This article was written by both Claudette Covey and Theresa Norton.
With 2020 thankfully behind us, suppliers are optimistic that the travel industry will continue on its road to recovery from the pandemic in 2021.
Here are some predictions from executives on what they believe the travel landscape will look like this year.
"As we end 2020, we have seen positive signs and a new conversation emerge with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the eventual return to cruise in the U.S," said Holland America Line President Gus Antorcha. "We feel confident that once we receive approvals to operate again our industry will see even stronger demand for cruise bookings."
Antorcha underscored the importance of the line’s ties to the agent community. "An important show of support is that we have extended all 2020 commission agreements into 2021. Another is that we have just finalized our group program and amenities for 2021 and 2022 to support planning family reunions, culinary groups and other affinity interests, especially in bucket-list cruise destinations such as Alaska."
Similarly, Adolfo Perez, senior vice president of global sales and trade marketing, Carnival Cruise Line, said the company will "rely heavily on our travel advisor partners to engage with our guests to guide them through the new procedures as we continue to work with the CDC, and our homeport and port of call communities on our plans to begin sailing again."
While 2020 has been the most "challenging year in our history, we’re looking forward to 2021, which we view as a transitional year as we look to begin a gradual phased-in approach to resume sailing," he said.
Added Drew Daly, general manager and senior vice president of Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., "Our 2021 numbers are already very strong, particularly later in the year. The recent developments about a possible vaccine is promising news and encouraging for all of the pent-up demand. When protocols are announced with more clarity, people will feel more comfortable with booking a cruise vacation."
"In terms of destinations, we are seeing encouraging pick-up across our collection of resorts in Mexico and the Dominican Republic," said Kevin Froemming, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Playa Hotels & Resorts. "More and more air carriers are announcing restored, expanded and new routes into these destinations."
In a panel discussion during the Los Cabos Virtual Summit in November, ALG Vacations (ALGV) President Ray Snisky noted that to assess which destinations are faring the best during COVID-19, "we need to follow where air capacity is moving." He said, "one of the areas that jumps off the page" are such Mexico beach destinations as Los Cabos and Cancun.
ALGV added charter flights out of Chicago and St. Louis back into Cancun this summer, and Snisky said he was "shocked at how well they performed," noting that "their utilization was north of" 85 percent. "We’ve been able to build that back up, and we have a rather robust schedule going into 2021, he said.
For Playa, its Hyatt Zilara, Hyatt Ziva and Hilton All-Inclusive branded properties across Mexico are selling briskly going into 2021. "This is not surprising based on guest feedback and commentary that recognizable brands such as Hyatt and Hilton bring an added level of confidence and security that consumers demand, especially during uncertain times such as the COVID-19 pandemic," Froemming said.
"While no one has a crystal ball, I do know that the majority of our tour operator members are either optimistic or cautiously optimistic for the resumption of business in 2021," said Terry Dale, USTOA president and CEO. "Our Active Members plan to take a destination-by-destination approach to resuming operations around the world and in many ways, domestic travel is – or was pending recent new cases – leading the way to recovery for our members."
Dale said that nearly half its operator members operated tours or packaged travel programs in the second half of this year, "which is pretty remarkable."
He added, "Our members are learning how to operate alongside COVID-19 with all the proper safeguards, precautions and protocols in place. The health and well-being of every traveler has always been a priority for our operator members and we know it will also have a very strong influence on consumer travel decisions next year."
Dale noted that USTOA operators are also seeing demand for small-group tour products. "In a survey last year, our members named small groups as one of the top three travel trends projected to grow the most over the next five years. Given the current climate, we see this continuing to grow in popularity," he said.