It’s been over one year since Americans were told to cancel their travel plans due to the coronavirus pandemic, and there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel for those pining for a getaway. With vaccinations mounting in the U.S. just in time for warm weather, many will be venturing out further than their backyards for the busy summer travel season. So what does this summer hold for travelers?
1. Can we expect any good deals…what destinations will be the most popular this summer?
Despite the influx of travelers booking trips, there are still deals to be had and there are some clear trends emerging…
Florida – Has been a popular travel spot throughout the pandemic with its warm weather and outdoor activities – and it continues to trend in flight bookings this summer. I recently visited Captiva’s gorgeous South Seas Island Resort, located right off of Florida’s Gulf Coast. The resort’s paradise appeal goes without question situated on two-and-a-half miles of powder-white beaches in a destination that offers world-renowned sailing and fishing. Right now they are offering their Advanced Purchase Promotion, where you save up to 20% on your hotel reservation by at least 30 days in advance.
Puerto Rico and Hawaii – Puerto Rico is the third most-booked destination for summer 2021, according to Priceline, with Orbitz naming it the most popular search destination for those living on the East Coast. Hawaii equallyseems to be surging due to its far-off feel – Oahu and Maui ranked 5th and 14th, respectively.according to Priceline’s 15 most booked destinations for summer 2021.
2. What about city breaks, or urban entertainment hotspots – are these due to have come-back this summer?
Hotel prices dropped during the pandemic in urban environments more than rural ones, due to the exodus from crowded cities during the pandemic, but now is the time to grab deals on city breaks before prices rise again.
Los Angeles – Despite what some may think, every sector of the visitor experience from museums and restaurants to theme parks and outdoor live events is open in Los Angeles. This spring, a bunch of new and exciting hotels will open like the Fairmont Century Plaza and the Downtown L.A. Proper. There are tons of brand-new restaurants opening throughout the city, concerts and football games are being held at the SoFi Stadium, and The Music Centre in downtown LA is hosting live performances. If you head to discoverlosangeles.com you’ll find some great deals on hotels, restaurants and more, good thru June 30th.
New York and Las Vegas – There’s nothing quite like spring in New York and given that the average daily hotel rates in the city were under $150 this March, according to Priceline, travelers are jumping on the opportunity to see the city open up. Also travel deals to Las Vegas from major air travel hubs have plenty of travelers opting to kick off their return to Sin City, the second most-booked summer destination on Priceline this year.
3. What other changes can travelers expect when they fly, specifically when it comes to insuring their trips this summer?The pandemic changed how airlines and hotels handle flexibility, with many eliminating change and cancellation fees altogether.
In turn, many travel insurance companies also specifically added Covid medical and trip interruption or flight reimbursement coverage. You’ve got air medical transport programs out there like Medjet that, if you are hospitalized while traveling, will arrange medical transportation to your hospital at home. Most travel insurance only evacuates to a nearby hospital, while they get you moved home. They added Covid-19 transport benefits last October, for domestic travel and international destinations like Mexico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean as they opened up. In general, how people insure their trips and protect themselves, may change for good, after this past year.
Vaccine distribution is ramping up, stimulus checks are being sent, and summer is on the horizon. It’s a hopeful combination that’s got Americans itching with wanderlust.Airline, hotel, and restaurant spending are all up compared to a year ago when the pandemic first ravaged the country, although still not close to pre-pandemic times. While the number of people passing through US airports daily is about double what it was this time last year, it’s still half of what it was for most days in 2019, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
1. So how is travel set to make a comeback, what signs do we have that it is?There are a lot of signs that travel is having a comeback. First off, we know that more Americans are intending to travel soon – in fact those planning to travel or go on vacation in the short term have increased slightly week over week, from 36% to 39% in the first week of March alone. Airlines have also had their busiest weekend last weekend since pre-pandemic times – in fact the weekend of March 12, US airports saw the highest number of travelers since before the pandemic began. Also, we know that people are already booking vacation rentals and hotels – Airbnb and VRBO saw a surge in bookings the week of March 3 that exceeded pre-pandemic levels.
2. So how different will travel look when it does make this comeback? What kinds of innovations have come about because of COVID? For travelers, health and safety are going to be the top concerns when making travel plans. Travel insurance products, for example, have been able to pivot to address these increased concerns, including specifically adding Covid medical and trip interruption coverage. You’ve got air medical transport programs like Medjet that, if you are hospitalized while traveling, will arrange medical transportation to your hospital at home. Most travel insurance only evacuates to a nearby hospital, Medjet gets you moved home. They added Covid-19 transport benefits last October, for domestic travel and international destinations like Mexico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean as they opened up.
3. What about innovations in technology?Innovations in technology are also giving consumers the resources they need to make informed decisions, minimize risk and maximize safety while traveling. It is expected that more touchless options will emerge for identity verification. ‘Thermal Imaging’ or ‘Infrared Thermographic Systems’ will emerge to enable virtual health screening at airports. Touchless technologies will also push credit cards, touchscreens, or – digital signature pens to a thing of the past.
3. And what about any lingering hesitancy?Well despite those planning to travel or go on vacation – in the short term has increased – some studies have shown that just over half of Americans have no intentions to travel in the short term, although even that is significantly down from the 70% who felt that way in January. There is also the argument that while people are traveling again and booking travel, that it is mainly to see family rather than to spend money on hotels or resorts. In general the hesitancy seems to be coming from international travel rather than domestic travel. There is also the mode of transport and type of trip to keep in mind.
5. What about cruise travel?Cruises for example are still being met with hesitancy – as we know the CDC announced this week it will keep limiting cruises until early November. But keep in mind, enforcing Covid safety precautions on a cruise line where passengers are in close proximity for extended days, is obviously much harder than enforcing them on a plane or in an airport, where we have seen the dramatic impact touchless protocols and the HEPA filters alone have made – so much so that we know most airlines are now confidently filling the middle seat again.
1. Airlines and airports had to go through many safety precautions due to the pandemic. How did the industry innovate and adapt over the past year?
Of course there are many safety measures air travel has had to undertake this past year due to COVID, from installing HEPA filters on planes, to adapting airports to lesson contact touch points. During the pandemic, many travel insurance companies also specifically added Covid medical and trip interruption / flight reimbursement coverage, and the airlines started waiving change fees. You’ve got air medical transport programs out there like Medjet that, if you are hospitalized while traveling, will arrange medical transportation to your hospital at home. Most travel insurance only evacuates to a nearby hospital, Medjet gets you moved home. They added Covid-19 transport benefits last October, for domestic travel and international destinations like Mexico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean as they opened up. Innovation is being embraced by just about everyone in the air travel sector, to restore consumer confidence in the safety and flexibility of their journey.
2. During the pandemic, many travel insurance companies added coverage for trip cancellation and medical expenses due to COVID. There is now talk of COVID-19 travel insurance becoming a vacation staple, what does this mean for the industry?
COVID-19 insurance policies are increasingly joining passports and sunscreen as vacation staples, creating opportunities for insurers as more countries require mandatory coverage, in case visitors fall ill from the coronavirus. Airline bookings are on the rise, driving hopes of a revival in summer traffic. So while the pandemic has arguably battered travel, demand for coverage has created opportunity for the hard-hit insurance industry and a niche to develop new insurance products. While 2020 saw a 20% rise in travelers buying highly priced “cancel for any reason” policies, what is not clear is how coverage demand will evolve as many more people become inoculated against the coronavirus with vaccines.
3. When it comes to new tech, airlines and airports were innovating pre-COVID. But how has the pandemic accelerated new tech in the industry?
Though COVID-19’s impact on the aviation industry and travel has been worse compared to most sectors, it has still become a catalyst for innovation, and the integration of newer technologies. COVID-19 has changed the way people think about air travel – and technology is what is making travel possible again. Whether it’s displaying information about travel destinations or providing a contactless journey through the airports, technology is giving consumers the resources they need to make informed decisions, minimize risk and maximize safety while traveling. It is expected that more touchless options will emerge for identity verification. The aviation sector will also experience an acceleration in innovations such as ‘Thermal Imaging’ or ‘Infrared Thermographic Systems’ to enable virtual health screening at airports. Touchless technologies will also push credit cards, touchscreens, or – digital signature pens to a thing of the pas
4. Over the past year, the aviation industry has taken steps to reduce its environmental footprint. Can you talk to us about some of the trends you’re seeing in this space?
Given the landscape of humanity this past year, sustainability has definitely become a much discussed topic in the aviation industry, both economically and ecologically. A great example is how American Airlines recently reached an agreement with Kuehne+Nagel to allocate a portion of the carbon reduction benefit the airline generates – through its use of sustainable aviation fuel – to one of American’s leading cargo customers. This is part of their effort to reduce the impact of aviation on the planet and is the kind of collaboration that should drive real change. The aim is to create a cleaner supply chain and accelerate our transition to a low-carbon future. American Airlines has actually set a goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and by doing so, is also setting the bar for other airlines to follow.
5. IoT, Artificial intelligence, and big data have totally transformed industries in recent years. How are these technologies touching the aviation industry right now?
Airlines have been looking at how artificial intelligence will play a greater role in operations for several years to help them make better decisions. The pandemic has accelerated the need to incorporate new sources of data such as search engine and social media intent data. The old reliance on historical booking behavior will not be enough as airlines look to plan routes and forecast demand as they recover from the pandemic. Shorter booking windows and scheduling windows mean airlines need to be more flexible and incorporate more real-time information to predict demand. Some travel technology companies are already filling the gap with Skyscanner, for example, recently adding an Unscheduled Routes module to its business intelligence technology.