve always specialized in small private groups that spring from local knowledge and that include a blend of favorite and out-of-the way destinations. We’d be privileged to work with you in the future.
What other new travel trends are you noticing this year?