According to G Adventures, lockdown has increased a desire to travel, reports travel writer Clodagh Dooley
Recently, I was invited to a virtual travel event with Bruce Poon Tip, author, entrepreneur, pioneer of community tourism and founder of G Adventures. Bruce wrote a short ‘instabook’ back in 2020 called Unlearn: The Year the Earth Stood Still, which shares his hopes for what tourism could look like on the other side of the pandemic.
And now, one year on, Bruce has shared his thoughts about what, if anything, has changed since the start of the pandemic. Leaning on his more than 30 years of experience in the industry as a pioneer of community tourism, Bruce says he believes the industry has ‘hit the bottom’, and for the first time can start to look forward.
He reported that lockdowns have increased wanderlust. A G Adventures survey* found that 67% of British and Irish travellers say lockdowns have made them want to travel more than ever before. As a result, pent-up demand is rapidly building, with 74% of people yet to book their next international holiday, and 50% indicating they are happy to book a holiday less than one month in advance.
Additionally, close to one third (32%) of travellers who are waiting to be vaccinated to travel say they will travel within three months of being vaccinated, rising to 49% for travel within six months of receiving a Covid-19 inoculation, meaning there could be a flurry of bookings as and when vaccines roll out.
Speaking specifically to travel agency partners, Bruce said that after any massive disruption to travel, be it a pandemic or a tsunami, travel agents always emerge as heroes.
“The value of the travel agent is always seen. Travel agents are advocates for their customers. They became even more relevant during this time. The most important thing we can do is educate customers to travel differently on the other side, and travel agents have huge power to do this.
“It’s an exciting time for travel. We have the opportunity to build back differently. Where we were before this pandemic struck isn’t where we should have been as an industry – why fight to get back to normal? Normal wasn’t so great.”
According to G Adventures’ latest survey, British and Irish travellers are hungry for travel and ready to go, but they are also becoming more conscious in terms of where their money goes.
‘Milestone holidays’ and ‘bucket list’ trips are high on the travel agenda, but travellers want to be more purposeful with their holiday choices and to know where their money is going, with 72% of British and Irish travellers wanting their money to benefit local people.
Once-in-a-lifetime trips are attracting a lot of attention, including high-profile hiking tours like Mt Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp and the Inca Trail, with 28% of travellers saying they were keen to take an active tour when they can get back out in the world. Additionally, 36% of people want to head out into nature, presumably as an antidote to lockdown fatigue.
Having hiked the Inca Trail in Peru with G Adventures back in November 2019, ‘purposeful trips’ and ‘active tours’ are definitely factors that will influence my future holiday choices. Not only is the 142km hike to the famous Incan citadel Machu Picchu a rewarding experience both personally and physically, but throughout the trip, my group really got the opportunity to immerse ourselves in local culture. G Adventures are committed to sustainable tourism and developed many initiatives that help to support local communities. For example, we visited Ccaccaccollo, where local women showed us the traditional methods they used to produce textiles made from llama and alpaca wool. We all stocked up on scarves, hats and jumpers to bring on our trek! The whole experience was fantastic and although I travelled solo, I met some great like-minded people, which is another benefit of a tour with G Adventures.
At the virtual event, Bruce was also asked whether he thinks travel will become more expensive post-pandemic. Bruce believes it will be cheaper in the short and long-term. However, noting how travel suppliers are offering discounts and added flexibility at first to get people to book travel again, he believes prices will see a spike in the mid-term once the industry eventually hits its stride. He did stress that this is nothing to worry about, as he expects the booking climate to even out and stabilise in the long-term.
In summarising the current state of travel, Bruce says there are lots of indicators that can be taken as positive signs for the future of travel as we re-emerge from this pandemic.
“People are becoming more purposeful about where they want to go, and they are thinking about why they want to go to a destination rather than thinking about the amenities. It just takes a few people to make a huge difference.
“There has been more change during March than any other month since the pandemic hit. Now we can see the light. Countries are trying hard to open their borders and there is a positive feeling right now. Plus, consumers are talking about travelling again which is also what we need.”
Bruce adds, “At G Adventures we have always embraced change, but change is hard. For the first time, travellers are open to change and, as an entrepreneur, that is really exciting for me.”
For more information on G Adventures, visit gadventures.com
*Results are based on 4,917 responses from G Adventures global consumer panel, including 910 British and Irish. The survey was in-field from February 10th-15th, 2021.
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