While tourism is undoubtedly nowhere near the heights it saw this time last year, the past few months have shown how eager we are to pack the suitcase and hit the road. Many people are starting close and comfortably with staycations and simple, quick-drive weekend getaways. Others are looking for longer road trips (“RV” Google searches are skyrocketing!), and some savvy travelers are jumping on the steep discounts offered by floundering international hotels and airlines. To weigh in on some of these trends, we spoke to Anna Gilbert, a Senior Luxury Travel Designer at 6 Degrees, a team of 14 powerhouse women and travel experts with representation all over the world. Whether you’re ready to go, ready to plan or not ready at all, you need to know these nine important — and likely long-lasting — travel trends.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS & OUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
You’ve probably seen an uptick in breathtaking photos of national parks beautifying your social feeds these days. There seems to be a newfound fascination with our own country — from the magnanimous West to the parks and trails in our own backyards. “People are craving the great outdoors,” Anna says. People are road-tripping to and through Utah, Arizona, and Colorado, hitting many stops over many weeks, and “luxury dude ranches, as well as glamping experiences, were more popular than ever before this summer,” Anna adds. Another aspect of this shift relates to carbon offsetting and “greener” travel choices across the board. It’s safe to say this shift in focus from urban, cultural hotspots like big European cities to more rural, active destinations is here to stay. According to the organization Sustainable Travel, tourism is responsible for about 8% of the world’s carbon emissions. With climate change at the forefront, many are rethinking all the ways we create waste when we move around the world. We will see people move to greener options and for longer periods of time.
A DEPARTURE FROM CITIES
Hopeful trip planners are putting a lot of stake in their accommodations based on the activities and amenities near or on the property since many want to avoid crowds in towns and cities. “It’s been fun to see hotels get creative in this aspect to ensure guests are always entertained,” Anna says. Proprietors pay more attention to distance-conscious programming for kids and adults alike, making it exciting to stay put without much back-and-forth to outside locales. Think live music, in-villa chef dinners, educational experiences, private boat tours and more. “Private experiences are more requested than ever before. One of my favorite hotels in Mexico, Hotel Esencia, is even offering virtual learning and home school coordinators for families while their school-age children are going to class online,” Anna says. Epic experiences and day-to-day activities can happen while feeling safe and secure. And because of the fabulous deals to be had right now, you can likely offset the higher, private price tag.
MORE LEGROOM, PLEASE!
“Moving forward, some of the biggest luxuries are proving to be space as well as privacy,” Anna says. Many travelers are upping their budgets for larger suites, private homes and villas, as well as premium airline real estate. “After many of us have just spent four-plus months at home, the more space, the better!” Anna says. “If you’ve ever wanted an entire row or cabin on an international flight to yourself, now’s the time!” Also remember that because capacity is limited in many places, groups of travelers who are already friends or family are very appealing. They want to serve your group and fill their rooms and seats.
TAKE THE BUCKET LIST TRIP
Since a huge chunk of 2020 travel was likely lost to the pandemic, many people have decided to take their credits, refunds and freshly open calendars and set their sights on the biggest and best in 2021 and 2022. Travel agencies like Anna’s are noticing a resounding refrain: “We’re finally ready to take that bucket list trip!” Instead of planning big trips six to 12 months in advance, many are extending their timeline and traveling further. “Optimists are targeting 2021. For others, their next big trip will be in 2022,” an NYT article on this very topic states. Whatever your timeline, now is the time to think about that dream vacation and take advantage of current deals for future travel.
INCENTIVES & DEALS GALORE
Hotels, resorts, airlines and cruises are hurting and scrambling for ways to rebuild their business. “For those willing to travel internationally, it’s a great time to lock in fantastic pricing and to avoid the crowds,” Anna says. Travel agents are experts at finding these deals, but if you are more of a DIY travel builder, resources like Scott’s Cheap Flights, Next Vacay and Google Flights can uncover airfare deals. HotelsCombined, Booking.com, Trivago and Google Hotels can show comparative hotel prices. Always cross-reference your third-party pricing with the actual property or airline to see if they have any specials or will match rates. Anna continues to see a lot of added value at destinations across the map like fourth night free, daily resort credits and complimentary spa credits. Look beyond the big airlines and be flexible and creative with your destinations. The dip in price and crowd will likely not last forever as the industry continues to get back on its feet, so jump on the deals for future travel.
CONTACTLESS IS KEY
Every country, hotel and property has requirements and protocols they’ve put in place to ensure the safety of their guests and employees. “Hospitality workers are undergoing hours and hours of training, and many hotel brands have created and are utilizing apps to limit human-to-human contact, all while maintaining very high levels of service. For example, Four Seasons has even partnered with Johns Hopkins University to create their ‘Lead With Care’ program to assure guests that health and safety is the first priority,” Anna says. Certain in-room items like robes will have to be requested, and room cleanings might be every other day. Be patient with properties as they strive to continue to provide quality and service while staying safe.
DO MORE HOMEWORK!
Always keep an eye on the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for travel advisories and information about traveling safely. The majority of international destinations open to American passport holders do require proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding the plane and some as little as 48 hours before arrival. And don’t forget to check the government site of the places you’re going to see how they handle American travelers. It’s smart to consult with a travel professional to ensure you’re up to date on all restrictions, protocols, shots and any other entry requirements. “Currently, some international destinations do not allow guests to leave the property to explore or visit two different properties during their visit,” Anna mentions. Regulations are changing daily, so it could be a great idea to work with a travel professional. “A lot of this information is not listed in plain sight,” Anna says.
LEAN ON A TRAVEL AGENT
Travel professionals know the best value, service, rates, and — especially in this strange travel climate — safely regulations and best practices. “We’re always going to be our client’s advocate. During the pandemic, our close relationships with industry partners worldwide have allowed us the flexibility to push canceled trips to future dates and — in many circumstances — recoup costs that would otherwise be lost, especially if booked with a third-party booking site where clients are just a number,” Anna says. From the moment you leave your house until you return home, your travel planner stays in touch with all the drivers, guides and hoteliers along the way to make sure you are safe and that protocols are adhered to. This is more important than ever.
There are so many cool resources for virtual travel (including StyleBlueprint’s own collection!). We know that not everyone is ready to travel. There is no rush. Your country and your world are out there getting more and more prepared, safe and ready for your arrival. Until then, tons of properties and destinations showcase their views and offerings online to give potential visitors a taste of what’s waiting for them. To get inspired, check out this fabulous list from Thrillist.
RELATED: 3 Fascinating Southern Destinations
“I think this goes without saying but is certainly an important reminder: the world relies on tourism,” Anna reminds us. “Did you know the travel and tourism industry makes up nearly 10% of the world’s jobs? That statistic has really stuck with me since the beginning of the pandemic. Travel is and always will be a personal decision, but for those who do feel comfortable, whether it be overseas or in the states, many destinations are ready to welcome you with a smile (but behind a mask!).” Take your time, find some great deals, talk to some travel pros and get ready for some exciting explorations near or far!
For lots of great travel inspiration, visit our travel archives!