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Singapore – After the pandemic put most of global travel on hold, the tourism industry is going through some serious revamping. Despite having to contend with strict restrictions and spending a lot of time cooped up at home, people are still finding ways to satisfy their travel needs, and the industry is rallying to get creative.
From flights that go nowhere to “school cations”, and emergency conservation trips to last-minute or “sprint” bookings, we can expect new and more focused travel trends to emerge this 2021.
Everything socially distant
Tour groups with strangers may now be a thing of the past, a vintage experience we can look back on fondly. These days, health and safety is of the utmost priority. Travel experts note that socially distant travel will continue to be quite the fixture in our world, even post-pandemic.
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While we have all had to adjust to a socially distant life, the travel industry is having to make major changes to comply with the new normal. For example, tour companies will have to get creative with their tours, placing importance on activities that allow clients to keep their distance from fellow travellers.
Quick, pre-travel testing
As much as we’d like to say goodbye to the pandemic for good, certain practices will remain, for the safety of all. An emerging trend in travel is rapid virus testing. Many countries require incoming travellers to quarantine for a certain period of time upon entering the country. As such, many have had to return home suddenly or cancel their travel plans.
Airlines and airports have begun to embrace rapid testing before allowing passengers to board flights. United Airlines has been giving customers tests which deliver results in 15 minutes (for passengers flying from San Francisco to Hawaii), and you can now purchase test kits at London Heathrow Airport which promise results in an hour.
The return of spontaneous travel
In light of how the pandemic has changed the landscape of travel, companies have adjusted their strategies to offer very flexible booking policies. However, that is not enough assurance for travellers, who understandably feel more nervous than ever about committing to dates and prices ahead of time, during an age of such disruption.
Spontaneous travel will be the name of the game, with travellers booking last-minute flights and then setting off a few days after. When travel restrictions and flights can change at any moment, time is going to be of the essence when it comes to travelling in 2021.
More connected travel
Not too long ago, “going off the grid” was considered by many to be the epitome of travel—disconnecting from your everyday world and experiencing something utterly new and exciting. Most of the time, it also meant literally going off the grid, to places far-flung and untrodden, where phones, laptops, texting or social media cannot find you.
These days and in the days to come, staying connected to the grid is now about safety and therefore a critical consideration when travelling. Travellers need to be “on the grid” this time, staying updated with travel news and restrictions wherever they go, ready to move quickly should they need to leave the country or return home. Also, keeping in close contact with family and friends while travelling will be an important consideration for 2021’s jet-setters.
Speaking of family and friends, experts have identified a new travel trend that we are going to see more of in 2021—reunion travel. Most of us have been separated from family and friends, thanks to the pandemic, and we undoubtedly cannot wait to be reunited with them, once travel opens up more freely.
Reunion travel is going to require a lot of multi-country coordination and effort, and travel companies need to be prepared to do some major planning, particularly in arranging accommodation and transportation for groups (families or friends) coming from different parts of the world.
Every part of our ecosystem has been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Due to a lack of travellers in Africa for wildlife conservation trips, safari reserves have not had adequate funds to pay rangers, which has unfortunately led to more instances of wildlife poaching.
This year will see travel companies rallying to promote emergency conservation travel, urging travellers everywhere to travel with a conscience—not just for themselves and their pleasure, but for good causes as well.
An interesting travel trend to look out for in 2021 is the rise of “pleasure flights”, or flying simply for the pleasure of it, and not with a destination in mind. Some airlines decided to put their fleet to use and offer these “flights to nowhere”, instead of just sitting parked on the tarmac.
These flights are all about the pleasure of flying—you still get the full-service experience of being on a plane—and sightseeing from the sky. Carriers such as All Nippon Airways, EVA Air and Qantas Airlines have had passengers avail of their sightseeing flights. EVA Air flew clients on a dazzling Hello Kitty-themed flight from Taipei, while serving only the best cuisinefood courtesy of three-Michelin-star chef Motokazu Nakamura. Qantas offered a seven-hour sightseeing trip from Sydney, which boasted “low-level fly-bys” of gorgeous sights such as the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and Byron Bay.
We know all about staycations and even microcations, but schoolcations are a new breed of altogether. With parents working from home and kids kept out of school, homeschooling and remote learning have been more popular. 2021 will see the rise of a new trend—families trying out a more nomadic lifestyle, travelling, studying and working on the go.
The pandemic has forced many parents to change their approach to their kids’ schooling, with a big importance placed on “life learning” and experiences over traditional methods of study. Companies have already begun responding to this new niche, offering on-site tutors for travelling kids (Puente Romano resort in Marbella). In Belize and Guatemala, The Family Coppola Hideaways are offering the Coppola Curriculum—three to four hours of educational family activities, such as tree planting, bird counting and wood carving.
The pandemic may have thrown a wrench into everyone’s travel plans, but 2021 promises the possibility of a different and more aware approach to travel. /TISG
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