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A recent National Geographic article explored the future of travel, which has been deeply impacted by the pandemic. As with so many industries, what travel will look like in the future is likely to be a mix of reverting to what is known and embracing new attitudes and implementations that offer better experiences. Digital marketers in the travel and hospitality industry will need to adapt to changes as they happen, pivoting as travel guidelines and restrictions alter, and be prepared for what’s on the horizon.
Travel And Hospitality Will Be More Focused On The Environment And ‘Conscious’ Traveling
The pandemic has brought a lot of realities into sharp focus for people, one of which is making the planet a healthier place by choosing more sustainable choices. “Within a few months of the spread of COVID-19 across Asia, Europe and North America, global carbon dioxide emissions fell by an astonishing 17% compared with average daily levels in 2019,” reported Robert Muggah for Foreign Policy magazine. The evidence that altered consumption habits can help the planet is expected to propel travelers to choose more earth-friendly destinations or behaviors.
Brands like BookDifferent.com, a European online booking agent that specializes in “green” vacations, are likely to find more interest from consumers. By deploying marketing strategies, like content marketing that explains their mission and partnerships and email targeting that reaches travelers looking for deals on sustainable vacations, BookDifferent.com and similar brands can capture consumers with a growing interest in eco-friendly travel. For brands that aren’t known for focusing exclusively on sustainable travel, the move toward more “conscious” vacations and travel represents an opportunity to introduce new services and reach new consumers.
Travel Agencies Will Become More Relevant While Travel Is Evolving
Except for certain kinds of high-end or complicated travel, travel agencies had long fallen out of favor with most consumers who were able to easily book their own trips on travel aggregators like Expedia and Orbitz. However, the travel agency industry could see a revival as consumers try to figure out how, where and when to travel during and immediately after the pandemic. Travel agencies are able to offer travel packages that include insurance and cancellation policies, and travel agencies should have the most up-to-date information about ongoing changes to travel restrictions. Also relevant, when itinerary changes become important, due to reasons like new quarantine policies, travel agents have the relationships and knowhow to make vacation adjustments quickly and seamlessly for the traveler.
National Geographic predicts that many travelers may choose to travel less. But when travelers head out, it will be to more meaningful destinations, which could offer another niche for travel agencies. This search for more meaningful vacations may align with the goals of cities like Venice, which are discussing the end of mass tourism. Instead of “monotourism,” cities like Venice want to create diversified economies that aren’t so reliant on tourists who strain infrastructures and create miserable crowding for residents. Tourism boards around the world are going to be seriously reconsidering how they can market their cities, regions and countries in ways that best serve the travelers and the communities.
Road Trips Will Become Increasingly Popular For Travelers
For waylaid travelers who still wanted somewhere to catch their breath and enjoy a change of scenery, road trips were the answer this summer. AAA reported that 97% of all travel July through September was by car. The result was big business for many stateside travel destinations. According to Sarah Firshein, reporting for The New York Times, “In the Hudson Valley, Mohonk Mountain House had one of its most successful sales weeks in its 151-year history in August; 87 percent of the resort’s guests this summer arrived from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut,” and bookings for Finger Lakes Premier Properties were up 40% in August. In response to increased road trip vacations, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection launched road-trip travel insurance for the first time.
Several luxury travel groups, looking to leverage America’s renewed interest in the open road, put together glamorous packages that would appeal to the road tripper who still wants to take a unique vacation. Black Tomato, a luxury travel company, and Auberge Resorts Collection teamed up to create four driving itineraries across New England, Napa, Utah and Colorado. And iconic brand Abercrombie & Kent “added six new adventures across the American West and Alaska, as well as two new iconic American road trips, each with private guides and carefully-vetted accommodations that offer added space and privacy.”
Even when travel abroad is possible again, many travelers, either for financial or safety reasons, are going to prefer road trips and car travel. Brands that are able to reach these road warriors with curated travel options and services, may find it easier to begin rebuilding consumer awareness, increasing engagement and scaling revenues, gathering brand loyalty along the way.
There’s a lot of world to see and a lot of people who want to see it. That will never change. However, how people travel may change. Many travelers who have new expectations, concerns and priorities will be looking for travel brands and businesses that can meet their evolving needs, while still offering memorable experiences.
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