What Will US Travel Will Look Like After COVID-19?

Industry leaders are presaging that the face of the travel industry, as well as the ways in which people choose to travel, will be forever changed once we’ve reached the other side of the COVID-19 health crisis.

Opinions and forecasts cite several, sometimes disparate, sentiments believed to be brewing among the public while people remain confined to their homes under self-isolation orders.

Unsurprisingly, safety and a solid sense of security are assumed to be top-of-mind as travelers begin to venture out into the world again, post-coronavirus.

Some suppose that travelers may “test the water” cautiously, while others predict that, coming out of this lengthy isolation, people’s desire to shake off cabin fever will spur them to spring for more adventurous bucket-list-type getaways.

The prevailing opinion among the travel industry leaders we surveyed is that, initially, Americans will opt for experiences closer-to-home, concentrating on getting out-of-doors, seeking off-the-beaten-path locations, avoiding modes of mass transportation and traveling with small groups of trusted companions.

“We’re already beginning to see new trends take shape. For example, travelers will be wary of public transportation and plane travel, choosing to drive via their own cars to explore nearby destinations,” said Lisa Burns, Executive Director of the Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council. “We also predict there will be a larger emphasis on outdoor, open-air attractions and destinations as social distancing phases out slowly.”

Dan Yates, Managing Director of Pitchup.com agreed, “Even if the government gives the green light before summer, many will be reticent to travel and will choose remote, domestic locations like campgrounds over densely populated areas, certainly avoiding transport hubs like international airports.” Yates pointed out, “We also anticipate an increased interest in low-cost travel given the economic impact Coronavirus has inflicted on so many.”

Mary Quinn Ramer, President of VisitLEX, echoed the expectation, “We anticipate many travelers will still play it relatively safe by traveling in smaller groups and choosing closer-to-home, more familiar domestic travel after restrictions are lifted.” She said, “Following this long period of social distancing, we’ll find many people revisiting the places and experiences that fill them with joy.”

Phil Hospod, owner of Rhode Island’s The Wayfinder Hotel, also believes people will largely stick to traveling via private automobile, saying, “We expect to see families, friends, and couples jumping into their cars and hitting the open road. We also predict we’ll see more travelers choosing convenient, nostalgic vacation destinations.”

Despite these near-term trend forecasts, Ramer also predicts that people will be also eager to set things in motion for trips in the farther-off future.

“After being cooped up, people will start to put plans in place for destinations that have always been on their bucket list,” she said, “and they may even be more apt to try adventure-filled experiences with their renewed sense of freedom.”

Those who do travel internationally are expected to take steps to avoid crowds, opting for off-the-beaten-path locales and also booking during shoulder season.

Tomohiro Murakami and Mika White, Founders of Tourism Exchange Japan, said that they expect Japan-bound travelers to seek out smaller, lesser-known prefectures, rather than spending the majority of their stays in over-populated cities like Tokyo and Osaka.

Reflecting upon the effects that our collective, pent-up wanderlust is having on society in lockdown, Paul McGowan, Founder of Study Hotels, said, “Above all, we must remember that travel is an antidote to all this: providing positive, aspirational feelings in the wake of our current confinement.”

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