travel-2021

6 ways COVID-19 will change travel in 2021 – expert predictions

From immunity passports to fees...

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The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on travel for almost a year, so what does 2021 hold?

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Last year saw a significant increase in travel insurance policies, a bigger focus on health screening measures, and more staycations. According to The Points Guy UK, the coming year will see the travel industry build on these changes with immunity passports and air mile offers.

Take a look at the experts' 2021 travel predictions...

Business trips

People might be back in offices in large numbers by late spring or early summer, but given summer holidays many business trips will probably be on hold until September.

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That means 2022 is the year when airlines and hotels can really return to making a profit. It’s the last-minute business airfares and the big conventions, with their lofty catering budgets, that really matter to the bottom line.

Yes, people will say that video conferencing was so successful for the past year that trips won’t be as frequent. Maybe. But that said, there’s no replacement for in-person meetings. Zoom fatigue is real and the next two years will all be about reconnecting.

Immunity passports

There will still be plenty of travel restrictions in 2021. While most Brits might be immunised this year, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t be able to spread COVID-19 to others. Borders will take a long time to fully reopen, especially in developing nations that won’t receive the vaccine as quickly as rich countries.

Social distancing requirements will remain throughout the year. Immunity passports – or some sort of proof – are probably going to be required to fly overseas. But so will COVID-19 tests.

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Hopefully, the tests will become faster, cheaper and available in more locations – especially at more airports. It is starting to become routine for people to take a test before and after a trip. Add in some home testing options, and this will be a standard part of any trip for the next 12 to 18 months.

New types of trips

flights

The Points Guy UK predict that family reunion packages may be on offer

After nine-plus months locked away with members of your family, it's likely that people will choose trips with friends, in-laws and anyone else you haven't been able to see.

This coming year will be one for all sorts of new getaways. Big resorts that are losing out on conferences would be smart to market new family reunion packages. Or the big singles weekends that were so popular in the 1970s might see a resurgence. We’ve all been digital for so long that maybe an old fashioned mixer would be a hit?

Retirees with the time – and means – will take long, extravagant trips where no cost will be spared. The past year reminded all of us how precious time is. This group of travellers will embark on a new type of "grand tour," hitting multiple countries, staying at the best hotels and utilising private guides for one-of-a-kind experiences.

Fees

Before COVID-19, the travel industry charged extra for everything, such as checked bag fees and resort fees.

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Now, Las Vegas hotels like the Cosmopolitan are waiving resort fees and airlines have dropped almost all change fees and mile redeposit fees. They want our business. 

Could these changes stay around for good? It’s doubtful. Hotels will quickly reinstate resort fees. Most of these rates and packages without the fees are meant to jumpstart travel. Once rooms are full again, they will add back every charge possible to recoup the losses from 2020. 

suitcases

Decreasing fees are only temporary

For airlines, it is a different story. Nothing is forcing them to keep this promise, but I predict that change fees won’t return in the same manner. There will also probably be more new fees to make up the difference. Seat assignment fees, including in business class, seem to be growing.

Just like hotels offer you free Wi-Fi if you book directly, airlines are only going to waive change fees for those who are members of their frequent flyer programmes who book direct. This will force more and more travellers to avoid third-party booking sites and go directly to the airlines.

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Whatever the case, I do see this as an opportunity for airlines to differentiate themselves from the competition. Instead of a race to match the ultra-low-cost carriers, I hope that the big airlines see this as the time to set themselves apart and be passenger-friendly.

Points and miles

For those travelling in the first part of 2021, there are going to be tons of promotions out there. Hotels and airlines are going to be fighting to gain whatever share of travel they can. Credit card companies have also been offering us tons of bonus miles for shifting spend to specific cards.

Discovering your backyard

The pandemic has helped Brits find love again for the road trip. Instead of flying off for the weekend or renting a car for a day trip, we decided it was time to own our own vehicle. Our summer was filled with hiking, trips to the beach and journeys to cute little towns within a two-hour drive.

Other families have purchased recreational vehicles. Such purchases are not cheap and will likely steer travel decisions for the next several years.

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