The future of travel in 2021

Travellers hated 2020. We all did. In 2019 alone, 93.1 million Britons travelled overseas, spending a total of £62.3 billion. Then struck the deadliest virus of recent living memory, destroying lives and killing nearly 2 million people globally. Many of the world’s most popular tourist destinations lay deserted. They still do. And the answer to them, and to all of us, lie almost entirely in the hands of big pharma. 

If 2021 taught us anything, then it relates to the unpredictability of our times. In November, Prime Minister Johnson suggested that Britain would have “as normal a Christmas as possible”, hopes somewhat scuppered by the onset of a more infectious strain of the virus. 

And yet 2021 has something that 2020 never did: a vaccine. The Government’s target is to offer the first dose to 15 million vulnerable people by the middle of February. This is good news for airliners looking to persuade travellers that the very act of travelling abroad can be achieved safely. A vaccine likely to protect travellers from grave illness could reduce travel based anxiety, giving airliners hope that more customers will choose to travel as soon as the summer. 

Jet2 and Jet2Holidays recently launched flights and packages for the 2021 summer holiday seasons. Qantas has reopened bookings to Australia across its entire overseas network from July 1, including flights from the UK and USA. Given the UK’s ongoing lockdown, unrestricted travel seems wholly inconceivable. But don’t raise your eyebrows quite so soon. Flexible and protected tickets abroad offer travellers the opportunity to cancel or rebook holiday plans in accordance to the latest restrictions. 

Traveller habits look different, but the desire to travel remains. And with the elderly receiving the vaccine much sooner than the younger, the age of the average traveller could shift slightly upwards. This means nothing to the traveller, but everything to the industry. With greater age comes a greater desire for ‘bucket list travelling’, an emphasis on bold and outlandish trips to the far flung corners of our planet before the body gives up the ghost. 

Epic experiences are therefore in huge demand. A Skyscanner survey conducted in November found that people are much keener to engage with different cultures and landscapes, less likely to laze around on a sunbed. As Overseas Adventure Travel recently put it, “this personal aspect of travel and the chance to change individual lives will be sought more than ever by many travellers after missing out on these opportunities in 2020.” 

The complete solar eclipse in the Antarctic on December 4 is one of many reasons why adventurous travellers are already booking. Island hideaways (of course hiding from the pace and chaos of modern life) as well as secluded retreats are also likely to receive much attention in the post vaccine world. 

And prices will be one-seventh higher according to the travel company, Tui. The concept of “voucherflation” is worth considering too. After the cancellations of last year, expect a dramatic surge in prices driven by the number of consumers looking to use up their travel vouchers before they expire. 

We all need a break. After months of staying within the same four walls, we also need experiences too. Cornwall is lovely, but it’s not Greece. Snowdonia is beautiful, but it’s hardly Nepal. This pandemic feels like a rather endless nightmare, a deadly and endless circle of restriction after restriction. 

The days of planning bold and exotive trips abroad are behind us. The idea of planning anything much is out of vogue in such uncertain times. Spontaneity is the word of the moment. ‘Revenge travel’ is truly a thing, and I expect it to happen with great force in 2021. We couldn’t do it last year, so let’s do it this year instead. Fingers crossed. 

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Sam Webb

April 2021
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