The Covid-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down. While there had been signs that the tourism industry was about to pick up this year, along came a second wave of Covid-19. It may be hard to predict what lies ahead, but allow me to gather some thoughts and list my travel trends for 2021.
The word has been popular among hotels attempting to attract guests with special offers after the easing of Covid-19 measures last year. However, the term is not new. According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, “staycation” means a vacation spent at home or nearby. It was used in an advertisement in the Cincinnati Enquirer, an Ohio-based newspaper, on July 18, 1944. The term was also used as a guide of things for Americans to do during World War II by urging people to “take a stay-cation instead of a va-cation, this year”.
Today, hotels have widely integrated staycations into packages and are promoting them as an opportunity to have a vacation in five-star hotels with special offers and discounts.
Also known as the “flight to nowhere”, the service was introduced by EVA Air last August and followed by others, including Royal Brunei, All Nippon Airways, Qantas and Thai Airways.
Although some people thought the gimmick was nonsense, unnecessarily adding carbon emissions in our atmosphere, others, however, liked the idea and seats sold out quickly. For example, 150 tickets for Qantas Airways sold out within 10 minutes when such a deal was announced. Thai Airways caught onto with the trend as well by offering a “holy flight” that took passengers over 99 Buddhist sites in 31 provinces while mantras were chanted along the way in November. The result was successful and the airline had planned to launch another flight during the New Year but that didn’t happen due to the second outbreak.
We may continue to see more flightseeing this year, perhaps with a twist like Singapore Airlines unveiled last year. The airline sold tickets for passengers to enjoy fine dining and facilities aboard its Airbus A380 double-decker superjumbo aircraft while it was parked on the ground.
One does not have to stay in the office or home to work. Again, working remotely is not new but it has become more practical and mainstream during the pandemic. All we need is a reliable and fast internet connection and a laptop, tablet or smartphone. According to a survey by Airbnb, 83% of 1,010 respondents were in favour of relocating as part of a shift towards remote work. In fact, one in five people have relocated during the pandemic either temporarily or permanently. Among those most likely to move to a new location for study or to work remotely are Gen Z and young millennials.
For example, you may consider renting a beachfront accommodation long-term or even spend time on a farm stay where you can be close to nature while still being productive.
Sustainable tourism will remain in the spotlight. As the Covid-19 pandemic led to the temporary closure of all national parks last year, a major benefit was nature’s recovery. This led to the idea of closing national parks for a couple of months every year and the topic of carrying capacity of tourists was also raised, leading to a queuing system and quota of visitors per day. Also continuing this year will be the ban of single-use plastics at national parks.
The campaign against single-use plastic products has also been implemented in large hotel chains as well as eco-friendly resorts. As sustainable travellers, we can choose to support those businesses, eat in local restaurants and buy products or services from local communities.
Last but not least is the prospect of a vaccine passport. Since the end of last year, various organisations have introduced a vaccine passport project to facilitate travellers. The idea of having a vaccine record is not new, but instead it has been in use for decades in some countries to ensure travellers are vaccinated against local diseases like yellow fever or cholera before they arrive. They must carry an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, which is also known as the Yellow Card, issued by the World Health Organization.
However, the vaccine passport this time will not be a yellow booklet. It will be a digital format and the information can be shared among related parties, including the traveller, a testing centre, airlines and immigration officers. Leading organisations working on the vaccine passport are the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which plans to launch its IATA Travel Pass and the World Economic Forum and the Commons Project Foundation, that is developing a Common Pass. Even Denmark’s Ministry of Health and the Elderly announced it will launch a vaccine passport for its citizens this year.
Being vaccinated will certainly be the next big thing for travellers to be able to roam the world.