Greetings fellow travelers!

So here we are — one surreal year out.  The evening of March 13, 2020, I made the difficult decision to cancel a 2-week trip to Africa due to depart the next day.  Little did we know quite how much our world would change. 

Yet, I write this message on an upbeat: last week I had my first dose of Moderna vaccine 😊  I remember last fall getting a flu shot at Walgreens and expressing out loud that I couldn’t wait to be sitting in a chair with my sleeve rolled up for a COVID vaccine. Now I am on my way to being fully vaccinated and, like everyone, have cabin fever. I think COVID quarantine has really underscored how important travel is in our lives–all that is brings–and how much we miss it.

If, when, and how to travel is a very individual decisionPersonal and public health are top priorities. But from experience, I know that with careful planning and taking full COVID precautions, people are getting away to be with family, loved ones or just to change it up and explore a jungle or beachFor many it’s a mental health undertaking.

So let’s look BACK and FORWARD

INSIGHTS on how the TRAVEL INDUSTRY has been IMPACTED by COVID-19:

  • 2020 international tourism fell around 80%
  • 2020 travel spending was down in the U.S. 48%  Car travel down 20%
  • U.S. airlines carried 63% fewer passengers in January 2021 than January 2020
  • Travel constitutes a large part of GDP around the world – an average of 10.4% in 2019 but only 3.3% in 2020. There’s an interlinked nature, a boomerang effect, between travel and the wider economy–when one is down the other follows.
  • The entire industry has been hit; particularly smaller enterprises. Of the American jobs lost to the pandemic’s economic fallout, a whopping 65% have been travel-supported jobs.  
  • Most leisure travel for Americans was domestic.  International travel comprised mostly short flights to beach destinations in Mexico, the Caribbean or Central America.
    Sources:  UNWTO, U.S. Travel Association, Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS)

As more of us are vaccinated, and the world cautiously comes out of quarantine, some FUTURE TRENDS:  

American Road Trip  National and state parks offer rejuvenating nature, natural social distancing and a great bang for the buck be it camping, on-site lodge or a luxury boutique hotel. This past year I’ve planned road trips for clients all around the country including Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Great Sand Dunes, Glacier, Rocky Mountain and Zion national parks.

For a truly special adventure, visit the award-winning luxury yet rustic Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge with only 5 cabins and family run for over 50 years.  You’ll be surrounded by pristine Alaska wilderness and abundant wildlife and your visit customized just for you.  This is a great option for a group or family looking to buy out the entire lodge. 

Even more intimate and off-the-beaten path is Kachemak’s sister property Loonsong Lake Lodge that offers a cocoon of privacy and beauty for no more than 4 guests.  The master bedroom was featured in Conde Nast’s full-page “Room with a View” section.

Ranches have become more popular with multi-gen families this past year. Favorites include Lone Mountain Ranch and Paws Up in Montana, and C Lazy U and Vermejo in Colorado where you can be secluded yet together. 

Slow Tourism  Instead of trying to cover many destinations in a few days, we’ll be seeing longer stays in fewer destinations.  This not only reduces medical risk and climate change stressors, but enables you to fully explore where you are and have more meaningful experiences…depth not breadth. 

Sustainability  I’m seeing a growing trend of clients being more sensitive to the health of the planet and how travel can be a positive rather than negative force.  I work with them in choosing properties and companies that go the extra mile to minimize their footprint and support local communities, wildlife and the environment.  This move to slow travel and sustainability will also hopefully drive travelers to more off-the-beaten-track destinations, taking the strain off those places that are being “loved to death.”  

Flexible Terms and Conditions  We’ve seen the travel industry bend over backwards to accommodate these uncertain times: airlines, hotels, tour operators, cruise lines waiving change fees; offering refunds and generous vouchers for future travel; some airlines still blocking seats; and virtually every aspect of travel seeing reduced capacity from hotels to shuttles to tours to minimize COVID transmission. Enhanced hygiene all around.

Travel Insurance   More of my clients are purchasing travel insurance to protect against unforeseen cancellations and interruptions in their travel. Insurance facilitates peace of mind, ease and comfort of travel, protecting your financial investment and medical and safety coverage.

Value of Travel Agent  As conditions remain fluid during the pandemic, I’m hearing more appreciation from travelers that they are working with a travel agent.  We keep up with the ever-changing landscape of country and hotel closures and openings, cruise cancellations and COVID requirements.  We can seek creative options to help you through your travel decisions. And most importantly are there for you from initial planning through whatever may transpire.  I’ve changed some clients’ travel plans multiple times this past year.

Promotions  While COVID is still a major concern when considering if and where to travel, for Americans who have been fully vaccinated, many countries are opening up such as Belize, Ecuador, Peru and Iceland jut in the last week. With smarts and exercising COVID precautions travel can be great. Do keep in mind, currently, everyone including U.S. citizens must present a negative COVID test to enter the U.S.  Many overseas accommodations are offering assistance with test taking or even complementary tests onsite.

For those who choose to travel, great opportunities abound as the industry encourages people to safely venture out. 

A perennial client favorite, Devil’s Thumb Ranch, 75-miles west of Denver in the mountains, offers a free night stay and acres of land to enjoy all year long.

Several Four Seasons Resorts have free night promotions. As a preferred partner with Four Seasons, I have stayed in so many different properties around the world from urban to way remote! Check with me on current promotions and Virtuoso amenities.

Another favorite is Chablé Yucatan in the countryside near the historic city of Mérida, MX. The area is rich in the culture of the Mayan people both in the past and today.  Ruins, cenotes and haciendas dot this landscape.

While promotions are out there, so is growing demand, and with still limited capacity, many places are filling up. 

As a member of the Virtuoso travel consortium, I offer a range of amenities such as complementary room upgrade, breakfast and resort credit with luxury properties and tour operators around the world, and peace of mind knowing your trip is in good hands so you can focus on the experience. Part of getting away is to unhook, unburden.

So start planning now
I am here whenever you are ready to travel…or to just talk travel.
Whatever the place, circumstance, or means —

Happy and Healthy Trails Ahead!

Susan