March 8, 2021

There seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel – the encouraging news of declining hospitalizations and deaths, and faster vaccine rollouts has American consumers’ confidence of a better 2021 continuing to reign. Of the Americans Skift surveyed in early February, 72% said they would definitely or likely travel in 2021. Last month, the U.S. government also noted that they are looking to hire 6,000 new TSA airport security screeners by summer as progress in vaccinations is projected to lead to an increase in travel. But we must remain vigilant and not forget the looming threat of the rapidly spreading variants circulating the country. Experts say we’re in a race against time to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible over the next couple of weeks. So, the rollout of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and the recent announcement that the president expects the U.S. to have COVID-19 vaccines for all adults by the end of May couldn’t come at a better time.

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

Older Travelers Leading the Wave of New Travel Bookings
As more vaccines become available, everyone is antsy to begin traveling, especially Baby Boomers. One of the first recipient groups of the vaccine, people over the age of 65 are eager to get out of their isolated bubbles. The hospitality and travel industry has seen an increase in hotel bookings as the Baby Boomer generation receives and has completed both doses.  Exclusive Resorts, a luxury hotel collection, reported that more than 50 percent of their current bookings are vacations for members over the age of 60. Many other properties have seen a similar trend and have reported an increase in reservations made with the hotel’s AARP promotional rate. While they may be fully vaccinated, Boomers are still concerned with COVID-19 health guidelines and taking precautions when traveling. 

Summer Travel 2021
As the summer 2021 season approaches, tourist destinations are preparing for a spike in travelers and bookings as people begin to plan their summer vacations. A survey from  Longwoods International showed that 81% of respondents plan to travel in the next six months.  There is, however, a word of caution as this year’s summer travel season will not be the same as pre-COVID times. Social distancing and mask wearing will still be enforced, and visitors should be prepared to show proof of vaccines, as it might be required to enter international waters. Royal Caribbean will set sail out of Israel for the first time this spring since last year, and every passenger and crew member will be required to have been vaccinated. According to TravelPulse and Vacation Renter, popular summer 2021 U.S. destinations include many beach towns throughout the country. Domestic travel is highly encouraged over international travel, especially by car or RV, and the Washington Post states that outdoor destinations are proven to be safer and more popular (think national parks). It is safe to say that summer 2021 will look a little different than 2020, but people need to take safety precautions into consideration when they begin to plan.

The Bike-Sharing and E-Bike Boom
The demand for social distancing and the need for safe accessible public transportation and sustainable travel measures has lent itself to a growing adoption of e-bikes among travelers and local residents in major cities throughout the country. The notion of bike-sharing often called “micromobility” became a safe mode of transportation for many essential workers who were forced to commute during the height of the pandemic. Cities like Chicago, New York City and Miami have seen a spike in ridership for both essential and casual use, with Chicago and Miami planning to add additional bikes to their fleets.  

While most bike-share systems are currently affiliated with cities, entrepreneurs predict a future in private bike shares for hotel guests.  The peer-to-peer bike-sharing platform Spinlister is already developing a private model that would station Rokit E-bikes at a hotel that can then be offered as a guest amenity.

Sustainability Continues to Trend in 2021
With travel on halt for the past 11 months, the environment has benefited greatly from the lack of human movement and fossil fuels emissions. This is a new year for the travel industry as it is slowly starting to ramp back up and travelers will now have a choice to actively contribute to the environmental and the community well-being of the places they visit. There are new sustainable initiatives in place throughout the country to help promote an environmentally friendly future in which travel can also thrive. Examples of those initiatives that have started during the pandemic include Dana Point’s Whale Heritage site designation, which helps travelers identify not only whale-rich areas, but also those that are engaged in conservation, education and cultural celebrations of whales; charging stations along Colorado byways; long-distance biking trips conducted by the Adventure Biking Association (ABA); and clean air travel. There are also partnerships with hospitality brands such as Airbnb to tour carbon capture plants to show travelers a sustainable future. These initiatives will cultivate awareness and appreciation of travelers’ ecological footprints, all while on vacation. 

Everything to Know about Clubhouse
Clubhouse, the audio-only format app that has everyone talking, has over 3 million members in its beta phase and is worth over $1 billion. This new and invite-only application was developed as a space to openly share stories with others and listen to their stories through public and private chats. Furthermore, it offers panel discussions, networking opportunities, and general entertainment for big brands and individuals alike – often described as a 24/7 live podcast radio hybrid. The platform is meant to collaborate and build community versus being competitive. Already, big names like Elon Musk, Robinhood CEO Vladimir Tenev and Mark Zuckerberg have engaged on this platform and generated buzz in the tech industry. The app is encouraging diverse industries to become powerful storytellers and thought leaders. PRNews suggests that companies create policy and procedures around the app and start social listening to monitor target audiences’ conversations.  

If the opportunity arises to join, PR practitioners should get involved with Clubhouse to engage with journalists, network, share their expertise and explore branding possibilities. We recommend joining a mix of rooms, hosting them and making sure to become a member of different groups such as Hospitality Professionals, Hospitality & More, Girls Love Travel and The PR Society.