More than most industries, travel has been hit desperately hard by the effects of the pandemic. Can it recover? Will it return in the same shape as it was previously? If it did, would that be a good thing?
For the December issue of The Travel Club, we asked a selection of leading figures to look into their crystal balls and offer their thoughts on 2021 and beyond. You can read the full piece by subscribing here, but to give you a taster of what to expect, here are some insightful thoughts from keynote speaker and social media trainer, Shane Dallas.
Has the pandemic changed the way you think about travel or what travel means to you?
No change for me. The biggest impact of Covid-19 has been the postponement of all my travel plans for the year, but the importance of travel itself has not changed. I’ve always considered it an important part of my life, and that is still the same.
Do you think there will be any major paradigm shifts across the travel industry as a whole?
There are already indications that people are more inclined to visit less-travelled destinations or places surrounded by nature. As a result, we could see a decline in people visiting very popular tourism places or cities. Until the memory of Covid-19 fades, some people will be very cautious being in very busy places. Of course, nobody knows how long this will last, but at least in the short and mid term, it is likely that people will opt to travel to places that offer them more space.
Another interesting aspect of the pandemic is that destinations that have historically suffered from overtourism (Venice, for example) are now re-evaluating their tourism strategy. As a result, I think we will see a number of destinations striving to maintain a better balance for their tourism industry.
Do you think there are positives to be taken from the pandemic for the travel industry?
I think the pandemic has given the industry a chance to reassess how they can better operate in the future. Not only the actual travel experience, but the way tourism is managed with a more sustainable and responsible focus, and how they can market and promote themselves too.
There has been much negative press around how travel has been a major factor in the spread of the virus. But do you think travel can be used as a force for good?
Travel has the ability to replace fear and suspicion of different countries and cultures with knowledge and understanding. It brings the world and its people closer together. It doesn’t matter how many books a person reads or documentaries they watch of foreign countries, that experience of sitting in a foreign land, sharing ideas and thoughts with a local person about their part of the world is unmatched by anything else. The more I travel, the more I realise how connected all people are, regardless of their race, religion or culture.
Working in the industry, what has been the biggest struggle you’ve faced in the wake of the pandemic?
Seeing many friends and travel brands suffering has been the biggest struggle. From a personal perspective, I have been very fortunate due to diverse income streams. My family has always had a roof over our head and food on the table. However, there are many others that are not so fortunate, and it has been heartbreaking to witness the pain this pandemic has caused.
Without travel, how have you spent your time this year? Have you made any interesting discoveries in your local area or perhaps about the way you live more generally?
We have taken a very cautious approach to moving around during the pandemic, but have explored a little. We enjoyed our first family staycation here in Nairobi, where we observed the animals at Nairobi National Park. But generally, we have stayed at home most times – although this is usual for us anyway. I cannot see any more travel happening for us until a vaccine arrives.
Have there been any positives this year for you with regards to travel?
Even though for the consumer there may not appear to be much happening in the travel industry, behind the scenes and away from the public gaze, there is still plenty of activity. In addition to my photography, social media, and keynote speaking, I’m Conference Director for TBEX (pronounced t-bex) Europe, Asia and Africa – the world’s largest and oldest B2B conference for travel content creators, including videographers, photographers and bloggers. The team has been working to secure events for 2021 and beyond, and there has been a lot of interest from potential hosts, so this is keeping us busy.
I’m also the founder of #TRLT (The Road Less Travelled) Twitter chat, and we’ve been chatting every week (on Tuesdays) since 5 November 2013. #TRLT has continued throughout this pandemic and it continues to inspire people to pursue their travel dreams when it is safe to travel again.
How do you think people will travel in 2021?
The two determining factors for mass travel next year will be the need for people to feel confident and comfortable. A vaccine will give people both.
Having probes stuck up one’s nose and waiting for PCR tests to ascertain if one has to quarantine for two weeks on arrival in a destination is not a comfortable experience. And the numbers show this – even when countries open their borders, they report an 80%+ drop in tourism arrivals if quarantine and/or PCR tests are possible or required.
Travel bans are unsustainable, PCR tests are unreliable, mandatory quarantine in hotels is resource intensive, and quarantine at home is also unreliable. There is no other feasible option other than a vaccine. But thankfully, with the recent positive news on this front, I think come the second half of 2021 tourism should get back to some form of normal, although it will take a while for vaccines to be available for most of the population.
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