by Seth BUTERA July 14, 2021
Two years ago around this time, the worldwide tourism industry was having conversations about over-tourism. A year later, the global travel numbers shrank roughly to the worst levels in the industry’s history.
In 2021, travel demand is surging back almost as quickly as it declined in the spring of 2020. But that demand is returning to an industry that is still reeling from a year without customers. Travelers are ready to travel again, but they face an industry that is still shaking off the effects of its hibernation.
Reports of frustration are already coming in. Guests who haven’t traveled since the beginning of the pandemic find themselves frustrated by still-altered guest experiences; many hotel restaurants remain closed or reduced to takeout-only service; amenities such as swimming pools and workout rooms are shuttered or require advance reservations to limit capacity; guest rooms are only cleaned on request or not at all during a stay. (It’s worth noting that even closed hotels had utility bills, mortgages, property taxes, and salaries to pay, and many are just now starting to claw their way back from that trough, even with relief loans).
For those who kept traveling during the pandemic, this is nothing new, but for travelers who remained sequestered expecting the world to have returned to normal when they ventured out, it’s an understandable shock.
Adding to the frustration is the price tag. Some hotels have yet to reopen, and options for international travel are limited, driving demand for smaller hotels and resorts particularly in leisure destinations
Traveler expectations are high, and frustrations are likely to boil over as evidenced by the increase in air rage incidents in the first half of the year. Everybody’s coping with the trauma of the past year, and it seems many travelers are putting a lot of stock in the curative powers of the returning freedom to travel, which unfortunately sets up many for quick, easy disappointment.
While we’re all eager to travel, it may be necessary to make some value judgments when planning travel for the rest of 2021. Here are some specific questions to consider.
Many traveler planners have action bias, meaning they’d rather do something than nothing, so they start making trade-offs. If it’s more expensive than expected and the experience might not meet expectations and it will be crowded with other travelers frustrated for the same reasons, is it still worth going?
Travelers who do decide to travel should do so with a modicum of understanding. Equating “reopening” with “2019-like normalcy” will ultimately end in frustration.
The very reason we’re all so eager to travel is also the reason why travel won’t feel normal for a while—we’re all still processing our collective trauma. That includes hospitality workers and residents of areas popular with leisure travelers, so it’s important to understand that not all parties involved in the travel experience will have recovered at the same pace. There’s also lingering uncertainty, from long-term effects of both COVID-19 and vaccines, new variants, and changing rules and restrictions, and that environment will be slow to change.
That said, for those hardy adventurers who are flexible, understanding, and ready to travel with patience, kindness, and understanding, it might be time to get back out there.
For those that decide it’s not yet time, for whatever reason, that’s perfectly ok, too.