If 2020 was the year we went local, then 2021 is the year we once again begin to think global. We've spent the last 12 months social distancing, limiting gatherings, or staying home. Now, wanderlust is spreading like wildfire, and travelers are itching to get back into the world.
The announcement of a new strain of Covid-19 hit the airwaves last month, causing a slowdown in travel booking. However, that did nothing to slowdown travel dreaming! In fact, 82% of US families already have travels planned in 2021 and 65% of travelers plan to travel more than they did before the pandemic hit.
So, what can we expect for vaxications travel in 2021?
Domestic Travel in 2021
In 2020, staycations, schoolcations, workcations, flexcations, and podcations (trips taken with small pods of people in the same COVID-19 bubble) were all the rage...and they aren't going away! Families are itching to take advantage of time they have to spend with their family. So, domestic travel is going to be a huge industry in 2021, as travelers search for safe places they can go to get out of home and back into the world. AirBNB recently found that 61% of searches are for destinations within distance from home. The reliable road-trip, which is more controllable and thus comfortable, will be a staple of 2021.
There are plenty of trends already popping up for domestic travel in 2021. 61% of travelers are choosing outdoor destinations instead of urban destinations. Travel in 2021 will still be highly impacted by COVID-19 concerns, so outdoor vacations are a perfect way to indulge in wanderlust with safety at the top of mind. For instance, the top-searched destinations on AirBNB have been for lodging related to the Tennessee Smoky Mountains and Palm Springs, California. That being said, many travelers are itching to get back into the cities. As 2021 progresses and the vaccination is more widely distributed, expect to see increased traffic to major cities including Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles. On top of that, theme-park vacations are a seller in 2021, as families are ready to make some magical moments. Disney theme parks are currently booked at 75% capacity for Q1 of 2021, so if you are thinking of a Disney trip in 2021, consider booking as quickly as possible.
International Travel in 2021
Travel in 2021 will likely see an uptick in international travel as well. Current trends suggest that air travel will begin to pick up in the summer of 2021, but that international travel will likely not be revived in full until 2025. Part of the reason that global travel will take longer to rebound is due to the distribution differences across countries. Each country has been handling the pandemic in different ways, and vaccination rates and distribution protocols vary drastically by country. For this reason, many countries will continue to implement travel restrictions as the world works toward herd immunity.
In particular, the Safari industry will likely take 3-5 years to rebound, as many African countries face vaccination difficulties due to infrastructure difficulties and low income for government to utilize for vaccination roll-out plans. Additionally, the CDC has issued a no sail order until October of 2021, meaning that cruise travel will likely be postponed until 2022. This order was issued as preventative measures such as testing, quarantine locations, and social distancing are highly difficult on cruise ships.
Air travel will be the primary mode of global travel in 2021. So, if you're starting to dream, take a quick look at the top destination searches for 2021:
Cancun and Tulum, Mexico
Maui and Oahu, Hawaii
Many travel trends in 2021 revolve around safety. Let's take a look at top ways travelers can stay safe in 2021.
In addition to domestic road trips leading the 2021 travel scene, alternative accommodations will play a leading role in travel. Alternative accommodations, as well as luxury travel, are likely to make a splash in the travel industry this year, as a safe way to get out of the house and explore. By using alternative accommodations, travelers can decrease their risk of contact with other travelers. Similarly, luxury travel affords more space, so travelers can practice social distancing and isolation techniques while traveling.
Proof of Health
Proof of health is another travel theme we will see moving into 2021. While it might sound strange to "prove" your health, this is actually not a new technique at all. In the 1930's the World Health Organization created the International Certificate of Vaccination. Using this documentation technique, WHO has been able to contact trace and allow safe travel during other global pandemics including yellow fever, typhus, and smallpox. Proof of health, including vaccination records and medical health exams, is actually still used today, often for obtaining work or school visas.
The Commons Project is a nonprofit developing CommonPass, a health app that will likely be used for proof of health in the travel industry. The app connects to medical websites and pulls vaccination records while protecting other medical records. This will allows vaccination records to be easily proven in multiple languages without putting travelers' medical history at risk.
That's right, masks are not going out of style. The vaccination is not the end-all-be-all of COVID-19. Current data shows that the vaccination is 95% effective within the three months following the double-blind study, leaving a slight yet persistent 5% risk of contraction even with both parts of the vaccine. Additionally, no vaccinations are currently approved for children, leaving families open to COVID-19 cases as researchers continue to look for safe vaccination options for children. Until peak herd immunity is reached, masks will not be going away. So, bulk up on some cute and colorful masks and make sure you bring them along on your 2021 travels.
Rigorous testing still key part of travel. Before leaving for adventures, during your explorations, and upon returning home with wonderful memories, expect rapid testing to be a part of your travel stories. Current projections are even showing that COVID-19 testing may become an amenity at major hotels, making it convenient and easy for travelers on the go.
Loyalty Programs in 2021
Many travelers are concerned about what loyalty programs might look like in 2021. Travel points are a huge area of discussion, and travelers worry that they will become devalued over time. Airlines are currently maximizing point values by removing fees on tickets and continuing to remove cancellation or change fees during COVID-19 travel. Bank points, many of which were earned during bonus point extension programs during the pandemic, also leave travelers with a built up nest egg of bank reward points to spend. If you are considering using travel or bank points in 2021, we suggest booking trips in late 2021 for anytime in 2022. This will ensure that you are maximizing the value of your points before devaluation, while minimizing the risk of your trip being cancelled.
Flexible cancellations, a staple of 2020 travel, are likely to continue as the travel industry rebounds. However, there is no news on the longterm scale for flexible cancellations.
Family Travel Trends in 2021
What people have most missed during 2020 was the ability to connect with loved ones. For this reason, 2021 will feature a whole new travel industry, called reunion travel. Whether travelers are taking trips together or are traveling to visit long-distance relatives, family connection is a huge push for travel in 2021. Intergenerational travel is coming back, most in domestic circles as no vaccinates are cleared for children at this time. But whether you travel with Grandma or you travel to Grandma, families are ready to close the distance, make new memories, and share travel adventures together.
Where are you headed in 2021? Share and comment to let us know where you are jetting off to this year!
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