As the COVID pandemic becomes a thing of the past, a large percentage of Baby Boomers have already received vaccinations or will soon. Many are getting ready to travel and are starting to plan future trips.
Taking baby steps
Vaccinated people can now visit their relatives, have gatherings in their homes, and don’t have to be so scared to leave their homes.
According to some booking agents, more older people are planning spring break trips than younger vacationers. They want to sit on sunny beaches, enjoy the warmth, and are ready to travel.
The pandemic taught us valuable lessons. During that time, hardly any of us caught a cold or the flu because we were wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and good hygiene. You should continue with those practices, especially if you have a chronic condition to avoid getting sick and ruining your vacation.
And even though many of us over 60 have been vaccinated you should still take baby steps when it comes to future travel opportunities. Start with local travel in a location where fewer people are around. Instead of planning a trip to a large Metropolitan city, visit a small nearby town with wide-open spaces
Businesses in small towns will be hardest hit by the lack of tourist trade and will need support. Why not jump in your car and take a short road trip that could be 30 minutes or even several hours away from where you live? Visit a wine-region, beach community, forest area, or campground.
If you have an RV, this is the perfect time to take advantage of it. Or, if you love the water, rent a sailboat.
Take advantage of your Senior National Park card and celebrate nature because nothing is as majestic as the National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands.
You may want to avoid booking a stay at a large and bustling resort for a while. A better option would be to book a vacation rental.
If you do stay in a hotel or take a plane, train, or bus, keep wearing your mask and bring sanitizing wipes to clean surfaces.
Have more picnics
We need to be out in the sunshine whenever possible to breathe fresh air and enjoy nature. Continue to support local restaurants and grocery stores and eat your food outside if you can. Enjoy a picnic in a park or other nature spot so you can socialize and social distance at the same time.
American Traveler Trend Forum
I attended an online forum that was hosted by John Golicz, CEO of Travel Adventure Shows. The focus of the forum was what we have to look forward to travel-wise post-pandemic. We listened to panels of experts from travel and tour companies, a statistician, and others who are “in the know” when it comes to travel. They included journalist Peter Greenberg, and Roger Dow, President, and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
It’s expected that everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. In many travel circles, there is talk about instituting a vaccine passport as a better alternative than COVID testing. Testing is not accurate, because you can test negative one day and become exposed to the virus within hours afterward.
All the experts agree – It’s time to get ready to travel and make plans
The travel industry funds communities and welcoming international visitors funds our economy. A thriving travel industry is essential to recovery from the pandemic. In the past year, 500 billion travelers were lost which exacerbated massive unemployment.
Roger Dow, who had 34 years at Marriot Hotels prior to becoming CEO of USTO, is working with Congress and the current administration to implement a 100-day plan to bring back travel both domestically and internationally. They will be providing health and safety guidance to the travel industry. But, in order for it to work, travelers must do their part as well.
That means we need to continue wearing masks, social distance, and practice sanitation protocols. Most experts believe we will still be wearing masks into 2022.
Dow is optimistic that travel will be back by the end of Spring but most travelers will wait to get a vaccine first. Almost 50% of people surveyed believe things will get better soon. With the vaccine roll-out, travel anxiety is easing off.
84% of American travel enthusiasts have made plans and are getting ready to plan their next trip.
What’s up with cruising?
As a demographic, Baby Boomers love to cruise because it’s an easy way to travel. Peter Greenberg hosted the American Travel Trend Forum panel on cruising that included Ellen Bettridge, CEO of Uniworld, Gene Sloan, with The Points Guy, and Peter Knego with Midshipcentury.com.
The question was, “How are we going to cruise again?”
A year ago, the cruise industry was poised for unprecedented growth. All shipyards were working at 100% capacity and they were on an upward trajectory. Back in the days of “The Love Boat” there were only 40 ports. Pre-pandemic there were over 1500.
Cruise ships are spending their downtime making major changes in health and safety protocols. Cruise dates have been pushed back several times due to pandemic spikes. There are currently only a handful of cruise ships at sea but the industry hopes to have many more by fall or winter 2021.
Test crews may go out first which would consist of crew members and volunteers.
River cruising may be the better option at first
River cruising has a better chance of gearing up sooner. According to Bettridge, there is hope for some Christmas Market cruises to board passengers by the end of 2021. The average capacity on a river cruise is about 120 passengers as opposed to 3,000 + on large cruise ships. River cruise ships stay close to land and pay close attention to safety protocols.
They don’t release thousands of tourists into ports of call as large cruise ships do. That eases the anxiety of locals at cruise ship destinations who are afraid of becoming infected by tourists.
Because the passenger size on a river cruise ship is low, it’s easier for fellow passengers to form trust with each other and crews can deal with disease outbreaks without it causing a major disaster.
River cruises are on sale for 2022 but many are already sold out and cruise companies are primed to raise prices. If you want to book a river cruise for the future, do it now. 2023 will go on sale at Uniworld in May. Other lines will be following suit.
Loss of cruise ships
Viable cruise ships that have gone bankrupt, have been sold for scrap including Carnival’s Sovereign of the Seas and Fantaseas. Peter Knego purchases parts of ships and some of these items end up in people’s homes.
Travel companies must earn consumer trust
How cruise ships and other travel companies performed at the onset of the pandemic will be remembered by customers when it comes to how they conducted refunds and rebookings. Many people who paid in advance for trips lost their money when their 60-day refund insurance expired. It’s vitally important to carefully read cruise ship and other travel insurance policies when you book a trip.
Seniors who have dreams of taking what could be their last major cruise or trip, need to make sure their investments are protected.
Travel Safety Tips and Resources from the Department of State
In another forum, also hosted by Travel Adventure Shows, we heard from members of the Department of State who provided information on travel that everyone needs to know, not only directly after the pandemic but anytime.
The State Department was able to help over 100,000 stranded overseas travelers come back to the United States at the onset of the pandemic.
Right now, the main threat to travelers is COVID -19. The State Department relies on experts from the CDC and keeps in touch with them on a daily basis. They still recommend against non-essential travel overseas. However, with the roll-out of the vaccines, and testing, those recommendations may loosen toward the end of 2021.
A COVID test is required before coming back to the US from another country. But it’s important to be prepared financially in the event you can’t come back due to a positive test, illness, or other emergency.
The State Department can provide emergency passports and access to healthcare, but they don’t pay for medical bills, hotel costs, or attorneys to get U.S. citizens out of jail. For instance, marijuana is not legal in many countries and if you’re caught you may go to jail.
STEP – Smart Traveler Enrollment Plan
When you travel overseas make sure to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Plan (STEP) at step.state.gov It’s so important!
This will make it possible for embassies and consulates to get in touch with you in case of an emergency and you can stay connected to them if you need help. STEP is available as an app on Apple devices. Search for “SMART TRAVELER” in your apps.
You can also find more information on what the State Department provides travelers at travel.state.gov/travelsafely. There, you can click on various tabs to find travel advisories and information for every country as well as alerts, passport and VISA info, and other important issues.
You’ll find travel alerts about COVID-19 as well as crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health, natural disasters, time-limited events, and kidnapping. Travel advisory levels are gauged on a scale of 1-4. A “4” means DO NOT TRAVEL. You’ll also see frequent updates on COVID that include border openings and closings.
Follow the State Department in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @travelgov
The importance of bringing back tourism for our economy
I also attended a previous travel conference called the American Travel Trends Forum where top travel experts and statisticians discussed how the travel industry will be bringing back tourism after the pandemic.
Panelists included Peter Greenberg, Emmy Award-Winning Investigative Reporter, and Producer and CBS Travel Editor, Samantha Brown, host of PBS’s Samantha Brown’s Places to Love, Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, Andrew McCarthy, Actor, Director, and Travel Writer, and other top experts.
As we all know, the tourism industry has suffered immensely while we’ve been shuttered up at home. Many people are terrified at the thought of traveling in an airplane or cruise ship. But others, who are die-hard world travelers, are chomping at the bit and ready with their suitcases as soon as they get the go-ahead and borders open up.
The tourism industry affects a huge portion of the economy
According to Roger Dow, there are over 8 million travel industry workers who have been furloughed. But over 100 million jobs connected to ancillary businesses like hotels, restaurants, and local businesses have been impacted.
Bringing back tourism is the link to restarting the economy. Dow says we need to learn from the past and can’t wait for a vaccine.
The fear factor
Remember how terrified people were to travel after 911? After the World Trade Center collapsed, many predicted that travel would never return to normal, but it did. It came back in full force after a few years and will again after the pandemic. Recovery is already underway, and flights are beginning to pick up.
That doesn’t mean Baby Boomers and seniors are going to be jumping on long-haul flights anytime soon. Younger people who are adventurous and not afraid of getting the virus will be first to venture out. Even Samantha Brown says she’s going to be holding back because she has kids and wants to stay safe.
How can we bring back tourism effectively and safely?
Greenberg says we are lacking a coordinated process. “We’re not the ‘United States.’ We’re individual states.”
Travel will mostly be regional and domestic at first with California and New York being the slowest to start up. Most people will limit travel to a 300-mile radius from their home.
International travel will have to wait because most countries and even Hawaii are still imposing a 14-day quarantine that the average person can’t afford.
Cruise vacations will be held back even longer, but in the meantime, cruise companies are implementing strict sanitation standards.
Although airports require masks and do temperature checks, virus testing is sporatic. Testing is not a silver bullet to make travelers feel safe.
Gloria Guevara who is the President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council says, “you can get the virus at the grocery store. There is no guarantee that safety measures will work.” Instead, airlines need to build trust.
Greenberg remarked, “Don’t expect airlines to yank out the middle seat. It isn’t going to happen.“
International travel will mostly be available for people who can afford first-class or business-class seats.
What travelers will be looking for before they leave on a trip
Hotels and attractions are going to have to step up to the plate to bring back tourism. Travelers will want to know how their room is being prepared to gain trust. To do that The WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council) alongside governments, health organizations, and industry associations are instituting safe travel action plans and protocols. #safetravels
Lysol will be the new luxury.Peter Greenberg
Safety will trump luxury when it comes to enticing travelers. Rather than search for deep discounts, look for incentives that guarantee your destination will be clean and safe. Baby Boomers and seniors will be more inclined to stay at large chain hotels rather than AirBnbs or vacation rentals because of the guidelines hotel chains and resorts must adhere to.
Greenberg says that companies should lose the message “We’re all in this together” because people are wondering “What happened to my refund.”
Are you ready to travel yet? Please leave a comment below.