In a welcome change, on Nov. 8 the U.S. is lifting its inbound travel restrictions on foreign air travelers from 33 countries who show both proof of vaccination and proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within three days of departure. The lift of the travel ban has given the domestic tourism industry a boost of optimism, though experts predict that short term growth will largely be driven by leisure tourism with business travel anticipated to begin coming back in 2022.
As the Delta variant recedes, traveler confidence is improving. Communities are becoming more open to welcoming tourists, and residents are feeling safer to travel within and outside their areas. In addition, even with new surges in COVID-19 cases, research shows a majority of travelers do not intend to change their travel plans … especially this holiday season where travel continues to rebound.
The following is a summary of trends and industry shifts that MMGY NJF has compiled from recent media feedback, widespread coverage, industry conferences and webinars:
- Say I Do Somewhere New – After 18 months of postponements, destination weddings are coming back with fervor. Not only are they in demand but couples are going bigger and optimizing their time as much as possible by booking multi-day activities to capitalize on time spent with their guests.
- Travelers Seeking Local Experiences & Connections – Booking.com recently released its customer survey data highlighting key industry insights. Amongst the findings, travelers have a strong preference to continue seeking out authentic ways to connect with the local community while visiting new destinations. Over half (58%) of survey participants indicated it’s important for destinations to give back to the local community and 73% indicated they want to participate in experiences that represent the local culture.
- Brand Loyalties Are Shifting – Data from a recent PwC survey indicates that travelers are foregoing their former brand loyalties in response to better pricing and enticing offers and packages. The survey showed that one out three travelers has tried a new brand since resuming travel. Further, 85% are willing to stay with the new airline provider they’ve switched to, and 76% indicated the same for hotel brands.
- Dotdash Purchases Meredith – In October it was announced that Dotdash, a publishing unit of Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp, reached an agreement to acquire Meredith for $2.7 billion. Meredith includes Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine, Coastal Living and Southern Living in their portfolio. If the deal goes through, the new company will be called Dotdash-Meredith and will be led by Neil Vogel, CEO of Dotdash.
- LGBQT+ Publisher Gray Jones Launches New Travel Publication – Gray Jones Media, which oversees titles such as Bear World, Gayming Magazine and Queer Forty, announced the launch of its fourth publication: Vacationer. Helmed by veteran travel journalist Kwin Mosby, Vacationer will aim to attract 60,000 readers on a monthly basis.
TRENDS IMPACTING THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY
- U.S. to Open Land Border with Mexico and Canada in Early November – The U.S. announced that it will lift the existing land border restrictions with Mexico and Canada for fully vaccinated non-essential travelers beginning in early November. This is the first time the land border has opened since it closed in March 2020.
- Chinese Travelers May Not Be Returning to the U.S. Anytime Soon – For U.S. tour operators, China is a lucrative market, but the anticipation of the November 8th reopening date for the U.S. border does not translate to good news for them. With COVID-19 spikes being linked to tours, the Chinese government imposed restrictions on travel agencies from arranging or promoting outbound tours for groups and individual travelers. Additionally, Beijing has stopped issuing and renewing passports for non-urgent reasons, which includes leisure travel.
- No One is Bound For Bali Despite Reopening – Though Indonesia reopened to international travel in October, not a single flight has yet to arrive in Bali. The New York Times reported that hotels are prepared to accept guests but no one is coming due to the government mandated five-day quarantine. Bali closed to tourism in April 2020 and has suffered significant financial hardships with tourism accounting for roughly half of its economy, leaving many workers desperate for income. With most travelers visiting for just a week, the quarantine is proving to be a major deterrent, and Bali is losing business to neighbors like Thailand, which has no restriction for fully vaccinated travelers, and is allowing children under 12 entry, which Bali has also banned.
- Budget Airline Boom in the U.S. – Aha!, a new budget carrier in the U.S. saw its inaugural flight departing from Reno on October 24. The new regional carrier will serve the western U.S. and is the third budget airline to launch this year. Breeze recently completed Series B funding so it can expand its service, and Avelo, which launched in April, offers seasonal routes from smaller cities with flights starting at just $19.