If 2020 was the year that we all stayed at home, 2021 shows a chink of promise when it comes to travel. Richard Holmes unpacks a few trends to watch for when planning your adventures this year.
1. STAYCATIONS & SELF-DRIVES
With foreign travel curtailed, local escapes will remain the flavour of 2021 as domestic and — increasingly — regional holidays remain the go-to for South Africans looking to scratch that travel itch. Self-drive holidays offer the security of our own surrounds, while unique experiences such as campervanning are likely to see a boost as curious locals stay close to home.
With inbound tourism slowing to a trickle and tourism operators hastily adapting to the new economics, expect previously unthinkable rates for luxury hotels and upscale safari lodges. While you may rue the lack of long-haul travel, spend those travel rands closer to home on unforgettable African experiences.
2. CAN’T TOUCH THIS
When you do dare to step outside your front door, you’ll find a brave new world of Covid-safety protocols. Airlines including United and Cathay Pacific are innovating in contactless check-in and modified meal services, while international hotel chains — special hat-tip to Radisson and Hilton — have implemented extensive cleaning protocols for ensuring Covid-safe rooms. On its escorted holidays Trafalgar and Insight Vacations now feature a dedicated wellbeing director who monitors physical distancing and overseeing hygiene protocols. And, as biometrics and technology are adopted further, wave goodbye to printed travel documents.
3. CHOPPY SEAS FOR THE CRUISE INDUSTRY
After years of double-digit growth, the cruise industry has sailed into headwinds as ships proved the perfect breeding ground for the coronavirus. Though sailings have slowly resumed in Europe, the US and parts of Asia, expect the high seas to be quiet this year. That said, cruise travellers are a loyal lot and, once a vaccine is widely available worldwide, the industry will rebound quickly.
Lockdown has certainly shown the value in looking after our physical and mental health, particularly when we’re on holiday. While we’re not advocating colonic irrigation and a diet of kale smoothies, booking a holiday that’s all about rejuvenation is no bad idea. Planet Xancara on the West Coast or an Ellerman House Sleep Room will do nicely.
5. OUT OF OFFICE — FOREVER
The global lockdowns have made workers and employers question the utility of a formal office. If we can work from our kitchen counter, why not a bar counter at the coast? Remote working will keep growing, benefitting both local and international travel as travellers take their laptops and hit the road. A handful of savvy countries have been quick to see the potential here, with the likes of Mauritius, Bermuda and Barbados offering year-long digital-nomad visas.
6. OUTDOOR APPEAL
With social distance and fresh air top of mind, expect an ongoing boom in outdoor and adventure travel. Game lodges, glamping escapes and country boltholes tick all the right boxes for travellers looking to escape in safety. City breaks will have to wait. Want to go beyond the borders? Put that Big Apple adventure on the backburner and look to the wide-open spaces of Namibia and Botswana.
7. THE END OF OVER-TOURISM?
Happily, a new appreciation for open space and heading off the well-worn tourist track may spell the end of the over-tourism that has blighted so many European cities. Could Venice once more be filled with the colour and clamour of local life, not a battalion of cruise tourists visiting for the day? Will Barcelona’s Las Ramblas return to the vibrant thoroughfare it once was? Let’s hope.
8. FLEXIBILITY IS KING
Things change and lockdowns come and go. As a result, consumers will favour companies that offer the flexibility for us to book, re-book, and cancel without fearing our hard-earned travel budget will be forfeited. High-five here to upstart low-cost airline Lift, which offers multiple changes and cancellation with no penalty.
9. BOOM TIMES AHEAD
We’ll certainly never take travel for granted again. While the heady days of pre-Covid travel may be lost, when we can dust off our passports again we’ll make full use of the opportunity. A survey by Booking.com showed more than 40% of us plan to travel more in the future to make up for a lost year.
“When borders and skies are re-opened, so will the floodgates for travel. I believe once we can go again, we will see an unprecedented surge in demand for travel,” said Gavin Tollman, CEO of Trafalgar.
“The rapid implementation of travel restrictions and border closures in response to the coronavirus pandemic has shown older generations of travellers that the world may no longer be their oyster,” adds Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, founder of tourism consultancy Destinate. “When planning our next break — whether local or abroad — it best be ‘the trip of a lifetime’… just in case.”