No, the Covid era isn't over yet, but as a predominantly vaccinated European population starts traveling again, it’s interesting to see what trends did the pandemic bring about. So, let’s dig in.
First of all, even though on the onset of the pandemic the lockdowns resulted in jaw-dropping drops in GDP and the global economy was taking a severe hit, the fiscal stimulus provided by the governments and the fact that a sizeable part of the population was able to keep their jobs meant that incomes for certain groups did not change significantly. Add to that the fact that during lockdowns shops, bars and restaurants were mostly closed, making it harder to spend that income except on internet shopping sites (yes, e-commerce got a Covid-bump, for more information just google ‘Jeff Bezos pandemic profit’). So, with all that cash stored up and sitting in an apartment for a couple of months – people came out of lockdown willing and ready to start traveling again. But where would they travel to and what type of accommodation would they be looking for?
Increased demand for private and luxury accommodation
Because of obvious epidemiological reasons, travelers are less willing to cram into hotspots swarming with a gazillion tourists. Like Charlie Brooker said in his Antiviral Wipe - seeing a lot of people crammed together these days might seem “freakishly irresponsible.” So, there’s a good chance that daily trips to Venice or Santorini will see a decline in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, being locked up in a tiny apartment for months on end made us all crave the outdoors, bigger spaces and secluded places. This in turn led to an increase in demand for private house accommodation, especially luxury ones. We have also seen an increase in boat sales. Furthermore, people seem to be more open for adventurous experiences – from climbing Mount Everest to going on expeditions to Greenland. It seems that the pandemic sparked a new interest in taking on challenges that were unthinkable two or three years ago.
Fly less, go near, stay longer
Another thing that the pandemic has influenced is the way we travel to a destination. It’s obvious that air travel has taken the most serious hit. Even as the apparently less deadly Omicron variant took over, we were witnessing massive flight cancellations at the end of 2021 and early 2022. Cramming a lot of strangers in a metal tube for 6 hours is not the thing people are likely to go for during a global pandemic. In contrast, car transport wasn’t affected as significantly and will probably remain the preferable way to travel in the next couple of years. This fact influenced the distance people are traveling to get to their destination, which has decreased during the pandemic. Staycations and micro holidays are turning out to be a big thing now, with visitors finding out about hidden gems in their backyard. There’s a good chance you’ve been scrolling through your social media feed lately and seeing some of your friends hiking somewhere nearby, hitting the adventure parks, or visiting national parks in your own country. And, of course, the governments (especially of wealthier countries) have been encouraging domestic travel since it boosts domestic consumption and allows them to better control the epidemiological situation.
The unwillingness to board planes and the hassle one must go through at airports has also contributed to longer stays because the lack of air travel makes it less convenient to hop from one destination to another. Want to ‘travel around Europe’ in two weeks? Well, that doesn’t sound like a good idea anymore. This is why people are generally opting for longer stays at one location or destination. It also brought about the emergence of things like low travel i.e. “any travel that takes place on the ground - train, car, by bike or on footbikes.” “Instead of multi-stop journeys, travelers are opting to fly to one destination, then continue by low travel.” Add to that the fact that travelers in these (post)Covid times are increasingly looking for a way to relax and get the well-deserved mental and physical rest. And that implies not being on the road or in the air all the time.
One thing we’ve also seen is an upsurge in traveling in multi-generational groups which makes sense given that we’ve spent the past two years apart from friends and family. Yes, it seems that when it comes down to it, we actually want to spend more time with our parents and children. Who would have thought?
Workcations are on the rise
The other thing that has seen a serious upsurge are workcations. Once considered an oxymoron – nowadays it seems like a luxury arrangement one wouldn’t mind opting for. As this trend picks up steam, we are seeing more and more companies allowing their employees to work from where they please. For example, Shopify has set up a program called Destination90 which allows workers to “work abroad for up to 90 days per year.” Having the possibility to work-from-home (or work-from-anywhere) many professionals will jump on the opportunity to find a new temporary address preferably somewhere with a nicer climate. Fed up with the rainy Copenhagen spring weather? Why not spend it in Istria in a nice villa with an even nicer view. We’re also seeing a number of countries dishing out visas for digital nomads – like Bermuda, Estonia or Croatia – trying to capitalize on the trend of professionals “hopping around from city to city or country to country as they telework.”
Travelers prefer sustainable tourism
And to top it all off - one of the bigger trends the lockdowns (and the impending climate crisis) have brought about is the demand for sustainable travel choices. After witnessing record temperatures, severe flooding and catastrophic heatwaves and fires people are much more attuned to the problems of climate change and more aware of the impact that traveling imposes on the environment. The pandemic has also “shifted consumer preferences to greener options that bring them closer to nature” and by the end of 2020 “the number of commitments to reach net zero emissions from local governments and businesses had roughly doubled in less than a year.”
So, when we say travelers are opting for more sustainable travel arrangements – what does that actually mean? For one, choosing to fly less because of “carbon footprint considerations” and opting for trains instead. It also means generally reducing the amount of resources one consumes during a trip, staying in a local home rather than a big hotel and shopping and eating food that is locally produced. In addition it also implies the two things we already mentioned – traveling to places that are closer to home and taking one longer trip instead of a couple of shorter ones during the year.
A new crisis
While we write the final paragraphs of this blog post, we’re experiencing a whole new set of devastating consequences brought about by the war in Ukraine. As we watch with unspeakable horror the scenes from Ukrainian cities, we also cannot comprehend and fully grasp the repercussions these events will have. From the mounting number of war casualties and the rising number of refugees, this will surely also impact world economies across the board to say nothing of the effect it will have on the people of Ukraine (and Russia). To what extent will the effects of the war ripple through everyone’s lives - we are unfortunately about to find out.