February 25, 2022
If you're like most travel professionals, you're breathing a huge sigh of relief now that there finally seems to be some light at the end of the COVID tunnel. You're undoubtedly looking forward to getting back to normal, but you probably also have a lot of questions about what the new normal will bring to the industry. One thing is for sure — some aspects of the old normal will likely be staying in the rearview mirror. Trends in travel come and go all the time, but the pandemic was a game-changer. Fortunately, travel is a resilient industry that's likely to spring back into a new, improved normal. Here's what tour operators, activity providers, and other industry professionals need to know about 21st-century travel trends.
Even as an increasing number of people are rolling up their sleeves for the vaccine and the masks are coming off, COVID anxiety remains a significant driver in today's travel trends. This means that packaged travel experiences don't hold the same appeal that they did prior to the pandemic. The decline of preplanned, packaged travel presents specific challenges for independent tour operators as well as for travel agents. It is likely the group bookings will decrease going forward as people opt for independent travel. Tour operators will have to pivot to meet the needs and preferences of those opting to travel outside of the package tour box.
Today's traveler is more about a customized experience than canned sightseeing, and many are choosing to travel with family and friends instead of signing up for a travel package with strangers. Those in this category typically respond favorably to tours and other activities that offer some sort of discount or other perks for groups of friends and/or family. Keep in mind that this type of group travel typically involves those of differing age and ability ranges, so tour operators may be able to increase their bookings by modifying their tours by making them suitable for a wider demographic.
Exploring areas and attractions within driving distance exploded during the height of the pandemic, and that particular trend is showing no signs of slowing down even as we move into a post-pandemic world. Tour operators will have an opportunity to share their services with a more localized customer base as many travelers continue to limit their travel to domestic locations only.
Although COVID numbers are waning in many parts of the world, the increased awareness of health and wellness issues fueled by the pandemic remains strong. Today's consumers want to know that they're spending money at businesses that put a priority on safety and well-being. Tour operators don't have to mention the pandemic directly to use this as a selling point — simply emphasizing that customers' health and safety is a top priority and providing transparent examples should be enough to appeal to health-conscious consumers.
Opportunities to work remotely have increased substantially as a direct result of the pandemic. Although they aren't really tourists, digital nomads are nonetheless adventurous types with a desire to experience what the locations they're visiting have to offer. This is great news for tour operators because it opens up a whole new customer base for them. Digital nomads typically make travel arrangments via a digital interface, so those hoping to court this demographic should be using state-of-the-art booking technology. They are also interested in meeting digital nomads in real-time, so consider offering a slightly discounted tour just for them.
Traditional business travel is also expected to be on the increase as we move farther into 2022. Tour and activity providers can accommodate these travelers by direct marketing aimed at businesses. Along with a return to classic business trips, many modern corporations are sponsoring company retreats for team-building purposes, and tour operators can capitalize on this by offering specials and discounts aimed at these groups.
A hybrid between digital nomadism and traditional business trips, workations are a 21st-century trend that brings together the best components of both worlds. Longer than the typical business trip, yet shorter than the usual digital nomading commitment, workations involve a time period of about two weeks to two months. These sojourns are negotiated between employees and employers and provide another untapped source of revenue for tour operators.
Today's travelers also want to experience a connection with the community that they're visiting. This opens up a variety of opportunities for tour and activity providers to partner with other area businesses to provide localized package deals. For instance, a tour operator who provides sports fishing opportunities could partner with a local seafood restaurant to provide dinner after the fishing expedition has ended. Tour operators often get inspiration for other pairings from their local chambers of commerce.
All-inclusive vacations have been part of the travel scene for decades, but their popularity is currently growing at an unprecedented rate. Although this may seem like bad news for independent tour and activity providers, all-inclusive resorts are very much aware that their visitors appreciate having community options. Enterprising tour operators should reach out to local all-inclusive destinations about advertising their tour with them.
Booking software is nothing new, but today's post-pandemic travel consumers expect more from the booking experience than their counterparts of the past. The best booking software offers an uncluttered, streamlined interface, multilingual options, accepts a variety of payment processors, and in general reduces the tasks of back end workers. Tour and activity owners should be able to customize their booking software to meet the unique needs of their business. Please feel free to contact Jungelbee for more information on successfully navigating the post-pandemic travel scene.