10 Post-Virus Trends Tourism Boards Need To Know Heading Into 2021

Travel might still be a long way off, but it’s essential to start that medium-long term planning now, and the post-virus trends that tourism boards need to know are quickly evolving. While there is a huge amount of uncertainty around, one thing that every expert in the industry agrees on is that travel will look very different in the future.

We wanted to look at the situation from the eyes of tourism boards around the world. They all do a great job of promoting their own countries to international and domestic travellers. Many might be scratching their heads right now. So here is the good, bad and the ugly of what lays ahead for tourism for the rest of 2020 and into 2021…

Post-Coronavirus Travel & Tourism Trends

1. Forget International Travel For Most Of 2020

From research with our audience as well as listening to an array of experts, it is clear that travel will be curtailed for the majority of 2020. If people do travel, it will be essential travel and local based. The key trends will be:

  • Small staycations
  • Shorter travel to see friends and family
  • Longer trips at end of year to see family
  • A focus on budget and package deals, with reduced consumer spending
  • Fear of getting “stuck” somewhere because of a virus flare up

The simple fact is that with travel bans in place and quarantine zones, people will not be willing to travel too far in 2020.

Virus Trends Tourism Boards

2. Travel Bubbles

Australia and New Zealand were the first to propose this unique idea in order to help kick start international tourism on a smaller level. We’ve written about it here, as other countries also start to look at clusters of safe travel bubbles.

People might not get on a flight across the world, but they might be willing to drive to neighbouring countries for a unique travel experience.

3. Food Tourism Decline

Restaurants are having a seriously hard time right now and reopening is proving to be a serious challenge. Our writers tested out a meal with social distancing, and to say it wasn’t much fun would be an understatement.

A large part of the traditional weekend “city break” revolves around new foodie experiences. With social distancing in place, the fun is gone. The smarter cities will pivot to outdoor dining, food markets and food offerings that offer consumers options for open space.

Some cities are well set up for this, but others will have to quickly evolve and build new spaces. One solution we propose is that every city should be pedestrianised for 6 months. Finding outdoor heated areas in colder months will also be a big challenge.

Virus Trends Tourism Boards

4. Fear Of Flying

Most airlines are still grounded. Although they are starting their operations again over the coming months, the big questions is will passengers return?

Early efforts at social distancing on airlines have not gone down well. Some will start to take short distance flights in the second half of 2020, but long distance will be a step too far for many.

Tourism boards should place a firm focus on attracting visitors via other transport options. The perceived safety of a car journey with family and friends will be the big winner. Ferries and trains might also be perceived as a safer bet than taking to the skies in 2020 and early 2021.

The general consensus is that flying for leisure won’t resume until a vaccine is found, or the virus is fully under control. Many industry projections don’t have flights returning to pre-coronavirus levels back until 2023.

5. Decline Of Airbnb Inventory

Many cities and destinations have seen a huge rise in Airbnb properties over the last decade. It has created a new economy of super hosts who control multiple properties. There is evidence that those landlords are now trying to sell these properties as tourism declines.

Properties that had been used in cities as Airbnbs are now being let on long term leases to locals at vastly discounted prices. This will deplete inventory on Airbnb and push customers back towards hotels and other types of rental and package holidays in 2021.

Airbnb will rebound and be as strong as ever in the future, but its supply of hosts offering entire apartments or homes will decrease heading into 2021.

6. Staycations / Internal Markets

What little tourism there will be in 2020 will be very local. A combination of travel restrictions and fear will keep people local for the rest of the year. Seeing family and friends will be enough in the short term to give people that sense of release.

Tourism boards are already gearing up for campaigns on internal travel. There is an appetite to support local businesses and this will accelerate in 2021.

Virus Trends Tourism Boards

7. Nightlife Will Be Seriously Curtailed

Locations that attract crowds based on their nightlife will suffer (think Ibiza, Cancun and Bali). You only have to look at South Korea and their new lockdown on nightlife to see how potentially dangerous bars and nightclubs are to the spread of the virus.

Ischgl, at the centre of Austria’s biggest cluster of coronavirus infections, has said it wants to move away from “party tourism” as it emerged from more than a month under quarantine.

While precautions can be taken in many areas, the addition of alcohol and partying will face particular scrutiny. Expect countries and cities to shift from trying to attract party focused tourism to more elite visitors. Festivals, event and sports tourism will also suffer.

8.The Great Outdoors

People feel safer in large open spaces. We’ve seen that during lockdown, with people flocking to mountains, lakes and forests for hikes.

This trend will continue into 2021 as the lock downs around the world ease and it will turn into a key tourism trend. Escaping the crowds and finding space will become an experience people will pay more for.

This could be glamping, secluded rental properties or hotels in the country that offer plenty of outdoor activities.

9. Long Term Remote Working Travel

The virus has accelerated the move to working from home. The rise of the digital nomad has also been a trend over the last few years.

Smart tourism boards will try to attract these sorts of long term travellers. They might visit the country and spend money over a longer period of time.

The virus has caused a desire for people to escape the cities in the short term, but this will turn into a longer term trend. There has been a realisation that people can work in cheaper countries. That might not mean traveling around South East Asia for a year, but it could mean three months working in a country that is virus-free and isn’t too far to travel to.

10. Flight Price Increases In 2021

As the airlines start up again, they will have to offer incentives via cheap flights to get bums back on seats. We may see a price war with the large, well-capitalised airlines driving the smaller players out of business and mass consolidation. The big players will get bigger.

Heading into 2021 with less competition in the skies, a need to start making money and a smaller pool of passengers, we will likely see price hikes. Flying across the world is not going to be as cheap as it once was. When the price impact is added to the fear factor, long distance travel is going to suffer.

With business travel largely cut (a historic bread winner for airlines), they will have to raise prices in other areas to cover costs.

The biggest kicker though, is that the world will enter a deep recession. Long distance travel will simply not be affordable for many.

Things will change by the day but these coronavirus trends tourism boards should be aware of are key heading into 2021. A choppy future awaits.

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Big 7 Travel Team