Will 2021 be the year of travel? It might be. Image: GETTY

CRA Travel Explored

By Christopher Elliott

If 2020 is the lost year for travel, will 2021 be the year of recovery? And if it is, what does that mean for you?

“I want to travel as much as I can,” says Gregg Jaden, a photographer based in Manhattan Beach, Calif. “I will be spending more time in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand to make up for lost time.”

Travel agents see the same level of enthusiasm.

“We see a full recovery in the first quarter of 2021,” says James Ferrara, president of InteleTravel, a travel agency. “We measure actual future bookings, which have been very strong.”

Many signs point to a quick rebound for travel in 2021. That’s because people will be making up for missed travel in 2020 and trying to use their travel vouchers, which expire soon. Travelers will have to time their trips carefully.

When COVID-19 ends, experts predict travel will grow. Image: GETTY

Signs say 2021 will be the year of travel

There will almost certainly be a travel recovery early next year, according to most surveys.

Americans plan to travel more. U.S. travelers plan to take more leisure trips in 2021 than they did in 2019 or 2020, according to a survey by GetYourGuide, a booking platform. That comes to an average of 3.58 trips in 2021 compared to 3.24 in 2019 and 2.46 this year.

They feel more confident about travel in 2021. A new survey by AirportParkingReservations.com finds that 39% of travelers feel “very confident” about travel next year. A plurality (44%) say they’re “somewhat” confident about traveling. Only 3% are not confident about travel.

They’re aiming for early 2021. At least that’s the conclusion of the latest Travel Advisors COVID-19 Sentiment Barometer. It found strong interest in domestic destinations, with 42% of inquiries received being U.S. destinations, compared to only about 16% of all inquiries before COVID.

There’s a lot of evidence of travel intent. Over the last four weeks, Skyscanner.com has seen a 368% jump in searches for international destinations for travel in January. Its data suggests this growing consumer confidence continues, with searches for travel in July, rising by 94%.

“2021 is definitely shaping up to be a year for make-up vacations,” says Aanchal Gandhi, Ovation Travel Group’s vice president for West Coast leisure and independent advisors. “Our clients are already planning extensive bucket list trips.”

When it comes to travel, timing is everything. Image: GETTY

Timing is everything for the year of travel

No one knows the future, of course. But plenty of signs are pointing to a bounce-back, which could make 2021 the year of travel. Dan Richards, the CEO of Global Rescue, said a recent membership survey showed a strong interest in travel next year. But it depends on how soon a vaccine becomes available and how quickly the number of COVID cases declines.

 “As soon as people believe it is safe to travel again, we’re going to see a very steep recovery,” he says. 

But when does that happen? Will the lost year extend into the first half of 2021 — or later? Or could travelers start making plans as early as this fall?

Timing is everything. Especially now.

Here’s the dilemma: Book a vacation too soon, and you could get stuck in the predicted second wave of the pandemic (unless this summer was the second wave). You might lose your job and then lose your vacation, thanks to a heartless but totally understandable refund policy. Wait too long, and you could pay more — maybe much more — for your vacation and get stuck in a crowd. 

There are two types of travelers you’ll meet in 2021. Image: GETTY

The two types of travelers you’ll meet during the year of travel

In 2021, you’re likely to meet two types of travelers. One is on a replacement vacation. That’s Mark Miller, who rebooked his vacation to Yellowstone National Park for next summer. He was supposed to take his eight-year-old grandson to the park this June but had to cancel when pandemic cases started to surge. 

“It was very disappointing to all of us to not be able to go this year,” says Miller, a retired logistics manager who lives in White Bear Township, Minn. 

Indeed, many travelers ended up with vouchers after they canceled. Those often expire within a year, so there’s likely to be a rush to redeem them.

The second type of traveler is the one who waited an entire year to get out and travel. Stuck indoors for the better part of 2020, these travelers will want to do more and will be willing to spend more, according to experts. 

Larry Gammel, a retired business analyst, had visions of extensive travel. For this year, he had Greece, Turkey and California on his itinerary. Then COVID struck. 

“Now I need to double down on travel,” he told me. He’s planning to make up for being stuck in Des Plaines, Ill., for most of the year by planning ambitious trips to Portugal, Ireland, and maybe Scotland, followed by New Zealand and Australia.

I’m one of the replacement travelers. The COVID outbreak interrupted an adventure in Europe with my kids. Ironically, we evacuated back to the States, where the number of coronavirus cases was about to explode. Had we remained in Europe, we’d have been safer, although our visas would have run out.

We’re thinking of a “redo” in early 2021 to make up for the whole COVID unpleasantness. Maybe a month in Portugal and then back to France and Italy. After that, who knows?

Jaden, the photographer, seems to understand how I feel about traveling in 2021.

“Other than losing some sense of freedom that I usually have embarking on many trips throughout the year, I also lost a year’s worth of time that was scheduled to be a productive year,” he says. “Before the restrictions, I had started to secure support and funding from some of my sponsors and major brands that were onboard. I was going to film a documentary about almost extinct animals and the impact humans have had on their environment. I’ll be trying to jump-start this project once the restrictions lift.”

Same here. Travel isn’t optional. I view it as an essential part of my kids’ education, and as a travel writer, it’s my livelihood. I must get back out there.

The outlook for 2021 may not be clear, but there are things you can do to prepare for it. Image: GETTY

What to do about the lost year — and the upcoming year of travel

Chances are, you’re sitting on at least one airline voucher that expires next year or in 2022. And you’re wondering what you should do. Risk a trip now or wait until the vaccine? Book now and save money — or book later and overspend on your hotel or cruise?

At a time like this, the advice of a travel professional can help. A competent travel counselor can help you navigate the ins and outs of post-COVID travel. That is, if you can find one. The American Society of Travel Advisors predicts 71% of travel advisors will be out of business in six months or less. Not only can they help, but they could use your business.

The takeaway? Don’t wait too long to make your travel plans for the year of travel in 2021 — or even this year. “People want to travel, and there will be a pent-up demand when restrictions are lifted,” warns Stephen McGillivray, chief marketing officer of Travel Leaders Group

There will be deals, but by the beginning of next year, there could also be crowds. And higher prices. It’ll be like the pandemic never happened. 

Well, almost.

Article Credit to Forbes.