Our travel tips for 2021

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After such a dreadful year there are soothsayers who say travel will not be as it was before the pandemic. How can it be otherwise?

Grenada in the Caribbean with plenty of space could be a holiday hotspot in 2021..

Even before the pandemic people were questioning how sustainable tourism was. Places like Barcelona, Machu Picchu and Venice were introducing tourism control measures.

In 2020 there was a clamour for tourists and some countries and travel organisations went out of their way to try and encourage people to travel. Airlines offered coronavirus insurance, some destinations provided the same but country lockdowns largely scuppered those plans apart from a few weeks in the summer.

The new strain hit the world and the UK – where the strain was first identified – became a pariah to dozens of nations around the world. The budding shoots of travel withered for Christmas and the first months of 2021.

It meant that domestic holidays – wherever you were in the world – were the big winners but will they be so successful in 2021?

The roll-out of vaccines has given hope and by Easter, many millions of people in the UK, Ireland, Europe and around the world will have been vaccinated. By summer hundreds of millions of people will have received jabs so summer looks distinctly buoyant.

The questions then will be whether people will travel abroad and, secondly, will countries accept all travellers or will they be limited to those who have been vaccinated and can prove it?

as could be desert areas in Tunisia and Morocco

With no more knowledge than others, Just about Travel forecasts that there will be a sharp rise in travel as soon as people and countries feel confident about travel but that only those that have been vaccinated will be allowed entry but that this rule will probably be relaxed for children under a certain  age, say ten or twelve.

We don’t believe that it will be as muted as some forecasters say because vaccinations will bring confidence. That there is a latent desire to travel has been identified time and time again but where will people go? That confidence will upset the thinking of forecasters who have said that visiting friends and relations will be the first area to bounce back followed by short-haul, then long-haul and finally the business market.

Travel and holidays will return to those destinations that can show a low, controlled and strong approach to health hygiene both for visitors and its own people.  Those that provide coronavirus insurance such as the Dominican Republic (but only until April 30th) will attract more tourists than those that do not.

Countries– wherever they are in the world – which are behind the curve in delivering health protocols will be destinations which won’t see such an upturn in visitors. 

As ever, no single type of holiday or destination will be more appealing. Those, for example, that prefer social mixing will still return to beaches and nightlife, city-breaks, safe in the knowledge of the vaccination process and health rules.

…or the deserts of Oman…

It is hard to say what effect the sudden introduction of travel restrictions has had on travellers. Will travellers be wary of travelling to far-flung destinations in case they have to return home at the drop of a hat or will the vaccination process inspire confidence to travel further away?

Our feeling is that vaccinations are key. A country that can show it has vaccinated a large percentage of the population efficiently will attract visitors regardless of the distance holidaymakers will have to undertake.

But there was already a trend for more remote holidays and the pandemic will probably have concentrated in the minds of some holidaymakers that this is the holiday that they would prefer. Walking, rambling, car touring and cycling holidays will only grow in attraction along with those destinations that offer wide open spaces. Bird and animal watching breaks are also likely to grow in numbers as people recall the enjoyment they gor from these two types of break during lockdown.

Glamping, villa rentals, resorts with self-contained units will also see an upturn in numbers but Airbnb? It needs to be able to demonstrate that the health protocols it has introduced are being followed by owners in between lets as do other Airbnb competitors.

Glamping either at home or abroad could be one of the fstest growing types of holiday

Cruises be they river or ocean ones were badly hit in 2020. Cruise companies were unfortunate that despite the health edicts that they implemented cases were still being reported. Whilst many people will return to cruising, if cruise companies are to continue the growth they have enjoyed they are going to have to do more to convince waverers that all is safe. Heavy discounting will convert some but not all.

The attraction of huge cruise ships that can carry 5,000 to 6,000 people may diminish unless cruise companies get health protocols functioning and even then, people – we feel – will opt for smaller vessels.

Staycations will remain a formidable force in the first half of 2021 but may suffer in summer as people head overseas again. Despite Brexit, the fact that travellers to EU countries don’t need a visa and only have to queue up in a separate line will lead pragmatic countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece to try and reduce time lags at airports so Just about Travel, doesn’t see Brexit as much of an impediment to travel particularly as the year wears on.

We still see Spain, France, Portugal and Greece as seeing significant visitor numbers from the UK and Ireland during the summer peak period but a number of holidaymakers will opt for quieter locations be they beach or inland destinations. Places like the coastal region of Alentejo in Portugal which combines, heritage beaches, wine and open spaces a little bit inland but which is much quieter than the Algarve could be a hot spot for those who want to get off the normal tourist track but have many of the benefits. Other places could be the Huelva province on the Costa del la Luz in Spain which is less congested than many other costas, has wildlife appeal as well as beaches and rural tourism.

…as whale or animal watching might well be. This image is off the coast of the Azores

In Northern Europe, touring amongst the Scandinavian countries will grow in popularity because of the wide open spaces (Norway has started readmitting British travellers as from today) and touring the vineyards of Germany could gain in popularity later in the year when the wine festivals take place.

Destinations such as those in the Caribbean like Grenada, Guyana, Belize, British Virgin Islands, St Kitts and Nevis and those with smaller populations per square mile might also do better than more densely population places for certain groups of holidaymakers who will retain their nervousness about travelling to busy places.

Sub-Saharan Africa may attract visitors given most attractions are outdoors but it will all depend on the attitudes by destinations to the pandemic and the perception by holidaymakers of how safe it is.

In North Africa Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt will probably continue to be popular and, in particular, trips into the desert regions will grow in popularity as they can combine adventure breaks, heritage and rural tourism attractions.

One area that should do well is the Middle East. With places like Oman, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah having direct links to many regional airports and being able to offer high-end accommodation combined with desert and heritage forays within a few hours’ drive, vaccine rollouts and high medical protocols, visitor numbers should be higher when the time is right.

Many travel experts are awaiting with bated breath as to whether people will holiday as far as the Far East or South America. Again it will come down to how well countries roll out the vaccines and how airlines treat passengers. The fewer the stopovers the better seems to be what people are wanting.

Australia and New Zealand are generally thought to have handled the pandemic better than many countries. They are also being very cautious about who they let in. It could be some time before the one million visitors from the UK and Ireland can return but when they do, it is likely to be in larger numbers. That is due to the safe and widespread travel opportunities that both countries are seen as providing.

North America, and in particular the USA, has suffered more than many countries during the pandemic but partly that is due to ineptitude on behalf of the Trump administration. If the Biden administration can bring the infection under control then visitors will return and not just those with second homes there. With so many direct flight connections, some states particularly those offering ranch holidays could do well.

This year is likely to be the year of the outdoor holiday at least in the first half of the year. Whether that is abroad or at home depends on the vaccine rollout. That people travelled from as far away as London last week to the Brecon Beacons to see the snow is indicative of a desire to travel even though it meant breaking the rules.

When the time comes, the one thing that Just about Travel is convinced about is that travel won’t just surge but erupt.

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