By: Tim Blackwell
An increasing number of travelers are becoming eager to return to vacation travel, as long as they get some reassurances. The latest vacation travel trends suggest that younger folks are more likely to be ready to roll, though many others aren't quite sure. One thing is for certain: Travel preferences have changed, and the industry will have to adapt.
Significant hurdles remain, even as borders and social distancing loosen, to ease the minds of travelers, although many are getting cabin fever during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent survey of 3,000 Virtuoso customers say that most travelers ages 18-55 are ready to travel, but they need to know their journeys will be safe and hassle-free. Even if it means forgoing some luxuries and worldly destinations.
The top three factors that will make them feel comfortable to book a trip are relaxed cancellation policies, a COVID-19 vaccine, and promises that accommodations are safe and clean.
Vacation and short-term rental industry leaders are heeding the message and realize that the shape of travel will look very different emerging from the pandemic and beyond. For now, that means implementing new processes and procedures to make guests feel at home.
Many are ready to travel but most are hesitant
Virtuoso has a vast network of global agencies specializing in luxury and experiential travel. The company partners with hotels, cruise lines, tour operators and other travel-related companies.
The travel advisor recently took the pulse of its travel customers to learn the state of travel demand. Nearly half of all age groups polled said they weren't going to get their travel bags out of the closet just yet. However, 42 percent, mostly travelers ages 18-55, said they were ready.
The majority of those who weren't ready were the older demographic. About 10 percent of all age groups weren't sure when they would be ready to travel.
One thing for certain, however, is that an overwhelming majority want transparent cancellation policies because of doubt regarding the pandemic.
Another key finding is that travelers need to know they will be safe, one of three trends that Trip.com Group CEO Jane Sun echoed in an article posted by the BBC. For many, that means staying a little closer to home, avoiding airports, and being choosy about accommodations. At the same time, because many are working from home and can be more mobile, longer stays are in demand.
"First, people are very cautious about the health guidelines, so we work closely with our partners to ensure hotels and airlines are safe partners," Sun told BBC. "Second, people prefer to travel within smaller groups, for example, with family or good friends. Third, we've seen certain demand that used to be for outbound travel now turning to domestic travel."
Also, one top executive in the travel industry said it's not unusual now for guests to ask for stays up to a month. They are looking for more stability, trust and longer engagement with their accommodations. Travelers want to keep their distance from staff and they are willing to take domestic road trips rather than travel abroad.
Technology needed for travelers, hosts to maintain distance
Technology is playing a role to maintain space between guests and hosts. Because social distancing will continue to be encouraged, online technology from booking to check out is being seen as a way to allow travelers to plan their vacations and stay within a safe zone.
Some hosts are arranging virtual tours of museums and other attractions so guests can stay inside but explore a destination’s cultural areas.
The practice isn’t just endorsed by the travel industry but by higher authorities,
among health and safety guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specific to the travel industry to create transmission barriers are touchless solutions and enhanced sanitation procedures.
CDC encourages touchless or low-touch alternatives to ticketing (booking), identification, check-in, and payment.
Heightened sanitation practices have been seen as key throughout the vacation rental industry to attracting travelers. Many advances have been made since the onset of the pandemic to disinfect apartments, homes, and villas.
The most recent trend is self-cleaning technology. An odorless and transparent substance engineered to fight harmful microbes by self-disinfecting when applied to surfaces recently entered the sanitizing market. Microbes like bacteria, viruses and airborne mold spores decompose when exposed to sunlight.
Travelers likely to embrace vacations more than ever
The sense throughout the travel industry is that while travel will return, it won’t be as robust, at least in the near future.
Industry executive Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, told China Global Television Network that some things in the new norm are going to stick with travelers for a long time.
“In airports, they might be checking temperature – as you have seen perhaps in China and some countries that have more experience in the past with outbreaks, that they implemented these protocols way before the West,” she said.
Travelers will also embrace vacations more, realizing that pre-pandemic the world took global travel for granted. Now restricted by ways to get to destinations themselves, travelers will want to make each trip count more.
For vacation rental operators, that means ensuring a memorable experience.