Travel Reopening

The Future of Travel: Emerging Travel Trends in the Post-COVID Era

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought travel to an absolute standstill. But at some point, we will leave the comforts of our homes and start venturing out again. Here's our global travel reopening tracker which will bring you live status updates of 800+ tourist attractions. What will the post-COVID-era look like? Will the way we take vacations change? Some of these changes have already begun taking shape, reflecting in surveys and trends around the world. But when can we expect to travel again? Let’s find out.

A. Localisation of travel


What are people saying?

A survey conducted by Zapwater Communications - a leading communications agency specializing in travel - and lifestyle - revealed that 83% of Americans preferred to travel within the U.S. for their first trip post-COVID-19.

Emerging travel trends- Localization of travel

Image Courtesy: Zapwater Communications. About the survey: 1,280 participants across the United States were surveyed by Zapwater Communications from 26 April to 6 May, 2020.

Similarly, The Vacationer revealed that while only 12.52% felt comfortable with immediate international travel, more than 56% of Americans planned on waiting at least one year before stepping out of the country.

Vacay 1

Image Courtesy: The Vacationer. About the survey: 583 U.S. citizens were surveyed by The Vacationer on 17 May, 2020 using SurveyMoney's interface.

Emerging travel trends

As more and more travelers refrain from visiting international destinations in view of the recent coronavirus crisis and the subsequent uncertainty regarding the safety of air travel, domestic tourism will gain popularity. A lot of it has already started, as can be seen in the Google Trends charts below. In the short-term, travelers will turn their focus to local destinations and will plan more trips within the border of their own countries.

Roadtrips near me- emerging travel trends

Image courtesy: Google Trends. About the chart: The chart shows the increasing interest of the general public regarding 'roadtrips near me' over a period of 11 months - from 30 June, 2019 to 31 May, 2020.

Weekend trips- emerging travel trends

Image courtesy: Google Trends. About the chart: The chart shows the increasing interest of the general public regarding 'weekend trips' over a period of 11 months - from 30 June, 2019 to 31 May, 2020.

What does this mean for the future?

With the localization of travel, travelers who would have earlier chosen to visit an international destination will now choose to stay within the country. As a result, countries with a large international travel base will see a huge rise in their domestic tourism, as compared to the previous years.

Countries- emerging travel trends

Image Courtesy: Skift. About the image:This chart depicts the total $ gain/loss from all travel going domestic post COVID-19 as per the Bernstein analysis.

As depicted above, countries like Germany, U.K and China will benefit the most from this trend. These countries are currently the biggest net exporters of tourism and boast the largest international travel base. However, with domestic tourism on the rise, travelers who earlier opted for international travel will now choose to travel within the borders of their own country, adding to the country's tourism revenue. On the other hand, countries like the U.S., Spain and Turkey which do not have a strong international travel base will see a decline in tourism spend within their borders.

However, it is to be noted that as the world slowly recovers from the pandemic, this sudden influx of domestic travelers will eventually even out. More and more people will start venturing out of the country once again, somewhat restoring the balance. By then, however, they would have become more aware of the wonders that lie within the borders of their own country and will continue to make more domestic trips as compared to the pre-pandemic era. This will lead to the development of existing domestic destinations. Similarly, destinations that were previously unknown will now be discovered with more and more travelers searching for local experiences.

B. Outdoors will be the new battleground


What are people saying?

Outdoor activities like hiking, camping, biking and trekking have become increasingly popular in the post-COVID era, as can be seen in the Google Trends charts below. Fishing, cycling and sailing are some other favorites.

Biking - emerging travel trends

Image courtesy: Google Trends. About the chart: The chart shows the increasing interest of the general public regarding 'biking' over a period of 11 months - from 30 June, 2019 to 31 May, 2020.

Hiking- emerging travel trends

Image courtesy: Google Trends. About the chart: The chart shows the increasing interest of the general public regarding 'hiking' over a period of 11 months - from 30 June, 2019 to 31 May, 2020.

Similarly, there has been increasing interest in alternate travel ideas such as RVs and road trips. A survey conducted by GasBuddy found that a number of people identified road trips and RVs as more preferable to flights. This increasing interest in alternate travel ideas can be observed below as well.

Roadtrips- travel trenda

Image courtesy: Google Trends. About the chart: The chart shows the increasing interest of the general public regarding 'roadtrips' over a period of 11 months - from 30 June, 2019 to 31 May, 2020.

Emerging travel trends

Planning a vacation in the post-COVID-era is definitely not easy. Whether it is choosing where to travel to or the type of experience you wish to have, there are a hundred factors you need to consider before making a decision. Of all these factors, safety concerns are the most important ones. Therefore, it is no surprise that travelers are increasingly opting for private, offbeat activities in low-density locations for their next vacation.

As more and more people opt for road trips and staycations closer to home, the demand for car and RV rentals will rise significantly. These alternate experiences allow travelers to stay isolated and minimizes the risk of exposure.

Thus, RV rentals, car rentals, adventure travel companies, campgrounds, etc will be most benefited by this sudden interest in outdoor experiences. For example, we can see that despite travel being hit the hardest, companies like Outdoorsy (RV rental) and Hipcamp (Camping experiences) have been seeing a surge in the number of people visiting their websites, as depicted below.

Outdoorsy- emerging travel trends

Image Courtesy: SimilarWeb. About the image: This image depicts the increase in the number of visits to outdoorsy.com via phone and desktop from December 2019 to May 2020.

hipcamp- travel trends

Image Courtesy: SimilarWeb. About the image: This image depicts the increase in the number of visits to hipcamp.com via phone and desktop from December 2019 to May 2020.

What does this mean for the future?

Before the coronavirus crisis, traditional attractions like museums, monuments and galleries lured in the majority of tourists. For example, the Colosseum sees an average of 6 million visitors per year while the Eiffel Tower welcomes almost 7 million tourists annually. The Great Wall of China, on the other hand, sees almost 10 million tourists every year and was forced to put a visitor cap in place even before the pandemic.

While these attractions will most likely see the same number of visitors in a few years, more and more people will be aware of alternate options as well. While they will continue to visit these iconic attractions, they will also make time to indulge in less popular but equally exciting and immersive experiences like visiting a national park, going on a trek, camping overnight or touring a local market.

C. Longer no-contact check-ins, health screenings and costlier air travel


What are people saying?

As revealed below, this survey conducted by The Vacationer found that while 13.72% of Americans were willing to fly immediately without any special conditions, 51.29% felt comfortable traveling only if there was proper implementation of safety gear.

The Vacationer - emerging travel trends

Image Courtesy: The Vacationer. About the survey: 583 U.S. citizens were surveyed by The Vacationer on 17 May, 2020 using SurveyMoney's interface.

The survey also revealed that almost 50% of the respondents were willing to pay extra for an empty middle seat.

The vacationer travel trends

Image Courtesy: The Vacationer. About the survey: 583 U.S. citizens were surveyed by The Vacationer on 17 May, 2020 using SurveyMoney's interface.

Thus, it is safe to assume that safety is the major concern among flyers. With this in mind, airports will need to implement safety-measures and minimum-contact check-in procedures in the post-coronavirus era.

Emerging travel trends

Passengers may be required to produce negative Coronavirus test results to ensure that they are fit to travel. Alternatively, blood tests or nasal swabs may be collected on a random basis. The use of Masks, PPE suits, gloves and easy availability of sanitizers will become the norm. Several airlines in Asia and Europe have already made masks compulsory for both passengers and crew.

Passengers will be greeted with temperature checks at different sections of the airport. Soon, it will become a part of the boarding process. Similarly, from security checks to check-in procedures, everything will be made contactless.

What does this mean for the future?

In the short term, airlines will price their tickets at a cheaper rate. This is to lure passengers to travel amid the uncertainty brought about by the global crisis. According to experts, passengers can expect a discount of up to 35%.

However, this is only a short-term strategy. The ‘era of affordable travel will come to an end’ warned International Air Transport Association (IATA) director-general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac. If air crafts are forced to eliminate the middle seat as part of social distancing measures, they will be forced to up the price of their tickets by a considerable amount.

Flights - emerging travel trends

Image Courtesy: IATA. About the image: The image depicts country-wise increase in airfare post social distancing.

As shown above, countries falling under the Asia-Pacific region are expected to see the highest surge in ticket prices at 54%, closely followed by Latin America at 50%.


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D. Long term travel - an immersive experience


What are people saying?

According to a report by the Pew Research Center, only 7% of Americans worked from home before the COVID-19. However, since the onset of the pandemic, the number of employees working from home in the U.S. has increased to 62%.

WFH - emerging travel trends

Image Courtesy: Talentlyft. About the survey: This statistic was derived according to a report by the Pew Research Center based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent National Compensation survey.

And it looks like the trend is here to stay, with the majority of employees opting for remote work even after the pandemic.

WFH trends

Image Courtesy: Talentlyft. About the survey: This statistic was derived according to a report by the Pew Research Center based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent National Compensation survey.

Emerging travel trends

With the concept of remote work gaining momentum in recent months, workations are becoming increasingly popular. Some are looking for long-term getaways where they can spend quality time while working from home simultaneously while others are simply looking for a change after being forced to spend so much time at home. Staycations have also increased in popularity, as we can see from the Google Trends chart below.

Staycations - travel trend

Image courtesy: Google Trends. About the chart: The chart shows the increasing interest of the general public regarding 'staycations' over a period of 11 months - from 30 June, 2019 to 31 May, 2020.

In response to this pressing need, various holiday home chains and rentals have come up with long-term properties for those looking for a safe and convenient place to work from. These properties are usually just a drive away from major cities and offer all-inclusive stays for a duration of one to two months. They are equipped with good connectivity and high-speed internet for uninterrupted work. Soon, workations extending over a month or two will become the norm.

What does this mean for the future?

The way the world moved and worked has been reset. With social distancing becoming the norm, remote work and work from home have widely become the way we work, at least for many of us. Companies have been forced to reset and make remote work productive. Several trends suggest that productivity hasn't dropped since people started working remotely. So while staying in Bali for months and working from the beach was a pipe-dream for me, the thought of it isn't so crazy anymore.

Productivity - travel trends

Image courtesy: Headout. About the survey: This statistic was derived from a survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Citrix Systems, Inc which polled more than 10,000 employees from six countries.

The winners here? Stays that seamlessly combine a comforting getaway with everything you need to work remotely, along with lucrative long term pricing. The speed at which remote working has been accepted will force hotel chains and travel rental properties to innovate. As more and more people begin planning longer holidays, hotels and properties that offer better pricing for long term stays and amenities like super-fast WiFi can look to attract customers and travelers in the short term.

Needless to say, many hotel chains and property rentals have been coming up with exclusive workation offers. For example, Thomas Cook, one of India's leading companies in the travel space has introduced a range of near-city stays that includes pre-designed workstations and strong WiFi connectivity - everything you need for a perfect workation.

However, it is not only large corporates that are at play here. Many others like SaffronStays and Linger Leisure have also introduced carefully designed 'work-from-a-retreat' packages that aim to combine ease with productivity. And the response has been overwhelming. So much so that SaffronStays expects to grow its supply by 20% by the end of this year.

E. Consumer behavior will gravitate towards online booking of experiences


What are the people saying?

As shown below, 45% of tourist attractions that have already reopened are only allowing the online purchase of tickets. To maintain the highest health and no-contact standards, these attractions can only be visited if tickets have been booked online in advance. Paper tickets that could be bought at the ticket counters have been closed and the pandemic may push for an earlier adoption of 100% digital ticket access.

Emerging travel trends

Image courtesy: Headout. About the report: This statistic has been derived from an analysis conducted by Headout on all the attractions that have reopened post lockdown.

Emerging travel trends

COVID-19 has accelerated the shift of consumer behavior from offline to online by at least a decade. Pre-pandemic, more than 85% of all experiences were sold offline at the counter or via a concierge/travel agency.

Emerging travel trends

Image courtesy: Headout. About the graph: This graph has been derived from an analysis conducted by Headout on consumer behaviour in the travel space.

However, with the pressing need for safety measures like social distancing, this is no longer a feasible option. In order to keep up with the changing times, attractions will completely shift their booking procedures from offline to online.

The offline travel industry has now been forced to innovate due to the pandemic. Attractions such as the Vatican Museums and Colosseum have opened with only online tickets while earlier, the lion's share of tickets sold for these attractions was offline. If we look at all the attractions that have reopened, we see that the majority of them are only selling digital tickets - signaling a mass adoption of online ticket sales, both in the short and long term.

What does this mean for the future?

Before COVID-19, buying tickets online constituted only 15% of all ticket sales. In a post-pandemic world however, this will shift from the physical to the digital realm. Abandoning paper tickets, along with limited entry, is one of the easiest ways to maintain social distancing. So who are the obvious winners here? Online marketplaces in the tours and experiences space.

As the world begins to recover and people start traveling again, online travel agencies and startups in the sector will see a surge in their share of the ticketing market. By the end of 2020, it is estimated that online reservations will account for most, if not all of the total market.

In the long term, even after the world has recovered from the pandemic, this trend is expected to continue. As the entire ecosystem makes a paradigm shift, the online travel industry will continue to witness and maintain significant growth. While the offline travel industry will gain back some of its lost momentum, it will not return to pre-COVID levels where 85% of all tickets getting sold were offline. In fact, 3-5 years down the line, it should not be surprising if offline paper tickets become entirely a thing of the past across major tourist attractions.

Future of travel

Image Courtesy: Arrival Online. About the survey: This statistic was derived based upon research conducted by Arrival Online regarding the future of the travel industry.

As depicted above, the tourism industry is expected to recover by the year 2022. When it does, this shift will mean that online marketplaces in the tours and experiences space will be at an advantage and will gain more and more traction in the future as travel picks up once again.

F. Early footprints of digital/virtual experiences


What are people saying?

The recent worldwide travel ban has inspired a surge in the popularity of new virtual travel experiences all over the world. The Globetrender recently reported that the 'Remote Tourism' initiative by the Faroe Islands saw more than 7,000 tourists taking part in their virtual experience.

Faroe Island's 'Remote Tourism' initiative.

Like all the other countries in the world, the Faroe Islands were also affected by the pandemic and had to close its borders to all international tourists. For all those who had to cancel or postpone their trip, they decided to create a virtual tour of sorts.

Sitting in different parts of the world, you can now explore the Faroe islands through the eyes of a local. What's more, you can even control their movements. The local is equipped with a live video camera for you to take in all the views. You can control where they are going and how they explore using a joypad.

Similarly, Airbnb's new platform - Online Experiences - where users can choose from a number of virtual experiences like travel tours, cooking experiences and musicals have been met with great enthusiasm and has reportedly become the fastest-growing product of the company.

Emerging travel trends

From visiting the world’s largest art museum to witnessing the world's biggest coral reef system, traditional travel has made way for a host of digital experiences, virtual tours and AR experiences. They are immersive experiences that come with many advantages like attractive prices and immediate consumption.

These digital experiences are available at a fraction of the price of an equivalent traditional tour, enabling users to enjoy the benefits of a guided experience without having to pay much. Similarly, there is no need to make advanced bookings or schedule a tour with these digital experiences. They are ready-to-consume experiences that can be enjoyed with just a few clicks. No schedule, no planning. And they can be accessed from anywhere in the world.

Another advantage of these digital tours is that they can act as a tool for sustainable travel. As many famous tourist destinations are struggling to cope with the large number of visitors they see annually, digital and virtual tours may be the alternative we are searching for.

It is no surprise that these digital experiences have gained popularity during the COVID era. With everyone forced to stay indoors under a strict lockdown, the only way we could travel was through the screens of our mobile phones and laptops. From the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China to the Louvre and the Sistine Chapel, we can now easily visit these attractions and many more from the comforts of our home.

What does this mean for the future?

As shown below, in a survey conducted by GlobalWebIndex, it was found that 51% of Gen Xers and 45% of VR-aware Baby Boomers want to see more travel applications in VR technology.

Virtual reality - travel trends

Image Courtesy: GlobalWebIndex. About the survey: This statistic was derived based upon a survey conducted by GlobalWebIndex on 2,574 VR-aware internet users.

These virtual experiences become especially relevant in the post-COVID era where traveling comes with many precautions and restrictions. Since the virtual market has been steadily gaining popularity as shown in the graph below, it will soon give birth to a new marketplace with new companies cropping up and old ones offering new virtual travel experiences.

Future of travel - travel trends

While it is unlikely that virtual tourism will ever displace traditional tourism, the pandemic has definitely acted as a stepping stone for these virtual experiences and have accelerated their growth, allowing them to make a mark in the travel industry. It is safe to say that while we slowly recover from the coronavirus crisis and start traveling again, these virtual and digital experiences will not be forgotten.


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G. Exceptional, affordable and safe experiences


What are people saying?

Of all the countries in the world, half of them have opened tourism activities for domestic travelers. 31% are already allowing international travelers from select countries.

reopening_stats

Image courtesy: Headout. About the graph: This graph has been derived from an analysis conducted by Headout on countries reopening to tourism post COVID-19.

As shown in the below graph, attractions around the world are reopening at an accelerated rate. Many more are working towards opening in the coming months.

reopen stats

Image courtesy: Headout. About the graph: This graph has been derived from an analysis conducted by Headout on attractions reopening to tourism post COVID-19.

Emerging travel trends


With more and more attractions set to open in the coming months, the need of the hour is to find ways in which safety measures like social distancing can be implemented with the utmost efficiency. While limiting the number of visitors and introducing timed entry is indeed effective, popular attractions will have to find more innovative ways to ensure that all safety measures are being followed

For example, museums and other attractions may consider implementing a 'special hour' system for people belonging to the high-risk categories like children and senior citizens. They may further reduce the number of visitors during these times to protect those who are most vulnerable.

Queues will be discouraged wherever possible. In cases where it can not be avoided, large markers will direct visitors on where to stand, making sure that they maintain adequate distance. The same procedure will be practiced inside the attraction as well.

The focus will shift to small-group tours and self-guided tours. With small-group tours, it is easy to practice social distancing. The risk of exposure is also less when compared to a standard group tour which will easily include 20 to 30 people.

What does this mean for the future?

In the post-pandemic era, travelers will have many concerns. The first and the most obvious one is, of course, safety. However, other concerns like affordability will become more persistent after the coronavirus crisis. In a recessionary environment, travelers will think twice before booking a flight or purchasing an entry ticket to an attraction. As a result, travel platforms will have to come up with innovative ways to make experiences more affordable to the general public.

Similarly, the quality of the experience being delivered will be under greater scrutiny post-COVID-19. To make a purchase, travel platforms will have to convince the consumer that the experience will be worth the money he is shelling out. Individual attractions and travel platforms will have to engineer their efforts towards delivering excellent experiences at attractive prices.

Thus, exceptional, affordable and safe experiences will become the norm. Be it historical monuments, museums, aquariums, heritage centers or individual travel platforms, they will all be forced to come up with relevant systems, practices and methods to adapt to the changing times.

H. Lesser crowds and no waiting times

What are people saying?

One of the most popular museums of Spain, Museo Nacional del Prado used to see around 7000 to 8000 visitors annually. After remaining shut for nearly 3 months during the COVID-19 epidemic, they recently reopened their doors to the public with only 1,800 people allowed to visit the museum per day. This is in addition to a number of other safety procedures like timed entry, social distancing and constant sanitization.

The Colosseum, Van Gogh Museum, Burj Khalifa and Park Guell have all reopened their doors to the public. However, they have done so after implementing the necessary safety measures like social distancing, restricting the number of visitors and timed entry to ensure the safety of their visitors.

Emerging travel trends

Most of the iconic attractions around the world are infamous for their notoriously long queues. Whether you are visiting the Eiffel Tower, Orsay Museum or the Palace of Versailles, you can expect to stand in line for at least two to three hours. The average waiting time for the Louvre Museum on a relatively less busy day is one hour. One can only imagine how long it will take to visit the Louvre during the peak season.

Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles, Louvre Museum and Orsay Museum pre-pandemic.

These are photos of the attractions before the onset of coronavirus. In the post-pandemic era, however, waiting in hour-long queues is simply not a feasible option. Which is why world-famous monuments and attractions that lured in thousands of tourists every day are now implementing crowd-management strategies.

These are photos of the attractions before the onset of coronavirus. In the post-pandemic era, however, waiting in hour-long queues is simply not a feasible option. Which is why world-famous monuments and attractions that lured in thousands of tourists every day are now implementing crowd-management strategies.

53% of all the attractions that have opened allow only a limited number of visitors every day, which will help prevent overcrowding at popular tourist spots. Similarly, many attractions have also implemented a timed entry system wherein each visitor will be allotted a time-slot within which they can visit the attraction. They can simply arrive at the allotted time-period and gain entry into the attraction, without wasting their time in long queues.

What does this mean for the future?

Limiting the number of visitors and introducing timed entry are the two main steps taken by most attractions to fight the novel coronavirus. As a result of these crowd management techniques, the overall travel experience has become more efficient and convenient for visitors. In the pre-COVID era, tourists had to spend a considerable part of their visit waiting in queues. However, with the implementation of timed entry, this is no longer necessary.

While attractions will eventually go back to allowing more and more tourists, they will also manage the crowd in a more efficient way. Since almost 50% of the reservations will be made online in the coming years, the long queues at the ticket counters will reduce significantly, making the whole experience relatively seamless.

I. New Packing essentials - PPE gear becomes the traveler's best friend


What are people saying?

According to the All Food and Drug License Holders Foundation (AFDLHF) that represents around 7,000 pharmaceutical suppliers in India, the market for masks has risen to Rs 450 crore from around Rs 200 crore annually in just two months.

As of February 2020, the dollar sales of hand sanitizers in both drug stores and convenience stores across America rose drastically, as can be seen from the graph below.

Emerging trends

Image Courtesy: Statista. About the survey: This statistic was derived based upon an analysis conducted by Statista in the U.S.

Just like choosing where to travel to and where to stay, the question of what to pack will gain momentum in the coming months. Travelers will prefer to carry items like water bottles, hand towels and shower caps instead of using the ones provided by hotels. Clothes that offer maximum coverage will be preferred to minimize exposure. Usage of disinfectant wipes and sanitizers at regular intervals will become the norm while face masks and gloves will become packing essentials.

What does this mean for the future?

With the pandemic looming over our heads, travelers will become extremely cautious. N95 masks and disposable gloves will become as essential as a power bank. Disinfectant wipes, disinfectant sprays, hand soaps and sanitizers will inevitably find their way into your backpack.

J. Travel insurance with pandemic coverage


What are people saying?

A survey conducted by NerdWallet showed that 45% of U.S. travelers are now likely to purchase travel insurance as compared to the 20% who had insured their last trip before the onset of COVID-19.

Emerging travel trends

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront the importance of travel insurance. Along with it, it has also increased awareness among the public regarding the importance of choosing the right insurance policy. Since people are becoming increasingly concerned about falling victim to the virus, they will want to know the exact ways in which the policy will benefit them. This will mean that more and more people will read the fine print as opposed to blindly following their agents.

What does this mean for the future?

In the post-COVID era, there will be more emphasis placed on choosing the right kind of insurance. For example, insurance policies may evolve to become customizable as opposed to the current one-size-fits-all format. Potential policy-holders will have the option to pick and choose from a list of various options.

Similarly, just like 9/11 led to the inclusion of terrorism coverage in insurance policies, the Coronavirus crisis will most likely result in the inclusion of a pandemic coverage clause in policies. This new clause would cover things like lockdown declarations and travel restrictions.

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