The impact of the coronavirus on our freedom and ability (not to mention our inclination) to travel has been severe. While many of us have been daydreaming about our first post-vaccine vacation, few had dared to explore options until a break in the clouds of uncertainty. Nevertheless, all that pent-up demand had been fermenting and, when the announcement came, exploded in an uplift in online travel-related searches. According to digital travel marketing firm SEO Travel, searches for the term ‘2021 vacation’, for example, immediately soared by almost 150%.
So where are the most popular destinations for that first post-vaccine trip?
Mexico and Domestic Searches Lead Surge
For hopeful U.S. travelers it was Mexico, and more specifically Cancun, that headed the list of searched-for destinations. This was followed by a jump in interest in domestic travel with reliable favorites New York, California, Florida, and Las Vegas taking the top spots. Frustrated vacationers had also been looking for a tropical antidote to the gloom, with search rates for ‘Caribbean vacation’ shooting up 50%.
Being among a select number of destinations still allowing American citizens entry, it’s no surprise that Caribbean islands were popular search terms, together with Belize and Costa Rica, who were also riding high in search results. That said, the perennially popular destinations of Japan and Italy also make the top 10, but are two countries with no immediate plans to open access to US passport holders.
Figures show that we’re doing more than just planning, with many people starting to book future travel. In the 24-hours following the news breaking of the Pfizer vaccine, flight bookings on Skyscanner jumped by 25%, and then another 17% with the announcement of the successful trials of the second Moderna vaccine seven days later. Kayak, too, saw a similar spike, registering a “27% increase in flight searches from the U.S. when compared to the same day one week prior,” affirmed a spokesperson for the popular metasearch engine.
Confidence Grows as Prices Shrink
What’s more, according to Skyscanner’s weekly survey of travelers, a third of Americans believe the global travel situation is improving, and 44% are confident about undertaking international travel in six months or more.
Mark Crossey, U.S. Traveler Expert at Skyscanner, explains “There are some seriously attractive prices on offer for next year, as providers continue to use them coupled with flexible fare policies to encourage bookings. On top of this attractive pricing, providers are taking steps to ensure that travelers can book with confidence. The introduction of flexible bookings, and one-off deals on things like extra baggage mean that you could book your dream trip at a fraction of the cost.”
Travel Measures Eased, but With Conditions
While it is all very exciting news, not just for travel but for many industries blighted by the virus, there’s still some way to go before anything close to normality resumes. Just because there are now several viable vaccines in the pipeline doesn’t mean we’ll automatically be able to fly when restrictions are eased. In the same way that many destinations are currently asking for proof of a negative COVID-19 test, there are already suggestions that airlines will only fly passengers who can show they have been vaccinated.
Alan Joyce, boss of Australia’s biggest carrier Qantas, has stated that the measure would be “a necessity” and that “it’s going to be a common thing, talking to my colleagues in other airlines around the globe.” IATA (the International Air Transport Association) has also said that a ‘digital health pass’, which could include vaccine information, could play a key role in opening borders and reviving the travel industry.
What’s more, although there might be plenty of great deals to entice travel-starved customers in the short term, many predictions point towards traveling becoming more expensive in 2021. The inevitability of fewer flights, together with the continued distancing and sanitation measures while the vaccine is rolled out, will most likely steadily squeeze up fares to most destinations next year. So there might be no better time than now to join the rush, get searching, and snap up a bargain getaway while you still can.
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