After more than a year of restricted, even prohibited, travel due to the pandemic, people are ready to get away. The recent Global Rescue survey revealed that more than half of travelers (53%) expect to travel internationally before the end of the year. Canada, Mexico, Europe, Argentina and South Africa are the leading international destinations travelers plan to visit in the next several months.
Travelers were decidedly clear about what would make them avoid a trip. Assuming international borders are open, travelers are looking to avoid popular or crowded destinations. The avoidance of super spreading locations and events is top of mind for many travelers.
Kirsten Peterson of Peterson Travel Group in Chicago finds guests are seeking private experiences such as smaller hotels, villas and cities, as well as remote locations away from crowds. She says customization is key, as everyone has varying degrees of comfort while traveling.
To increase safety, small group trips and private trips are located at remote venues. “We are seeing family groups and small groups booking out ranch or ski lodge destinations where they can still get out exploring while responsibly keeping in their own small group,” said Kanna Travel Services specialist Kimberly Franke.
Travelers are also making certain the location has sufficient medical facilities, just in case. More than 70% of surveyed travelers reported being fully vaccinated. Nevertheless, COVID-19 infection or quarantine and having an accident remained two of the biggest concerns among travelers, making health care infrastructure an important element for any destination choice.
It is not a surprise coronavirus infection or a related quarantine still leads the list of traveler concerns. But the survey revealed a significant downward shift in the intensity of traveler fear of COVID-19 infection or quarantine, plunging 37% in April compared to January.
In the U.S., Europe and other countries, modern medical facilities are more common and it is easier to get access to a coronavirus testing facility compared to remote or under-developed regions. One component of selecting a travel destination might include making sure the facility aligns with a U.S. Level 1 hospital, which offers a 24-hour emergency department, trauma and surgical services as well as Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation.
Travelers may soon expect long-term health and medical protocols to manage illness or injury. During the first in-person international travel industry conference at the Moon Palace Resort in Cancun, Mexico. Global Rescue assisted with implementing an on-site operation to manage, monitor, support and respond to any disease threat, including COVID-19.
Our experts conducted on-site assessments in advance, developed emergency plans in case of illness or injury and in conjunction with venue partners established group-wide risk management protocols. The result was peace of mind for the 600 participants, on-site staff and visiting journalists. The effort proved that the conference was run safely and successfully, demonstrating that even before many people are vaccinated that such a professional gathering can be done.
The coronavirus pandemic highlighted the necessity of travel protection services that go beyond recovering lost luggage or reimbursing for trip disruption. The survey found 49% of respondents considered medical evacuation services more than twice as important as Cancel For Any Reason trip insurance. Now, when the unexpected happens during travel, travelers want a team of travel intelligence, medical and security experts help from the point of emergency — regardless of destination.
It’s up to government health officials and the travel industry to remove fear and uncertainty to ease the traveler’s mindset. If we can do those things, I can guarantee demand will come surging back.
Scott Hume is VP Operations at Global Rescue, the world’s only integrated travel risk and crisis response provider, overseeing medical, security, and intelligence operations. He supervised thousands of medical and security operations sparked by natural disasters, illnesses, and injuries. A former Army Lieutenant Colonel, he served as an Executive Officer in the National Airborne Operations Center, Chief Operations Officer of the 3rd Brigade 25th Infantry Division, and Company Commander in the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
By Scott Hume