September 11, 2020

Since our last update, the U.S. State Department lifted its international ‘Do Not Travel’ advisory, which is an encouraging sign for the travel industry. We are also now officially in Stretch Season, extending the traditional summer travel season well past Labor Day into fall. Our research shows there is huge pent-up travel demand, and as Americans become more comfortable with venturing out – combined with the continuation of remote work and learning – fall becomes an opportune time to make up for lost travel experiences. Remote work and learning also make midweek and weeklong stays, times typically less expensive to travel than weekends, more feasible than in years past. In fact, 54% of travelers say that they are more likely to travel in the fall this year than in previous years, and 64% of travelers expect to take a leisure trip within the next six months. (Source: MMGY Travel Intelligence’s Travel Intentions Pulse Survey).

While domestic travel continues to lead the recovery, among Caribbean destinations, St. Lucia has received praise for its low number of coronavirus cases. Unfortunately, European destinations including Spain, France and Germany are spiking again. A few destinations such as Costa Rica have announced new requirements for entry, from international health insurance to COVID-19 antibodies. Meanwhile, NYC is bringing COVID-19 tests to JFK and LaGuardia Airports to prevent inbound travelers from spreading the virus. Despite the positive news, there is still debate about whether travel is responsible during this time, with The New York Times reporting that some are intentionally discreet about their trips for fear of being judged by peers.

Below is a summary of trends and industry shifts that MMGY NJF has compiled from media feedback, widespread coverage and webinars:

  • Now that many schools across the nation have announced virtual learning for this coming year, many families with newly flexible schedules are feeling emboldened to travel. Some brands are leveraging this so-called ‘flexcation’ trend for press, launching special ‘schoolcations’ packages. Four Seasons Punta Mita found success with their “Knowledge for All Seasons” program, which includes everything and more to kick off the school year, from Spanish classes to “study cabanas.” The program has garnered coverage in Forbes, Travel + Leisure, Lonely Planet and more.
  • Cottagecore” – an aesthetic celebrating country lifestyle, from DIY crafting and baking to foraging and picnicking – has gone viral in the pandemic, romanticizing the quarantine experience. Several outlets such as INSIDER, Los Angeles Times, Refinery29 have covered the trend, highlighting how and where to book a “cottagecore”-inspired vacation.
  • Experts are predicting smaller ships to ‘nowhere’ might fortify the cruise industry. According to The Telegraph, ships carrying less than 1,000 passengers made up 90% of cruise bookings over the last month. Carnival made a splash recently by announcing that it is once again setting sail through Europe via AIDA, its German Line, and Costa, which is geared to Italian guests only. Both will offer “cruises to nowhere” with no port stops to limit potential virus spreading.
  • Flexible booking policies are becoming a long-term strategy beyond the age of COVID-19. After United Airlines eliminated change fees for good, competitors like Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines followed suit
  • This year’s annual events and milestones are continuing to be impacted. Tourism-heavy Art Basel, which was originally slated for December, is officially canceled, while the James Beard Foundation announced that it will not award any chefs or restaurant winners for 2020.
  • Outlets are looking to the industry for another round of updates on the future of travel. Condé Nast Traveler just launched their “What’s Next for Travel” newsletter to keep readers informed, as well as a new video series, “Traveler to Traveler,” to highlight noteworthy industry figures who can speak on world issues as they relate to travel.
  • Virtual offerings and social distancing initiatives continue to be stable trends in the media. Goop announced their At-Home Summit. Stars like Eva Longoria and Liev Schreiber partnered with Stella Artois to launch “Hotel Artois At Home,” while several music and film festivals have switched gears to online attendance. The UK’s first socially distanced concert was applauded for its execution. Pier 17 in New York tapped into locals’ itch for a backyard and launched their own “backyard” rentals. Napa Valley’s wineries have debuted “Wine Cabanas” to elevate safety protocols in the region. Skift added “Virtual Pivot” and “Contactless Travel” as new categories in its IDEA Awards for 2020.