Over the past year, the idea of travel has carried a sense of risk, fear, uncertainty and shame. But now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new guidelines on travel and COVID-19, many people are dipping their toes back into trip planning.
Last week, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people may “travel safely” within the United States. Domestic destinations in places like Hawaii and Florida are already seeing small booms in tourism, and that demand is bound to remain high as the vaccine rollout continues.
But people are dreaming about their first post-pandemic trips outside the U.S. as well. Many travel platforms and experts have observed interesting trends when it comes to Americans’ destination goals. Here’s what they’re finding.
Staying Close With Beach Destinations
“I think there is pent up demand for international travel,” Mike Kennedy, co-founder of the travel marketplace Koala, told HuffPost. “Caribbean and Mexico in particular, will likely see a huge uptick in tourism from Americans. It reconciles that sense of wanderlust we’re all feeling without taking too much risk. Flights that aren’t much longer (or in some cases shorter) than domestic flights.”
In January, Koala released a future travel trends report based on Google data, which found that Puerto Rico and Mexico were the top two destinations outside the 50 states generating travel search interest. Others in the top 10 included Jamaica, Aruba, Costa Rica and the Bahamas ― indicating an interest in beach vacations that aren’t too far from home.
The beach craze is consistent with trends we’re already seeing this year among those who opted to travel before the CDC’s announcement.
The hotel price comparison site Trivago reported that the top five destinations on its platform for March 2021 were Las Vegas, Miami Beach, Orlando, Myrtle Beach and Cancun. Trending destinations for U.S. travelers in the “international” category also included Playa del Carmen, Mexico; Playa Bavaro, Dominican Republic; and San Juan, Puerto Rico (though Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, many platforms consider places outside the 50 states to be international destinations).
A Tripadvisor report from mid-March found that the 10 fastest-growing destinations for Americans are Isla Verde, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas; Playa Maroma, Mexico; Tulum, Mexico; Key West, Florida; Key Largo, Florida; Miami Beach; Christiansted, U.S. Virgin Islands; Cruz Bay, U.S. Virgin Islands; and Fort Myers Beach, Florida.
Additionally, Squaremouth travel insurance revealed in March that most of the most popular international destinations for U.S. travelers using the platform are island countries and territories, with Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Costa Rica and Mexico in the top five.
As people start to plan their so-called “revenge travel” to make up for the trips canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear sunshine and relaxation are top of mind.
“We believe travelers will either visit places they’re familiar with, as they’ll find comfort in that familiarity, or seek out new places where they can roam freely and safely,” said Carolyne Doyon, president and CEO of Club Med North America and the Caribbean.
“At Club Med, we’re already seeing increased interest in bookings for our resorts in Florida, the Caribbean and Mexico, with more than 40% of bookings from guests who haven’t stayed with us before or guests who are staying with us for the first time in over three years, and anticipate as travelers continue to feel more comfortable with vaccine distribution more widespread, we’ll eventually see a burst in bookings all throughout the same time period,” she added.
Going Beyond The Western Hemisphere
Still, plenty of would-be travelers are daring to dream of destinations farther afield.
The Maldives, Japan, Greece and Iceland were also on Koala’s top-10 list of trending future travel destinations. Its list of top city and region destinations also included Bora Bora, Paris, Dubai and Bali.
When news of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines’ promising efficacy rates broke in November, travel searches spiked on Skyscanner. International cities like London, Paris, Copenhagen, Madrid and Amsterdam were among the top searches.
But while these destinations may be on people’s minds, they don’t seem to be on their actual travel itineraries. Squaremouth reported in March that the share of travelers buying insurance for trips to Europe has dropped to 8% in 2021, compared to 25%-45% in pre-pandemic years.
This is likely due to a combination of distance and the fact that most European countries still have travel restrictions for U.S. visitors, vaccine rollout has been slow, and increased COVID-19 cases and lockdowns abound. Still, a number of countries across the Atlantic are reportedly allowing (or planning to allow) vaccinated foreign travelers, including Iceland, Cyprus, Estonia and Poland.
Just because you can go somewhere doesn’t necessarily mean you should, however. As the CDC has advised, domestic travel is the name of the game for now ― and only for those who are fully vaccinated.
Even if you do fall into that group, it remains important to take the proper safety precautions wherever you travel. Wear a mask, wash your hands, keep your distance and stay home if you aren’t feeling well. Times like these call for collective responsibility.