Optimism Persists Amid Uncertainty
By Jason Jourdan
After a year in which the World Travel & Tourism Council reported a loss of $4.5 trillion in receipts and witnessed the industry’s contribution to global GDP falling to 49.1%, many pinned their hopes on the Summer of 2021 for a long-awaited recovery. The travel and tourism industry stood as an enduring symbol of the post-quarantine movement to normalcy; even international travel was open for business again! The season is fading, and COVID is taking an encore lap around the world. Is the recovery underway, or has it been stalled?
The warmer months began with promising signs of people emerging from their homes to crowd attractions such as parks, restaurants, bars, theaters, and beaches. COVID-19 safety protocols remained, still would-be travelers felt much-needed relief when returning to their favorite spots and planning vacations.
Earlier in the month, 1,500 travel industry insiders met in Las Vegas for Virtuoso Travel Week. Optimism was on the lips of most attendees as representatives from various segments of the industry touted restarts, new openings, and innovation. Hospitality executives spoke of strong leisure booking and a resurgence in conferences and meetings. As instances of Delta spread, most events are scaling back and limiting attendance instead of canceling. The new luxury cruise line, Explora Journeys, boasted $1 million of pre-sales within a single week for its initial voyage, which isn’t until 2023!
The airlines also reported good news as The Bureau of Transportation Statistics confirmed the number of international passengers increased in 2021 over 2020. U.S. airlines alone carried 304% more passengers in June 2021 than in the previous year. This statistic is 45% fewer when compared to 2019, but the numbers show a worldwide uptick in purchased airline tickets. SmarterTravel recapped the season with its list of the Top 10 Summer 2021 International Destinations:
- Cancun, Mexico
- San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico
- Aruba, Aruba
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands
- Montego Bay, Jamaica
- Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
- Nassau, Bahamas
Spain, France, Great Britain, China, and Mexico had the highest tourist rates in 2021. Even with the looming presence of rising Delta variant cases, the early sign of recovery is doing much to boost consumer confidence. Longwoods International conducted a study regarding Delta and vacations for 2021 and reported only 36% of those surveyed considered postponing their trips over delta-related concerns.
It’s not all sunshine and roses. Americans are masking up, and rescheduling as the threat of new travel bans circle the industry. The Council of the European Union recently removed the United States from its list of safe countries for non-essential travel. Since mid-August, airlines in the U.S. saw declining airline passenger numbers, with leisure travel rates falling to under 2 million. In addition to Europe rolling up its welcome mat, the Delta variant throws a wet blanket on fall travel rates. Despite U.S. airlines continuing to enforce safety measures, the number of reported positive cases is increasing. Delta Airlines (no relation to the variant virus) projects September flight numbers will be down 24.3%. In the meantime, airline employees will continue smiling behind masks, eagerly anticipating their next group of passengers.
The facts are the viral variant is a gloomy cloud delaying a recovery that was off to a promising start. More vacation destinations and countries are implementing new entry requirements and health safety protocols to reduce risk. The CDC recommends tourists get fully vaccinated before planning international trips lest they find themselves on the wrong side of the Delta variant in an unfamiliar land.
A few glimmers of hope exist in the form of lighter policy mandates this go-round, especially when compared to the lockdowns of 2020 and the early months of 2021. This less-heavy approach has many industry insiders bullish on the prospects of a profitable ending for 2021. African Travel, Inc. says 2022 bookings are running 200% ahead of 2019, their best year to date. Group travel is up significantly, with extended families and friends buying out departures for travel tribes.
To take the good with the bad means, travelers must remain vigilant of current health concerns and travel restrictions when considering a trip abroad. Solid data from expert sources like the CDC enables vacationers to make informed decisions just as international travel medical insurance provides necessary healthcare protection on the journey.
Insurance policies are not a balm against every health and safety risk involved with international travel. However, they offer peace of mind coverage and simple, fast, and secure protection should an incident occur. Point Comfort® Travel features benefits that meet the needs of most overseas travelers, including:
- COVID-19 Medical Expense Coverage up to the Policy Maximum
- Emergency Medical Evacuation and Repatriation
- Emergency Medical Reunion
- Return of Minor Child
- Emergency Traveler Assistance
Remain vigilant and make informed travel decisions with simple, fast, and secure coverage from Point Comfort® Travel!
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