By Todd Bolin  /  Chief Executive Officer

Seven Ways to Get Ready for a Post-COVID Travel World.

 

As vaccines start making their way into the world, we’re all hoping and praying for their collective effectiveness. And while the first doses are arriving this month, it will be late spring before most people get access and herd immunity starts taking hold. For those tethered to the travel industry, summer/fall looks to be the earliest we can expect the gates to open more fully with the winter 2021-2 season hopefully back to some type of normal. But what is normal and what might actually change in how people look at getting back into travel. We all strongly suspect that business travel will likely lag for years but leisure travel is poised to return and likely return with a passion! Here’s seven thoughts about what we might expect and how destinations should get ready.

1. There will be ‘pent up’ demand from being pent up.

Everyone’s wondering if there’ll be a surge back to travel when it’s safe. That will undoubtedly happen, it’s just a question of when, and for those destinations not prepared or understaffed, it may be chaotic for a while. Now is certainly the time to be ready with digital platforms, freshened content, and digital tools to help travelers make the most of their time on vacation.

2. Life is short and I need a bucket list.

Serious travelers have always had bucket lists. However, as we start dreaming and planning for how we again take to the skies, the takeaway from this past year is that there’s no time like the present and many of those ultimate ‘must dos’ just moved up a notch or two on the list. Destinations will do well to emphasize their uniqueness and to some extent their ‘exotic’ appeal. Real experiences have been in short supply this past year, so travelers will be looking to get out there and share them with those they care about.

3. Same ol’, same ol’ is so 2019. 

It’s time to try somewhere new! While many may head for their favorite, familiar places that they know, love and are loyal to, trying somewhere new will be equally important for the adventure seeker. This creates more opportunity for destinations to cast a wider, digital net as people start searching and dreaming about new experiences they crave.

4. Let the inspiration begin!

The traveler’s path to purchase starts with inspiration and now that a vaccine is starting to deliver, the search (online) for inspiration will head into overdrive. Destinations need to have their digital strategies in place to address searchers’ thirst for information and inspiration.

5. Traditional source markets disrupted until airline schedules stabilize.

Airlines will start with the basics, waiting to add back incremental routes until they see demand return. Early travelers may opt for the easy connections which may limit markets to primary feeders with solid, stable routes. Evolving flight schedules, times and routes will make it difficult initially for travel planners/agents to venture beyond those primary source markets.

6. We’re all in the same place.

For the first time likely ever, the entire travel industry is in the exact same place — the starting line to re-open. Travel partners will likely be more open to collaborative ventures and receptive to ideas that will jumpstart their business. Now is the time to get creative and put forth innovative partnerships and collaborations with any and all travel partners. It’s also the time to make sure brand messaging is crisp and clear. With all the noise and clutter you can expect next year, there’s no room for ambiguity or confusion in who you are and what you stand for.

7. Ensure it’s easy to buy what you’re selling

Make sure your digital footprint (social and web content) is easy to navigate (UX) and easy to find (search). Create itineraries and packages that make it easy to say yes and buy online. Connect your content to ecommerce functionality whether that’s stakeholders, OTAs, packagers, etc.

One thing is for sure: there’ll be a resurgence and passion for travel experiences that reignites sometime next year like never before. Now is the time to make sure you’re prepared for the year ahead. Let the great travel restart begin!