Jill Kaiserman wants to travel. This summer, she’s driving to her cabin in Maine. “It’s the perfect kind of place for social distancing,” she says.
It seems as if everyone has a touch of cabin fever after the worldwide coronavirus lockdowns. So maybe it’s no surprise that people want to travel soon, trading one cabin — their home confinement — for another.
Whether it’s a cabin in the woods or a cruise ship cabin, Americans are dreaming of their next trip. And not just dreaming, but booking.
(The trend, commonly called revenge travel, lasted until the end of 2023. It was followed by an even bigger surge of travelers called post-revenge travel.)
Why people want to travel
Why do people want to travel? Maybe it’s because there’s pent-up demand. People missed their spring break cruises and theme park vacations. Then they had to sit in their homes and apartments for weeks. Now they just want to get out of town.
A new survey by Destination Analysts suggests American travelers feel the worst of the coronavirus may soon be over. Their first order of business when the lockdowns lift? One in five say they’ll book a trip.
“Traveler optimism is increasing,” says Gavin Harris, commercial director of strategic partnerships at Skyscanner. His site’s research suggests that 85% of Americans believe it will be safe to fly domestically by this fall and 74% think an international flight will be OK.
Where do people want to travel after the lockdowns lift?
Three types of travel will bounce back quickly after the lockdown lifts, according to experts.
- Business travel, particularly meetings and conventions.
- Road trips to nearby destinations to visit friends and family.
- Luxury getaways, including cruises, safaris and resort vacations.
Business travel: prepare for a deluge?
The outlook for business travel is complicated. While many road warriors will switch to Zoom meetings, other types of corporate travelers will need to get out there soon. That’s because there’s been a two-month pause in bookings and lots of pent-up demand.
Catherine Chaulet, CEO of Global DMC Partners, a network of independently owned and operated destination management companies, is bracing for a deluge of new reservations.
“Typically, meetings are booked well in advance and during off-peak periods so that large groups can benefit from lower room rates,” she explains. “Once the lockdown is over and a vaccine is available, there will be so much pent-up demand that meeting planners — and business and leisure travelers — will be competing for venues, and inventory will be limited as the industry plays catch-up.”
The meetings won’t take place in the days and weeks immediately following the lockdown, but they will happen soon.
Is this the summer of the long road trip?
In the last week, I’ve heard from lots of travelers who have ditched an overseas vacation or cruise in favor of a road trip.
“This will be the summer of driving to visit grandma and long road trips with the family and possibly the national parks,” predicts Bob Barton, a former car rental executive who now consults for RentalMatics, a software developer. “It’s a controlled environment and a chance to spend time as a family and see the country — not just the airports.”
Chris Backe, a game designer from Asheville, N.C., who writes a blog about off-the-beaten-path travel, says the conditions are perfect for a summer road trip.
“No international flights needed,” he says. “The roads are clear, gas is probably at a great price, and when places reopen, they’ll be ready for you. Also, it’s easy to maintain social distancing.”
These travelers are taking it easy, too. Their schedules are light and they’re not trying to do it all.
These contrarians are booking luxury travel
Another group of people who want to travel soon: luxury travelers.
“There are many types of trips, including cruises, safaris, and adventure or luxury travel, that require booking 12 to 18 months in advance under normal circumstances, so it’s important to keep that in mind if you’re thinking of traveling in 2021,” says Marc Christensen, founder of the tour operator Brilliant Ethiopia. “If you wait until the world has returned to normal to start planning these kinds of trips, you might run into availability constraints independent of coronavirus.”
Mita Carriman, the CEO of the travel site Adventurely, says she’s seeing interest from “extremely high-end luxury travelers” who can pay for high degrees of luxury isolation.
“Think semi-private island,” she says.
In other words, there were people in lockdown who were buying vacations even as the government advised against nonessential travel. It’s the ultimate contrarian move.
These travelers all have one thing in common. Neither a pandemic, a government-order lockdown nor a sputtering economy can keep them at home. They want to travel soon. And they’re days away from booking it.
What kind of trips will be popular after the pandemic?
Camping. “Domestic travel, outdoor and nature style experiences like camping and glamping vacations will likely see a surge of popularity,” predicts Janet Semenova, cofounder of Boutique Travel Advisors, a travel agency. “Vacations that minimize risks of not getting back home and avoid crowded areas such as large cities, airports and public transportation will provide a sense of comfort and security.”
Couch surfing. Staying with relatives or friends experienced a resurgence during the pandemic lockdowns, as hotels closed. But experts say it’ll remain popular, both for economic and safety reasons.
Recreational vehicles. “Renting an RV is the ideal way to travel to not only avoid large groups, but a way to escape into nature and spend time outdoors,” says Maddi Bourgerie, a spokeswoman for RVshare.com, an RV rental site.