January 20th, 2021

The State of Tourism in a Post-Pandemic World

Written by:

James Handley


The Insider


Following a very difficult 2020 for many of us, pandemic fatigue is rife. 

Whether you’ve been battling the virus on the frontline, or have been locked down at home with little or no contact with the outside world, we are all desperately craving some respite from these dreadful last 10 months.  

A fed-up looking lion - Toby Pheasant

With vaccines currently being rolled out at breakneck speed around the globe, we can all begin to hope that 2021 returns some semblance of normality. We can finally start, albeit tentatively, dreaming big and looking ahead with positivity and confidence.

But what will be the state of tourism once we do start travelling again? What will be left of this industry after such a long period of neglect? What types of holidays will be the first to bounce back? And what can the traveller expect when they do step aboard that first flight destined for distant pastures?

Sundowners at Bilimungwe Bushcamp, Zambia

Below are our predictions for tourism’s recovery this year, and our expectations for the types of measures that will remain in the wake of the pandemic - some of which we think will be permanent. 

While we certainly don’t have a crystal ball, we have written this using all of the information we have analysed through our internal tourism network and other sources. We would be extremely surprised if our predictions were even 70% accurate, and our lawyers have explained that we hold no liability for any misrepresented information 😉.

Tracking rhino on foot from Lengishu House, Kenya

Firstly, the big question: When can we start travelling again?

‘When’ is obviously dependant on a huge number of factors and, very importantly, it is dependent on how compliant we all are to our governments’ guidance aimed at reducing the spread of this devastating virus. 

Here in the UK, with the vaccine program progressing well, we are expecting the blanket local travel restrictions to be lifted during late March. We predict that ‘staycations’ become immensely popular immediately, with short haul travel recommencing during April or May. Depending on the destination country, we do not expect long haul travel to really start moving again until June or July.

Despite the immense pent-up demand, we don’t expect a flood of bookings; we're expecting to see bookings trickle back slowly throughout the year as confidence steadily grows.

Boating safari from Camp Xakanaxa, Botswana

We are expecting similar timeframes for our friends over in Europe and America. In countries with more strict approaches to international travel during the pandemic, such as Australia and New Zealand, we do not expect any fluid movement of people until the end of 2021 at the very earliest.

As we witnessed whilst borders were temporarily open during the pandemic, the travellers that were first to ‘move’ and travel abroad were treated to some absolutely stunning experiences. 

Fynbos safari from Grootbos, South Africa

The first travellers will not only be able to experience the best of their destinations, without the crowds, but they will also benefit from the superb promotions that lodges use to encourage people to book. Put simply: risk tolerant individuals will reap huge benefits.

The protocols and procedures implemented by the lodges we work with ensure that, if you can get to them, your experience will be on the whole unaffected.

Baboon looking on - Toby Pheasant

What can we expect when travel?

While vaccination programmes are making huge progress reducing the number of infected individuals and suppressing the virus, we believe it is in fact accurate testing and containment that will pave the way out of this pandemic. 

Tests will become faster, less intrusive, cheaper, and available in more locations – especially at airports. We also expect the introduction of home testing options to significantly reduce transmissions. Testing will become a standard part of any holiday for the next 12 to 18 months. 

Flying down Namibia's Skeleton Coast - Wilderness

We anticipate some form of immunity passports to be introduced – not that they will become necessarily mandatory for travel, but the document may reduce the need to provide multiple negative tests. This immunity passport model has been proven with Yellow Fever throughout Africa.

Social distancing will remain throughout the year, especially at large scale events and transport hubs. We predict that protocols will remain until a time that the level of transmission is sufficiently low. Testing will enable social distancing to be relaxed, particularly between different groups of guests, reasonably quickly at the lodges and camps that we work with in Africa.

River deck at Thorntree River Lodge, Livingstone

Flexibility across the travel industry will be absolutely vital to reignite trade. The risks from an unexpected outbreak and positive tests will need to be mitigated. This can easily be facilitated through preferential terms and conditions, particularly when it comes to amendments - something that has been integral through the pandemic. We are also expecting brilliant and all-encompassing insurance policies to become available as the insurance market recovers from a very difficult year.

Some changes will be here to stay – we certainly hope that the improved hygiene standards at airports remains extremely high. We also expect that mask wearing in public will become more commonplace, more as a form of courtesy than anything else.

Socially distanced giraffes at Magashi Camp, Rwanda

Where will we be able to travel?

Regrettably, the pandemic has forced the permanent closure of many hotels around the world - the ones that have survived are likely to emerge stronger. Huge thanks are owed to those of you that kept faith with the industry and chose to postpone your booking rather than cancel. It's with your commitment and your upcoming booking in the pipeline that airlines, hotels, lodges and indeed entire wilderness areas have been able to continue to operate. 

We estimate that travel restrictions will continue deep into 2021. Some countries will open quickly, and others much slower, with caution and potentially with additional entry requirements. We predict that the travel corridors the UK introduced in 2020 will be continued for the next 18 months at least. 

Beach seclusion at Miavana Lodge, Madagascar

With the anticipated increase in testing capability, we expect travellers will be able to reduce any enforced quarantine down to just a few days from countries that are not on travel corridor lists.

Despite the incredible work being done by COVAX to ensure vaccine supplies are made available to all nations, many developing countries will be slower to inoculate. We expect that the recovery of tourism to these nations will be slower, which, given that tourism is generally a larger proportion of these countries’ GDP, is hugely unfortunate.

Mkombe's House Lamai, Serengeti National Park

What will be the types of trips to recover first?

As suggested before, we expect the first individuals to travel internationally will be treated to some truly mind-blowing, private experiences. With the oldest demographics being offered a vaccine first, we are anticipating an increase in demand of longer, elaborate ‘grand tour’ style holidays that stay much longer in the destination, and visit multiple areas at a much slower pace. 

This approach is not purely aimed at minimising the number of covid tests during a trip, but also to reduce the overall carbon output of the holiday. Not only will this older demographic be one of the first to regain their confidence post-inoculation, but we expect they will have a healthy travel budget available following very limited trips abroad during 2020. 

Gorilla's at Bwindi Lodge, Uganda

The domestic markets will undoubtedly be the first and fastest to recover, however, internationally, we have already seen an increase in demand for holidays for larger groups (multigenerational family trips, and groups of friends) that have been separated by coronavirus for long periods. There is also a tangible interest in trips to truly wild locations, and holidays that are focussed around sustainability and philanthropy. 

We delve much deeper into our 'Travel Trends for 2021' in this separate blog post.

A solo traveller on Knysna river estuary - James Handley

As we are released unto the world this year, we hope that we all travel with more purpose and conviction, and, most importantly, we all appreciate how lucky we are to have the opportunity to do so.

Moreover, we are seeing that travel businesses and destinations are viewing the post-pandemic recovery as an opportunity to come together and enhance their approach with the common aim of ensuring a sustainable and inclusive future.

Travel is our passion - we are so excited to start creating memorable experiences for you once again.

Thanks for reading,

The Bonamy Travel Team

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