Spring is in the air…and so is the travel bug!

More and more, Americans are feeling it’s safe to start planning, booking, and traveling again.  As a travel expert, the news of the rebound makes me very, very happy! Various travel and consumer reports and surveys confirm that Americans’ pandemic anxiety is the lowest it’s ever been and the perception that traveling is unsafe continues to drop as more people get vaccinated and fewer people feel guilty about traveling. While the last year, without question, has been the most challenging the travel industry has ever faced, it is once again, proving its resilience, adapting fairly quickly after the initial shock at the onset of the pandemic and travel’s screeching halt. Collectively, governments, tourism boards, and health officials have, a year later, established protocols and guidance for safe travel. Many countries are beginning to reopen their borders after months of lockdown as the widespread rollout of and global accessibility globally of the vaccine has boosted traveler confidence.

The Impact on the Industry; By the Numbers

As a marketing analyst, I am always fascinated by “the numbers.” Having monitored the pandemic from the outset, I’ve seen and analyzed the data on the impact on consumers and market conditions, and how those data points change the tourism story that is unfolding. This is the type of information, and level of detail, tourism services need to harness in order to understand the consumer mindset in this new travel environment. Tracking these trends is key to identifying the new opportunities and determining what consumers want and what they’re willing to pay for it.  Recently, the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Economic Impact Report revealed just how devastating the impact on the global travel economy has been, reporting a loss of almost $4.5 trillion. It also reported that international spending plummeted by 69%, because of disproportionate loss in the travel industry compared to the overall global economy; the tourism sector’s contribution to the global GDP was just 5.5%. As a tourism marketing expert, these numbers indicate to me that, while we are starting to feel the return of travel, the industry really will not get back on solid ground until 2025, or beyond. With optimism and hopefulness, and no more major disruptions, we can continue forward with a positive rebound trajectory.

Global Travel Protocols: Falling on Deaf Ears?

Earlier this month, the CDC took a positive step in announcing that travel is safe for those that are fully vaccinated and issuing guidance on those situations when it’s best to postpone travel. These latest CDC recommendations were in closer alignment with those issued by the U.S State Department. However, shortly thereafter and jointly, both organizations updated their travel advisory lists and indicated that for the majority of tourism destinations they still do not recommend travel. This coming in at the same week global travel suppliers reported an increase in travel demand. This led some experts to believe that the latest warnings for Americans to not travel (to about 80% of the world) may be falling on deaf ears. Delegates from the first major in-person gathering for the World Travel and Tourism Global Summit are confident that travel is on the verge of a rebound but call on the World Health Organization to issue a statement indicating that traveling is not a major risk if you follow the rules. Tourism experts and advocates around the world agree that to restart tourism effectively, there needs a clear, consistent message communicated that traveling is safe again.

Taking a Look at U.S Travel Outlook

If you’re a tourism or hospitality service provider, by now you know quite well that American travel is on the rise.  Seven in ten Americans report a “ready to travel” state of mind and about two-thirds say they are currently in the inspiration or planning process. Over 70% are getting ready to head out of state, and one in ten will travel abroad for a summer vacation. While states are in various stages of re-opening, the U.S./Canadian border will remain closed through May 21, 2021, at the least. July, August, and September will be key months as travelers planning to get away this summer have indicated planning and booking a trip between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Where will they go? American travelers are more likely to head to a beach destination, a small town, or visit a National park. Discounts and deals continue to be an enticing factor in travelers choosing one destination over another. Many are opting to travel out of state, with only 45% choosing to stay within their home state, using their car as the main mode of transportation. As for summer activities being planned, dining in restaurants is at the top of the list of things to do, followed by shopping in stores, visiting theme parks, museums, historical sites, and attractions.

 Europe & The Caribbean: Traveling Opening Status

With only a few European countries recently announcing re-opening dates, the region is slower to experience the travel rebound, which, overall, is in line with the progress of their vaccine rollout. The Caribbean region reopened to select markets starting as early as the fall of 2020. Across the Caribbean, the impact of the lockdown literally meant no activity for some destinations, as the Caribbean overall reported a 65.5% drop in visitation. With many island destinations having limited airlift, to begin with, recovery for the region will be a long-haul and will certainly not reach its record-setting 2019 numbers for years to come. The Caribbean region has had considerable experience in managing disruptions, especially with extreme weather, however, none compares to what they are trying to overcome today. Even as countries open up and visitors arrive, the volume may not be enough to sustainably reopen all hotels, attractions, and the like. A full recovery is years away.

Cruise Tourism: Stuck in port, but ready to set sail.

Many major cruise lines still have suspended operations due to the pandemic, but that certainly hasn’t dampened the spirits of cruisers, as 74% say they are likely to cruise again within the next year. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is the leading voice in the cruise industry and has embarked on a plan with science-backed measures to protect passengers, crew, and destinations with a phased approach to resuming cruise travel, once allowed. When cruising does come sailing back, the Caribbean will be the most sought-after experience.

To Recuperate, we must Collaborate

Despite the major challenges, the travel industry proves itself to be resilient and there’s hope now that the desire for travel is constantly climbing. The feeling of wanderlust is one that we all crave as we look forward to disconnecting from what we’ve all had to endure. I, for one, am eager to travel and get back to a “new” normal. All countries have protocols in place to protect the health of visitors and residents, and travelers now need to pay close attention to any new adjustments to entry requirements as a result of vaccination, etc. Hey, after all, we’re all in this together.

Attention passengers…..have you booked your Summer Travel?

I have….so excited! More on those plans soon!

Until next Time ~ Ayri

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