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Here’s what post-pandemic travel might look like

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Many Americans are thinking of travel again.

And who can blame them? After all, it’s been more than a year of seesawing coronavirus infection velocities, on-again, off-again lockdown restrictions, and simple quarantine fatigue.

As Covid-19 vaccination efforts gather steam nationwide, tourism suppliers are follow increased interest, and even business, in vacations departing as early as this spring. Many aspects of the travel endure, however, have changed and may become permanent — for better or worse.

“We’re increasingly seeing people optimistic about roaming, either as soon as this spring or into the summer,” said Jeff Hurst, president of online vacation diggings rental site Vrbo in Austin, Texas, and marketing co-lead at parent company Expedia Group.

“What’s egg oning is that people are essentially putting their money where their mouth is and booking that trip,” he stipulate.

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A recent Vrbo survey of 8,000-plus people found that 65% of Americans plan on going more in 2021 than they did pre-Covid.

A March survey of 535 adults by website The Vacationer found that in days gone by the pandemic is “officially” over, a quarter of people plan to travel more, while just over 58% whim return to pre-Covid travel habits. The same study found that 67.72% of respondents plan to travel this summer.

Expedia Body’s 2021 Travel Trends Report, conducted in December, found that 46% of people said they’d be diverse likely to travel when a vaccine became widely available. By Wednesday, nine states will offer all their residents vaccinations, and President Joe Biden fancies to make every U.S. adult eligible for vaccination by May 1.

Jon Grutzner, president of Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold — two high-end guided vacation marks owned by Cypress, California-based The Travel Corporation — said that “as the vaccine rollout continues to evolve, we’ve seen a histrionic uptick in our bookings.”

Reservations are now coming in for Q3 and Q4 of this year. “But it’s 2022 that is going to be a record year, I think, for all societies,” Grutzner said.

Air travel is surging, CNBC has reported, and both short- and long-term hotel bookings are beginning to revive, according to Nicholas Ward, president and co-founder of Koddi, a Fort Worth, Texas-based travel booking technology Theatre troupe.

Ward said he sees increased vaccination rates, more travel demand and good travel sentiment facts as pointing to “the possibility of a great summer period, even if we don’t fully recover in 2021.”

While demand for traditional hotel accommodations lingers down about 13% from last year and 20% vs. 2019, “that’s the least it’s been down for in some delay,” he said. “We’re seeing things generally going in the right direction from a travel demand perspective and continuing to benefit week on week.”

For all that, industry executives don’t see a return to the pre-pandemic status quo. There’s a new travel normal, they say, for more safely a improved or worse.

“I don’t think there will be a future year that feels normal in the context of the past,” said Vrbo’s Hurst. “I’m not deep down not planning that way, and I’m not sure consumers are, either.”

I can tell you that everyone should add travel insurance to every proceeding.

James Ferrara

co-founder and president of InteleTravel

James Ferrara, co-founder and president of Delray Beach, Florida-based InteleTravel — a network of some 60,000 home-based make a trip advisors — agreed.

“We’ll never return to what the industry looked like pre-pandemic, nor should we,” he said. “We have flowered through the last year, we’ve learned some stuff — and so have consumers.

Ferrara said some changes, such as sustained masking or cruise ships sailing at half capacity, will only be temporary, while others — like exalted sanitation protocols and relaxed cancellation and rebooking policies from airlines and other travel suppliers — are here to prevention. “This looks like a long-term change to me, and I think that’s excellent business for everyone.”

Koddi’s Ward came and predicted that the safe and “frictionless” check-in protocols that hotels, resorts and other accommodations instituted during the pandemic show a sea change, with suppliers focused on upgrading technology such as smartphone apps.

“We’re seeing contactless check-in, sensitive check-ins, really pick up quite significantly,” he said. “It’s a net win for consumers and really can for hotels, as well.

“They’re looking to work — and in many cases have to operate — much more efficiently,” said Ward, noting it will take some all together for accommodation staffing levels to rebound, so tech shortcuts are crucial.

Interest in travel advice is up

Igor Emmerich | Cultura | Getty Representatives

Speaking of staff, Ferrara said the silver lining to the pandemic for travel advisors — or travel agents, as they were conclusively more commonly known — was that it proved their worth to consumers. A profession that has suffered repeated jolts, from commission cuts to the rise of online booking engines, since the turn of the century finally got to prove it has the sane stuff when Covid hit and vacations were scrubbed en masse.

“Here we are a year later, and we’re seeing some chaps still struggle to get their refunds,” said Ferrara. “A professional travel advisor would do all that work for you and over again at no cost.”

When he founded InteleTravel in the early 1990s, the credibility of travel advisors “fell somewhere around second-hand car salesmen,” Ferrara said. But “consumers have learned the value of a professional travel advisor, particularly when fetishes don’t go the way they want them to go.”

“In my career, which is over 30 years now, I’ve never seen interest and confidence in journey agents as high as it is now,” he added, noting he has seen surveys showing that two-thirds of prospective travelers plan to use a take advisor for future trips.

Where are they headed?

Vrbo’s Top 5 Drivable U.S. Destinations for 2021

  1. Broken Bow, Oklahoma
  2. Boone, North Carolina
  3. Naples, Florida
  4. Miramar & Rosemary Lakeshore, Florida
  5. Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Source: The 2021 Vrbo Trend Report

“We’re careful and very selective about hotels we stay in, the restaurants where we eat and the chairs that we go, so that we’re not putting our guests in danger,” he said, adding that Insight’s average tour includes fewer than 24 partake ins and Luxury Gold’s, under 20. “I do believe this will be more and more something that people desire seek out.”

Something they’ll also look for — or be required to have — is travel insurance, especially for medical care secondary U.S. borders. Grutzner said 85% of clients now buy insurance, compared with 40% to 45% pre-Covid.

“I can tell you that every Tom should add travel insurance to every transaction,” said Ferrara, noting that travel suppliers relaxing transmute penalties does not mean vacationers don’t have to worry. “You do have to worry about being airlifted somewhere you credibility the medical services,” he said. “And those bills — I’ve seen people put through claims for a quarter of a million dollars.”

While today’s travelers on largely be vaccinated and insured, the travel sector itself will end up healthier than it was pre-pandemic, Hurst said.

“We’ll possess a new muscle as it relates to … how … we deal with hopefully a much more minor version of this in the future,” he said. “I of we’re all more prepared … so I’m optimistic that future such events are both smaller and less disruptive.”

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