When the travel & tourism industry shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it happened quickly. Flights were cancelled and cruise ships were stranded at sea. Countries, cities and ports-of-calls around the world were in a state of chaos and every day brought more confusion. How are we getting home? What are the ever-changing travel restrictions? Will we ever travel again?
And the answer to that last question is yes, of course we will, but there are changes and it will be different since the pandemic. Here’s a rundown of some of those changes:
New COVID-19 safety measures
Vaccinations, health passports and/or proof of a negative COVID-19 tests are key to opening up the world of travel. Currently, Crystal Cruises, Saga Cruises, Victory and American Queen Steamboat Company will require proof of vaccination for all passengers and crew. Virgin Cruise Line just announced it will make vaccine mandatory for all guests. Most other lines are considering ensuring all guests are vaccinated, and will make it mandatory for crew members.
Strict new health, safety and cleaning measures will remain the norm throughout the entire travel industry. Contactless technology, plexiglass dividers, cleaning robots, hospital-grade air filters, electrostatic sprayers sanitizing surfaces, hand sanitizing stations, mask wearing, social distancing and/or additional medical personnel are already in place to ensure travelers’ safety on land, sea and air.
On-site COVID-19 testing will be offered by many hotels and resorts throughout Mexico, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. At the popular Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, a local doctor runs a testing clinic in the lobby, paid for by the property. Hotels are building the cost of testing into room rates as a way to get travelers to book with them now and not wait.
What’s in demand
Luxurious Crystal Cruises will be the first major cruise line back in North America, with weeklong itineraries in the Bahamas this July. American Queen Steamboat Company is scheduled to begin U.S. river sailings in April and just announced “God Bless America” singer Lee Greenwood as the star performer on April, June & December itineraries. And Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruises just announced their first north America sailings in June, a round-trip to the Bahamas.
There is a massive pent-up demand to travel and many people are doubling up or extending upcoming vacations. If you want to go somewhere or see a place you’ve been dreaming about, don’t wait. According to Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Holdings, cruises booked for 2022 are back to 2019 numbers — and 2019 was a record year.
Outdoor road trips and domestic destinations that can be reached via direct flights will remain popular choices for family and summer trips, as will camping, beach, lake, ranch and golf vacations. For local travelers looking for these kind of trips, Allegiant Air flies from HIA and only offers direct flights. In fact, Allegiant is planning to add more routes (and employees) in the near future.
Stress-free and crowdless travel experiences combined with meaningful excursions with local experts are in high demand at home and abroad. Private, after-hour, small group access to iconic attractions that prior to COVID-19 suffered from crowds (think Venice or Dubrovnik) are selling out. Many guided tour companies – Tauck, Insight Vacations, Collette, Luxury Gold, Trafalgar – have already added these type of tours to their 2022 itineraries.
High-priced, all-inclusive, small ship expedition and adventure cruising to the polar regions and off-the-beaten-track itineraries are booking solid through 2022, as are long 45+ day trips and around the world (180+days) cruises. Oceania Cruises’ 180-day world cruise for 2023 became available for booking on January 27 and sold out in less than a day. (Oceania’s 2022 world cruise is also sold out.) Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 143-night 2023 world cruise is also sold out, as is their 2022 world voyage.
Longer river cruises are popular too. Traditional seven-night European river cruise itineraries are expanding due to consumer demand. Viking River Cruises and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises have several 14-21 night sailings on the Danube, Rhine, Mozelle and Rhone rivers. AmaWaterways is launching a 46-night ”Seven River” sailing in 2023 that will take 144 guests through 14 countries on four ships and seven rivers.
It has never been more important to have a trusted relationship with an experienced travel agent. I can’t even begin to tell you all of the travel and tourism changes taking place, even now – a year since the global travel shutdown.
To give you some recent examples: Just a few days ago, Seabourn Cruises, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises cancelled their operations throughout Europe and more through June 31. Cunard (Queen Victoria, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth) cancelled all international departures until this fall – and are introducing “Staycation Sailings” for British guests roundtrip from Southampton into UK coastal waters. And Viking Ocean Cruises just announced limited operation this May with domestic UK voyages to UK residents and past Viking passengers only.
The Canadian government has banned all large cruise ships (200+ passengers) through February 2022, which threw the 2021 Alaska cruise season into a free fall, leaving tens of thousands of booked guests stunned. (Holland America Line and Princess Cruises are planning to offer land-only tours of the state using their network of lodging and tour assets.) It also altered several fall foliage Eastern Canada sailings for this year.
In closing, there will continue to be travel and tourism sales and promotions, but buyer beware – savvy travelers and cruisers have already booked their upcoming trips – and with many tours limiting their number of guests, bookings will be limited.
Don’t forget to make an appointment with a travel agent and remember to pack masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, just in case.
Happy, fun and safe travels to all!
“Let’s Talk Travel with AAA”, hosted by Sandy Fenton, is broadcast Saturdays 11:00am to noon on iHeartRadio’s WHP580. For more information, go to whp580.com and click on the link to “Let’s Talk Travel”.