This is what travel will look like in 2021

The travel industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, with 100 million job losses estimated globally, but with a vaccine on the horizon and several countries providing ‘air corridors’ whereby quarantine isn’t required, 2021 is looking increasingly optimistic for those with itchy feet and a valid passport.

Here are nine ways travel will adapt in 2021.

Last year, travel experts predicted that people would fly less. What they couldn’t have predicted is why – rather than environmentally conscious travellers booking onto boats and buying train tickets over flights, Coronavirus virtually put a halt to aviation altogether, grounding nine out of ten flights in the UK in April 2020.

Airlines’ passenger revenue is estimated to drop by 55% compared to last year, and shares in international tour operator groups have tumbled.

9. Last minute travel

Bookings 1-7 days prior to departure have increased compared to the previous year, according to lastminute.com. With rules regarding quarantine and testing changing on a daily basis, travellers have been reluctant to book too far ahead to avoid losing out financially and dealing with the disappointment and admin of a cancelled holiday, a mindset that is likely to continue into next year.

8. Carbon-negative travel

We’re more conscious than ever of our impact on the planet, and with new ways to offset the emissions of a trip, travellers are getting savvy about their carbon footprints. Carbon offsetting startup C Free allows users to offset a one-off amount or sign up to become entirely carbon neutral, while Climeworks uses pioneering direct air capture technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere on behalf of its subscribers.

Both encourage consumers to reduce their footprint first and foremost, and offset any unavoidable emissions.

A heightened awareness of the communities we impact when we travel has inspired innovators and organisations to find new ways to bridge the gap between the two. From Invisible Cities, which trains people that have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides, to Tastemakers Africa, which connects travellers to the culture of African diaspora in a mutually beneficial approach, it’s easier than ever for travellers to engage with local communities in a positive way.

6. Budget travel

Following a financially challenging year for many, travelling off-peak and off-piste is more essential than ever. Areas such as the Baltic States will appeal for their cheaper cities, stunning scenery and short journey times, and holidaymakers are likely to delay summer holidays to make the most of ‘shoulder season’, when prices drop and there’s the added benefit of fewer crowds.

5. Boutique boats

Thousands of passengers contracted Covid-19 on large cruise ships this year (700 tested positive on one ship alone), which has elevated the appeal of small-scall, boutique boats. Fewer passengers means less risk, and many new charters are environmentally sound such as carbon-neutral Ecoventura in the Galapagos or Amadeus River Cruises which works to reduce water and energy wastage. A shift towards river cruises – rather than ocean liners – follows an increased number of sophisticated vessels that offer flexible itineraries.

4. Virtual travel

When museums and galleries had to close their doors under Covid restrictions, many turned to virtual reality to offer online tours and cultural experiences. No longer something reserved for sci-fi movies, VR is making waves in the commercial travel industry too, with technology like the Oculus Rift headset transporting you to global destinations from your home. The tech is a long way off replacing the IRL experiences travel provides, such as sampling local food or meeting new people, but it may well encourage a ‘try before you buy’ mindset for first-time visitors.

3. The big blow-out

We’ve all been denied festivals, birthdays, hen-dos, weddings, holidays and big group get-togethers – who isn’t itching for a good, old-fashioned (if you can call 2019 old-fashioned) knees-up? Places that throw a good party (think Ibiza, Berlin, Mykonos) will see a spike as a result, and anywhere with a strong clubbing scene is likely to draw a serious crowd to the dancefloor, but with families congregating for the first time in months and a backlog of delayed celebrations, the multi-generational trip will take flight, too.

2. Wellness

Nobody quite knows what the long-lasting effect of Covid-19 (and the resulting pandemic) will have on people physically and emotionally, making wellness destinations a smart choice for a truly restorative break. The Bürgenstock Resort Lake Lucerne in Switzerland has already launched a Covid recovery programme, and Ibiza’s Tír na nÓg Regenerative Centre has designed an immune-boosting retreat. Whether you need to digitally detox, meditate yourself mindful or simply relax with a full body massage, a spa weekend might do just the trick.

1. Workations

Working from home has become the norm – but working from someone else’s home, or a hotel, is a brilliant way to make the most of your annual leave, benefit the environment by taking a longer trip and simply have a change of scene. Airbnb is offering discounts on month-long stays, Punta Vitality in Croatia has restructured rooms to include a home office with their WFH package, Sugar Beach in St Lucia offers remote working with a sea view and several London hotels like the Rosewood and the Bulgari are doing special offers. Our pro tip? If you still need to keep office hours, be mindful of timezones, or you’ll end up missing out on everything your new commute has to offer.

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