Tour operators are optimistic about travel. (Photo via den-belitsky / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Article written by Matthew Aubin, associate director of Channel Partnerships at Global Rescue, the leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services.
While officials dip their toes in the water of international travel recovery, travelers are ready to dive into the deep end of travel after a two-year hiatus.
The proof is in the latest record-breaking bookings as reported by travel companies and tour operators.
For example, Ubuntu Travel, a travel agency specializing in luxury African safari tours, marked its biggest month in January of this year for sales since its 2017 founding. Four Points Adventures, a travel company providing guided, safari-style overland tours throughout the remote landscapes of the western U.S., saw its most bookings to date in the last quarter of 2021. And Choose Belize, a booking site and travel company specializing in personalized vacations to Belize, is completely booked for June, July, November and December in 2022.
Despite higher fuel costs, the possibility of new variants and the war on Ukraine, travel confidence is forecasted to remain steadfast. According to tour operators, here are four major reasons why.
Fatigue Outweighs Fear
The world simply isn’t putting off travel as it has been. That’s owed to the prevalence of vaccinations and boosters, but it’s also a product of pent-up demand to travel again.
“They’re just so tired of being locked up and ready to get out,” said Todd Rogers, owner and lead guide of Four Points Adventures. “Maybe a year ago, they would put off trips until a later date. But now, people are more determined than ever to make these trips happen, despite travel complications COVID-19 puts forth.”
Allison Fleece, co-founder of WHOA Travel, a woman-geared adventure travel company, agrees. “Because we lost our freedom to vacation during the pandemic, people aren’t reverting to the usual excuses for not taking a trip,” she said. “The pandemic showed us that life is very precious; now is the time to do these things and take these trips.”
Perfected Peace of Mind
The advent of more flexible travel planning policies has allowed travelers to cancel a trip and feel confident they won’t be hit with hefty fees.
“We have been very pleased with the flexibility offered by our lodge and operating partners in Africa, who have been helpful in rescheduling many trips since the start of the pandemic,” said Jenna Chase, director of operations for Ubuntu Travel.
What is also important for traveler confidence is loud and clear communication from tour operators, travel agents and hospitality managers regarding safety measures.
“We explain to potential guests the setup of our hotel,” said Kjeld Schigt, owner and director of Kalon Surf, a luxury surf camp in Costa Rica. “It’s open-air, there’s a lot of air-flow, you’re in the mountains beside the ocean, there is a lot of sun. Overall, this is a very healthy environment. This is the kind of place you want to be right now.”
Wide-Open Spaces Are Plentiful
According to the January 2022 Global Rescue Traveler Sentiment and Safety survey of worldwide travelers, destination preferences continue to lean toward out-of-the-way places in the open air with fewer people. More than three-quarters of respondents (76 percent) are planning more outdoor, remote travel — a 40 percent increase compared to traveler responses nearly a year ago.
“Belize is a small country without crowds,” said Polly Alford of Choose Belize. “There are many island locations, which, of course, means total isolation, and that’s what people want.”
San Pedro Town and the Belize Barrier Reef beyond on Ambergris Caye, Belize. (photo via iStock/Getty Images Plus/Oli Eva)
Increased Awareness Around Medical Evacuation Services
Travel fears continue to linger, according to the survey. More than half of travelers (52 percent) admit that COVID-19 infection — its variants or quarantine — is still their number one travel fear, followed by trip cancellation (17 percent) and having an accident or sustaining an injury (16 percent).
Travelers are reconciling those concerns with an increase in awareness of, and desire for, medical evacuation services. Specifically, 62 percent of survey respondents — a 17 percent increase compared to the fall of 2021 — identified medical evacuation protection for rescue from point of injury or illness, including COVID-19, as their preferred protection.
“The pandemic raised awareness of the limitations of traditional travel insurance and the value of a stand-alone medical assistance and evacuation safety net,” said Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue, a provider of medical evacuation and travel risk management services. Emergency rescue and evacuation services are often essential, “whether it’s due to a natural disaster, civil unrest, or simply needing emergency help when you’re traveling.”