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Post-Pandemic Travel Trends to Watch For

May 21, 2021

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From the future of air travel to the top travel destinations, let’s look at the tourism trends to expect as pandemic travel restrictions ease.

Trips Will Focus on Outdoor Activities

Domestic nature escapes will likely increase. While air travel is considered relatively safe, COVID restrictions in other countries, plus the possibility of outbreaks, means that people will be traveling more in their home countries. predicts that these increased domestic trips will skew toward outdoor experiences, so we should expect a rise in tourism at the state and national parks all across the United States.

But while the demand to visit national parks will be on the rise, we're likely to see reduced crowds. And this could save America's national parks, which had the persistent problem of overcrowding before the pandemic hit. The coronavirus forced popular places such as California's Yosemite National Park to institute reservation systems and limit the number of visitors they receive. Those systems are likely to become permanent, so be sure to check if you need a reservation before you set off to visit a national park.

Vaccine Passports Will be a Thing

This is a controversial one, with privacy rights advocates arguing that making one's ability to travel contingent on their willingness to release medical records is too intrusive. A recent Gallup poll found that only 57% of American adults support requiring vaccinations for air travel. Only 44% support it for staying in a hotel and just 40% agree that vaccinations should be required for indoor dining at a restaurant. But the European Union has been vocal about its intention for a vaccine-passport system so we'll probably have them in some form despite the objections of Americans.

TripAdvisor Predicts Where We'll Be

Earlier this year, TripAdvisor put together a travel-trend report gauging where they think travel is headed as the world rebounds from COVID. Here are the top takeaways:

  • There won't be a boom in international travel, but it will hold steady. Of the travelers who were surveyed about international travel, 47% of them say they intend to go abroad in 2021. Countries with successful vaccine programs will be the most visited; the United States and Australia top the list.
  • Domestic travel will dominate. At the start of 2021, about 70% of people booking travel through TripAdvisor were booking domestic trips for their summer travels.
  • People are hungry to travel. The lockdowns of 2020 have prompted people to put more focus on future trips, with about 75% of people surveyed saying they're spending more time on selecting their destinations and accommodations than they did during pre-COVID days.
  • The take-out food trend will continue. But in-person dining isn't likely to suffer as a result. Survey respondents say they will do both more restaurant dining and order more take-out than they did in 2020.

America’s Families Will Hit the Road

Vrbo, the popular online vacation rental site, put together a travel trend report. They say family vacations will return in a big way. Or at least people want them to, with a whopping 82% of families saying that they have travel plans for 2021. A majority of those, 59%, say they will probably drive to their next destination instead of fly. Where will they go? Vrbo’s Top 5 Drivable U.S. Destinations for 2021 are:

  • Broken Bow, Oklahoma. For visiting Beavers Bend State Park, boating on Broken Bow Lake, and fishing at Lower Mountain Fork River.
  • Boone, North Carolina. For exploring the many wonders of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • Naples, Florida. For golf and relaxing along the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Miramar and Rosemary Beach, Florida. Two seaside spots you don't want to miss.
  • Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The twin towns sit at the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

As for the future of drivable destinations, Vrbo’s top emerging destinations in the United States are:

  • Emory, Texas. About a 90-minute drive from Dallas, Emory is nestled between two of the most popular lakes in Texas: Lake Fork Reservoir and Lake Tawakoni.
  • Smithville, Missouri. Just beyond the outskirts of Kansas City, Smithville sits on the shore of idyllic Smithville Lake, surrounded by acres of natural beauty for hiking, biking, camping, and other outdoor activities of all kinds.
  • Slade, Kentucky. About an hour's drive from Lexington, Slade is tucked into the unspoiled Red River Gorge Geological Area, with forested mountainsides and dramatic valleys.
  • The Outer Banks, North Carolina. The barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina have long welcomed visitors with their pristine beaches that offer windsurfing, snorkeling, and the chance to see some of the area's famed wild horses.
  • Mannford, Oklahoma. A 30-minute drive from Tulsa delivers you to Mannford, alongside Keystone Lake and dubbed the "Striped Bass Capital of the World."

It may be a while before international travel completely returns to pre-pandemic norms. But global travel will normalize and you will be able to visit the best places to travel once again.

Written by William McCleary for Knockaround.

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