With new CDC guidelines on international travel going into effect this week and renewed efforts from federal officials to curb the spread of COVID-19, one thing is for certain: pandemic travel planning will be an integral part of 2021. While the vaccine rollout has many travelers dreaming of their first post-pandemic trip, new research from Travelocity finds that most Americans expect that travel will contain more precautionary measures than years prior.
In fact, 77% of respondents said they believe travel has changed “significantly” or “completely” due to the pandemic, and the majority admitted they are only moderately familiar with changes the travel industry implemented.
“Pandemic travel planning isn’t going away, and so our research is really focused on understanding what positive behaviors we can take away from this moment to rebuild travel now and prepare for whatever comes next in the future,” says Katie Junod, General Manager at Travelocity.
The travel brand’s 2021 Pandemic Travel Planning survey looked at past, present and future planning tactics that could help Americans prepare for travel in the year ahead. Three surprising themes emerged from the report.
Have questions about pandemic travel? Ask a parent
Travelocity is predicting that family travel will be the first type of travel to make a comeback in 2021, due in large part to the fact that parents are twice as likely to have traveled since the start of the pandemic compared with non-parents, and they indicate a greater familiarity with changes in the travel industry.
“Parents have been arguably among the most impacted by the pandemic with pressures of coordinating everything and everyone at home,” says Junod. “As a result, travel is more of a necessity for them and they’ve stayed up-to-date on changes.”
According to the survey, parents are also inclined to take trips sooner, plan those trips earlier, and reserve their trips earlier than non-parents.
Rebuild travel confidence with a “toe-dip trip”
After nearly a year of travel restrictions and quarantines, 60% of travelers say they’re planning a post-pandemic trip within the next 9 months, and many (43%) feel extremely or very confident in their plans. Junod says this is largely attributable to the fact that travelers are planning shorter trips that rebuild confidence and create a sense of normalcy in the near term.
“We may be dreaming of that big bucket list trip, but what travelers are actually planning so far this year are visits to familiar destinations (24%), a road trip or a beach trip (30%), or weekend getaway (26%).”
Prioritize personal safety when making travel plans now and later
“As travelers plan trips now and later, their priorities – and what makes them feel confident and safe – is changing,” says Junod.
Respondents said the most important influence on their decision to travel right now was the cleanliness of hotel and transportation options and safe accommodations in their travel destination (81% rate each as “extremely” or “very” important). Travelocity rolled out enhanced cleanliness filters for hotel and car searches last summer and introduced cleaning and safety indicators for air travel before the holiday travel season. Online travel agencies have also updated traveler safety warnings with information from the CDC and made it easier to change or cancel travel plans by offering hotels with free cancellation options and flexible flight options like no change fees2.
“As vaccination and testing programs continue to ramp up, we know travelers will need information on how that impacts travel and we’re working to make sure they get it.”