Post-Pandemic Travel Era
Adjusting expectations is the key to a successful Vacation
I just returned from Edge 2022, our national conference with Travel Leaders Network. The major takeaway that I gleaned from all the sessions, all the other travel advisors, all the suppliers: make sure you are prepared for this new season of travel we are in post-Covid. This new era of travel without a lot of the regulations, including the US just dropping their Covid testing requirements, changes the landscape. Many other countries are dropping their regulations, and even some of the cruise ships are dropping requirements for testing, so this really is a new season that we're in moving forward. A lot of you all that have traveled in the last 2 years have experienced some things a little different because you were traveling during Covid which was its own beast. But in this post-Covid world, the travel game has changed again. So I just want to let you in on some insight so you can prepare your expectations and have the best vacation possible!
So the first thing - and you already know this: there's a pent-up demand! Obviously, we all know that we are all desperate to go (literally anywhere) because we haven't been able to for the last two years. You know you're feeling that way, and most likely many other people are in your same boat. Realize there is that pent-up demand and that's going to create a little bit of friction in the travel world.
Pack your Patience
Keep in mind when packing for your next vacation: you need to pack your patience! This industry was so hard hit during Covid: furloughed employees, terminated employees, entrepreneurs who had to pivot into another direction, and some who had to find different careers even. Right now this pent-up demand coinciding with shortages in the workforce creates a scenario where you're going to need to pack your patience. For example with airlines. This is your first realm when beginning your vacation and it's not always the most pleasant. We're constantly seeing airline issues. My flight from Denver a few days ago was a really simple little Southwest flight to Dallas, I was not supposed to deplane which I was super pumped about because Southwest doesn't have seat assignments, so I would be able to shift in Dallas and snatch up the coveted Southwest "first class." Instead, those of us headed to Nashville had to deplane and shift to a plane that had not been used all day - it had been sitting in a hangar, in Dallas heat, all day! It had hardly any airflow and was honestly one of the hottest planes I've been on. Especially thankful we aren't in masks right now on planes, there might have been a revolt. That's one quick example, so just pack your patience - things are probably not always going to go as planned. They never have with travel - there's always been something that came up, some curveball, but expect to wait, expect something to change, and be thankful that we get to travel again!
Plan in Advance
The next step in adjusting expectations for this post-Covid travel world: plan in advance! One of my favorite sessions at EDGE 2022, was my first early morning session with the Hawaii Tourism Board. They always do a fantastic job presenting the most up-to-date information about their destination in a fun and engaging way - yes we got leis and hula dancing at 7 am! The major point they communicated was planning in advance. Activities that used to not require reservations like State Parks or National Park visits now require reservations ahead of time. Some of these entrances you used to be able to drive up and pay, but now advanced reservations are needed. And this goes for more than just Hawaii. I've been telling my Europe clients this summer, if there is something you know for a fact you have to do while you're in destination, go ahead and book it! I know for some people having to make those plans for their vacation ahead of time feels limiting, but the pent-up demand and staff shortages are really causing a log jam.
Prepare for a lot of People
Because of this pent-up demand, we are seeing airports and destinations back at their pre-pandemic levels. If you've been traveling through the pandemic, you've enjoyed less traffic and lower occupancy rates, but those are definitely things of the past. This will be one of the busiest seasons ever, and for many of us we're not used to the crowds. Mentally and emotionally we may not be ready for that yet because we were isolated for so long. So think about the emotional and social toll that is going to take and adjust your expectations accordingly. To be honest, I can't even think of a destination that won't be crowded this summer!
Just last Sunday, I was sitting in a room surrounded by nearly 2,000 travel agents across the country and at midnight, all of our clients were no longer required to test to come back in the United States. It was just an amazing feeling of watching the veil be lifted, surrounded by so many colleagues who have worked tirelessly to survive the travel whims of the last two years. We can see the light and it was such a beautiful moment for all of us to get to celebrate that for our clients and ourselves. Because, let's be honest, many of us aren't just travel agents, but traveling agents. As you move forward and navigate the new normal post-Covid, remember there's pent-up demand, so pack your patience, plan in advance and prepare for a lot of people! But aren't we just grateful for this new season of travel we are in?