In early-July, we reached out to our Beautiful Destinations social community of 25 million with a simple question—who is planning on traveling abroad in the next two months?
We were surprised to receive an influx of replies with eager travelers from around the world detailing their plans for their first trip post-COVID. We highlighted eight of these travelers and their plans in an article which can be found here. Many readers expressed doubt that these trips would actually happen. Since the pandemic began, a travel planning new normal has emerged—wishfully booking a trip then rescheduling or canceling as the date approaches, thanks to unprecedented flexibility being offered by hotels and airlines.
3 months later, we reached out to our featured travelers to ask them about their experience.
Did they actually travel? ...And if so, what was it like to venture abroad during a pandemic?
The short answer is yes they did...and the experience was generally positive, but it was not without its challenges. A few key takeaways:
Prepare for curveballs...lots of them. Flexibility and patience are key.
Brigitta from Hungary had her flight to Portugal rescheduled to different days twice just before her trip. Ultimately this led her to move up her trip, rescheduling just four days from departure. It’s a good thing too, because immediately after returning from Portugal, new travel restrictions were put in place in Hungary.
Suzy from the USA had to change hotels in the Bahamas after her original choice closed. The new hotel was supposed to open on July 1st, but that was pushed indefinitely, leading to a last minute AirBnB reservation at a private condo. Even still, her family wasn’t out of the woods yet. Upon arriving, their AirBnB host let them know that the Bahamas was closing its borders to the USA again in three days, meaning they had to leave early to get back without getting stranded. In the end, they were able to stay 5 of the 7 nights that were originally booked.
Safety protocols are widely used and enforced...and aren’t so different from what many are experiencing at home.
Florencia, who traveled to Miami from Barcelona, confirmed that “planes, airports, and trains have safety measures, 98% of people comply with them... customs, baggage claim...security...I haven't experienced anything out of the norm. Hotels and AirBnBs I've stayed in have all been super clean, complying with COVID-19 measures too.”
Brigitta detailed her experience with safety protocols in Portugal:
“At the airport and during the flight we had to wear a mask. When we arrived, we saw many people wearing masks outside the airport, and also in the city streets. At every restaurant and cafe there was always hand sanitizer. At one restaurant they also checked our temperature before entering and we got a plastic bag, where we could store our mask while eating.
At the beach, people maintained distance so we also felt safe there. Our hotel was cleaned daily, and at reception you also needed to wear a mask. On public transportation it was also mandatory to wear a mask—once a tourist did not want to wear one, and the police came and told her to do that.”
Many tourism activities are back up and running...and in some cases are better than ever before.
One of the most frequently cited concerns for potential travelers these days is that they won’t be able to do the activities they had planned on when visiting their destination. For those who like to party at bars and nightclubs, this may be true. But many of our travelers were pleasantly surprised by the tourism experience.
Brigitta noted that “there were less tourists, so we didn’t have to wait for hours to take a ride on the well known tram in Lisbon, or wait to enter the palace in Sintra.”
Similarly, Suzy indicated that it was “wonderfully empty” on most of the dive boats since there were very few tourists.
“We were able to eat out at some popular restaurants around Cable Beach and sit outside on the decks for dinner. We loved that the pool and beach in our condo complex were also very empty.”
Kenneth, traveling to Taiwan from Hong Kong, agreed that it was “quite nice to be able to experience [Taiwan] without the usual crowds,” while Fanny added that “locals were even happier than usual to welcome tourists.”
So, the big question—would these early movers recommend traveling to others right now?
Each one of our travelers was happy with their trip and had a positive overall experience. But answers varied when it comes to if they would recommend traveling right now to others.
Suzy cautioned others around the headaches of traveling in 2020:
“I would NOT recommend booking any international trips right now because COVID-related border closures can change from week to week. The stress is not worth the vacation, even if you feel comfortable with traveling on a plane and staying at hotels in a pandemic. If you have intense wanderlust like me, either road trip somewhere or fly to a domestic destination.”
However, she did note that increased airline flexibility does help with the ever-changing border situations.
Others felt that the headaches were worth it in the end. Nesha, traveling to Jamaica from the USA, said “If you’re ok with stress to get to paradise, GO! Jamaica is still amazing and beautiful.” Fanny also recommended it, but only if you’re willing to make some sacrifices and follow the safety protocols. “In general, I would recommend it if you’re ready to have a more chill time, no partying and [you] are going to respect the rules.”
“I can't wait to make another trip,” Kenneth exclaimed. “There's been talk of a travel bubble opening up and a reduction of quarantine from low risk origins, so I'm hopeful to be able to [do so] in the next couple of months.”
Rob, visiting Tulum from the USA, was the most positive in summing up his experience. “Yeap! Best time ever!”
What you need to know if considering booking a trip in the coming months
These early movers have shed some light on what the new-norm COVID travel looks like, but as they mentioned there are still plenty of challenges for anyone looking to travel in the waning months of 2020. If you are looking to get away, the first step is doing thorough research.
“It is important to read all the information, how you can enter the country, what measures do they have, does it make sense to travel there (or is everything closed at the moment), and of course to follow the rules in order for yourself and others to stay healthy,” said Brigitta.
As always, we recommend referring to CDC and State Department resources (or international equivalents) for country-specific travel info and to abide by guidelines established by local authorities.
Implications for tourism marketers
It’s clear from our respondents that flexibility is highly valued and the trip planning process has changed dramatically. Promoting last minute and spontaneous travel is a bigger opportunity than ever before. Secondly, don’t shy away from highlighting safety protocols. Travelers are becoming accustomed to these measures at home and it’s key information they need before booking a trip. And finally, highlight your wide-open and less crowded tourist attractions. Travelers are thrilled to see familiar destinations in a new, less tracked light. Empty streets and pristine environments are exactly what we are all craving right now.
The travel recovery may be in its infancy, but it’s clear that there are reasons for hope and optimism. We thank our contributors for sharing their perspective and look forward to being a part of the continued progress in safely reopening the world to travel.
About Beautiful Destinations
Rooted in one of the largest social media communities of travelers in the world – 25 million people turn to us daily on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, TikTok – Beautiful Destinations is a full-service travel marketing and media company that helps tourism boards and travel brands navigate the new world of travel. Our mission is to have a positive impact on the world through travel.