Where is Travel Headed?

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What was once the “weekend getaway” is now “the weeks-long getaway”; what was once “turndown service” has transformed into “turning down service”; and where once travelers thought “DIY might be fun,” (think I can book it all on my own) now they’re “never DIYing again” (travel advisors are now a must-have service).

Travel has been turned on its head in just a few short months, and what was once a must might no longer be a client expectation. Who would’ve thought back in January that road-tripping would become more popular than jet-setting?

During the recently held Virtuoso press conference, part of Virtuoso Travel Week, currently taking place in a virtual space, Recommend got the 4-1-1 on where travel is  headed, intel that will prove indispensable as your business starts rebounding.

The past few months have seen a halt to travel and tourism, with sales floating in negative territory, but according to the Virtuoso Reports Database, there’s been some modest recovery in bookings in the last couple of months, with most U.S.-based Virtuoso members noting in the Virtuoso Member Survey, which was conducted this month, that leisure travel bookings will begin to grow and remain on a consistent and stable upward trajectory in the next six months or so.

Many U.S. travel advisors who participated in the Virtuoso Member Survey look at the positive side, and see opportunities amidst this crisis, pointing out that it’s time to “reimagine our industry,” and they do stress that “this crisis will forever change how consumers travel.”

Currently, travel advisors, as noted in the Virtuoso Member Survey, said they are getting no or very few new bookings at this time, and when they are booking, the majority of those bookings are ocean cruises. For those travelers who are booking international trips, the most important factor by far is flexible cancellation or rebooking policies, according to the member survey.

Virtuoso also surveyed travelers in a Flash Five Survey conducted on July 24, 2020, and when they were asked if they were ready to travel now, Gen Z resoundingly said yes, while those ranging in age from 26 to 55, so Millennials and Gen X, were 50/50, with older travelers showing a bit more apprehension.

When it comes to hotel bookings and regarding the distance from traveler’s home to hotel, the majority of travelers would rather stay closer to home, within the 1,500-mile range, according to Virtuoso Reports, Hotel Only, and the lead times for bookings is getting much, much smaller, with some bookings two weeks or less. And, you’ll want to know, too, that the number-one hotel attribute Virtuoso travelers are currently looking for is wellness.

And yes, according to Virtuoso data, the majority of travelers are willing to get on a plane right now, with the empty middle seat now determining airline loyalty. In fact, Virtuoso travelers would pay extra for an airline ticket if it meant the middle seat next to them would be empty.

Dreaming of Travel
The Flash Five Survey also asked Virtuoso travelers how far they were willing to travel if travel restrictions were lifted. Fifty-nine percent said they would be willing to get on an international flight. And when asked what kind of trip they would want to take, they pointed to an island/beach destination. And the number-one global destination for those dreaming of travel is South Africa, followed by Italy, Australia, France and Japan. In the U.S.? #1 is California, followed by Hawaii, Alaska, Washington and Montana—all offering great, outdoor playgrounds.