On December 15, we rounded up another inspirational panel for our fourth Retravel Live: The Year Ahead. Our founder, Bruce Poon Tip, was joined by travel experts Lyn Hughes (Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Wanderlust), Joe Diaz (Co-Founder, AFAR Media), and Shannon Stowell (CEO, Adventure Travel Trade Association) for a lively conversation about the return to travel. They shared emerging trends, destination insights, and how we can all put this year’s lessons into practice as Retravel Resolutions for 2021.
Read on as we learn from their answers in our Top 5 takeaways or you can just watch the full event recording shared below.
1. Vaccines are rolling out but is it travel's magic bullet?
The news that the United Kingdom inoculated its first citizen with the COVID-19 vaccine seemed to rouse many from travel planning slumber. Although Lyn swears she didn’t jab anyone personally, she is hearing uplift from higher age groups and seeing ‘bucket list adventures’ return to Wanderlust’s Top 10 site searches.
“The more mature people — the over 50s, the over 60s — are kind of banging the drum to get out there again because, of course, they’ve been the more vulnerable group. With them, it has been the vaccine that will be the deciding factor to get them travelling again.” —Lyn Hughes
While Joe joked that the vaccine’s been a magic bullet for pharmaceutical company stock prices, he also shared sentiments from his readers that they are willing to wait for adventure.
“We should be mindful of the extreme toll that it’s taken on our economies, on our friends and family, all the loss we’ve experienced. So people are recognizing that they can still hold off a little bit before they get out there and let’s do this in a way that’s responsible and respectful for everyone.” —Joe Diaz
“Especially in the US, both the political shift that just occurred and the vaccine are like the two great pieces of news. Us all having gone through months and months of seemingly depressing bad news, that’s been a real boost. [...] We’re hearing that there is huge pent up demand. I don’t think it will recover all the same, it’ll be in fits and starts in different places and different types of activities but absolutely such a better outlook with the recent news.” —Shannon Stowell
2. Is it ethical to travel again? Yes, no and maybe.
With Shannon’s global base of members in mind, Bruce wonders what he’s hearing about the rollout in developing countries where it’s needed most.
“The bits and pieces we’ve heard feel more like the front edge of rumours, and so I’d be hesitant to say I know what’s happening there. It raises new ethical concerns like, let’s say, there’s a bunch of Western travellers that got the vaccine who might even be carrying the virus going to places like you just described, like maybe an emerging destination where the vaccine has not happened yet, that’s an ethical issue we’re going to have to think about. These are things that never could have crossed our minds a year ago. I think it’ll be a rockier start than we think.” —Shannon Stowell
“Other countries are hurting. People’s livelihoods have been lost. I don’t think the full extent of that has been really appreciated by a lot of people. [...] There are all sorts of things not happening because of the lack of tourism. It’s going to be critical that the conscious traveller, the caring traveller does go back out there and travel again because they are needed.” —Lyn Hughes
“There’s so many different sides to it and everyone has to dig deep to match their values to that decision.” —Bruce Poon Tip
“We’re humans. We want black and white. Yes or no. Binary answers. Is it good to travel? Is it responsible to travel or is not? Is it ethical or is it not? We live in a very complex world with lots of different inputs, lots of nuance, and I think it’s incumbent upon all of us [to] make our own personal decisions hopefully in a way that is responsible to our fellow humans and respectful to the planet. —Joe Diaz
3. Adventure travel predicted to lead the way
With predictions on a previous chat being way off, all of our panelists were sheepish about choosing a specific timeframe for travel to fully return. It ranged all the way from first signs in spring, picking up mid-summer, and sectors like air travel not returning to ‘normal’ until 2024.
All agreed that adventure travel would come back the fastest with Shannon pointing out that some activities like whitewater rafting are already crushing it. He added that adventure, nature, wellness and passion-driven travellers like birders, cyclists and climbers will also be out first because it’s part of their identity. The 'when' will all be based on things like level of risk, trust in health and safety protocols, access to open spaces and vaccine progress.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of rocky unevenness going forward. As we look to the back half of 2021, that’s when I think we’ll start to really feel like there’s positive momentum and the lights for all in the industry to turn back on.” —Joe Diaz
“It’s not going to be a smooth curve. [...] I think we’ll see a bit of a spurt from Easter onwards. I think a lot of people in the UK travel trade are saying September is going to be a big month. And then I’ve also heard of companies putting together great trips for 2022 and 2023 that they’re going to start marketing now.” —Lyn Hughes
4. Retravel Resolutions for 2021? Let's look ahead.
Workcations! She’s not planning on going full digital nomad but sees a lot of upside for herself and local communities by working in places like Lake Ohrid in Macedonia for a month. Plus, she plans to travel better and make her travels count.
Be more mindful that travel is a privilege, not a right, which for him means travelling more thoughtfully and fewer trips per year. Plus, he’s not going to sweat the small stuff after learning he can live without a bunch of it.
Using what he’s personally learned this year about sustainable travel to develop a set of questions he can ask suppliers, airlines and hotels. He wants to make sure his dollars have a greater impact on people, communities and the planet.
Was impressed with everyone's deep resolutions and playfully surprised that no one said they're going to work out.
5. All kinds of books and shows fuel destination ideas
Inspired and intrigued by life in the American South after watching Ozarks and reading Hillbilly Elegy.
Determined to go on safari again after watching Waterhole: Africa’s Animal Oasis which tracks a bunch of livecams set up in Mwiba Wildlife Reserve in Tanzania.
Raring to go just about anywhere after reading AFAR’s Around the World in 80 Books. Also, Nigeria and somewhere really quiet after reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Silence by Erling Kagge.
Not currently watching anything as his family’s gone off-grid in Colorado. However, a book that lit up his imagination as a kid is Fatu Hiva by Thor Heyerdahl and he hopes to get to Marquesas Island eventually.
Our mayor of G Adventures and asker of viewer questions is moved after watching Steve McQueen’s new miniseries called Small Axe, following the stories of West Indian immigrants to London in the 1960s and 70s. Plans to go to Notting Hill Carnival if up and running in 2021.
Want to learn more? Watch the whole thing here:
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