Will adventures into the most beautiful parts of the world with groups of like-minded people thrive, or is travel now confined to a more solitary experience?
Before COVID, a wide array of companies crafted amazing adventures for like-minded travelers of all kinds. These companies played the roles of travel advisor, itinerary designer, and relationship fosterer, all while creating lifelong memories and pushing boundaries to parts of the world typically off anyone’s radar. Most travelers who have taken part in a group trip tend to value the experience as one of the best things they have ever done, returning home with so many memories and life-long relationships. Yet we’d be remiss not to acknowledge the fact that travel has severely changed due to the pandemic. Many facets of the once-booming industry have been negatively impacted and hurt, and there’s no crystal ball to say which parts will stick around. No matter if you are a group trip aficionado or someone who is intrigued but hasn’t had a chance to partake yet, it’s hard not to wonder if group travel will be a part of the industry that survives and comes out on the other side. Has group travel passed its golden age... or is it just about to start?
Over the past ten months, us travel-hungry globetrotters have wondered when we will once again be able to partake in doing what we love safely - and we don’t mean sitting on your laptop on a Friday night planning an entire imaginary trip based on a cheap flight deal that you found (because let’s face it, we’ve all done that at least once since travel halted). Travel-focused social media groups and forums are overflowing with posts from people who are eager to get back to seeing the world, many even asking for recommendations or advice on trips they are planning or have already booked for the end of this year/early 2021. According to a recent study by Destination Analysts, a travel and tourism market research firm, 75% of American travelers reported having at least tentative trip plans over the next six months, and over 57% of travelers agree that having a trip planned “would make them feel there is something happy to look forward to.” Zapwater Communications, a travel and lifestyle communications agency, says that 65% of those surveyed are looking forward to traveling again both internationally and domestically. What is most important to travelers right now is trusting that they will be able to travel safely and healthily while getting the most out of their trip. Many of us are probably dreaming of our next big trip - where we will go, what we will do, what we will EAT, who we will go with, and most importantly, how we will do it all safely. Is it possible that by combining all of these aspects, this is where the golden age of group travel really takes flight?
The stress-free planning and travel experience draw many people to book this type of trip. With experts behind the scenes building and creating the perfect itinerary, there is no more ending up in a 218-week black hole on your cousin’s friend’s girlfriend’s Instagram trying to figure out what spots she visited on her trip to Italy four years ago. However, in today’s climate, health and safety knowledge is just as important as the ability to put together a rockin’ itinerary. Along with finding the best places to go, these companies will also take much of the stress out of safety concerns by being the ones doing all of the legwork when it comes to vetting the destinations, airlines, accommodations, restaurants, and all of the other pieces of the trip for health and safety precautions. Trip leaders will be well-versed on all requirements and have the ability and knowledge to adapt plans when necessary quickly. Reputable companies with solid vendor relationships will have more access to information on health protocols of hotels, private rentals, and restaurants than an individual would be able to obtain. Precautions would have to be put into place by these companies, such as required pre-departure testing for all participants, a health survey, etc., but a major perk of group travel is once you are on the trip, you are around the same people for the duration of the time. Airlines are racing to develop the best air filtration systems, rental sites such as Airbnb are implementing health and safety badges, and destinations are working on creating safety in their local tourism. Travel as we know it may be changing, but it also may become more sanitary than it’s ever been - and with the proper health protocols and practices put into place, group travel could be just as safe healthwise, if not safer, than solo travel in our current and post-pandemic climate. When you find a company that you trust, whether it’s through recommendations, online reviews, etc., knowing that you have left the details in capable and knowledgeable hands brings a level of comfort and certainty to traveling. Especially in these uncertain times, peace of mind can mean everything.
We travel for experiences. We travel for learning. We travel for connections. These are all things that are cultivated in group travel. It provides a unique experience. A good company will give you a once-in-a-lifetime trip -- there is nothing cookie-cutter mass tourism about it. We learn about cultures, ourselves, and those with whom we spend that amazing time. After this lockdown period, we are all looking for connection, and group trips are the epitome of human connection; friendships made here can last a lifetime. Shared experiences bring us closer together, and stories are told and retold for years to come. In turn, after not being able to do what we love for this extended period of time, from now on, we will be more grateful when the time does come for us to once again explore other cultures, meet new people, and see amazing sights. Maybe from now on, we will use the vacation days we have stored up. Maybe from now on, we will purposefully remind ourselves to appreciate every second of every time we are somewhere new. Whether or not the golden age of group travel is truly about to take off will unfold in the near future, but one thing is for sure -- we at SurfYogaBeer, with seven years and over 100 trips of experience, are betting all our chips on it.
See you on a trip soon,
-The Whole SYB Team
“Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of September 28th”
Travel Agent Central, Matt Turner
“Stats: 65 Percent Of U.S. Travelers Looking Forward To Traveling Again”
Travel Market Report, Daine Taylor
“How are Tour Operators Preparing for a Return to Travel?”
Posted on Sat 26 Dec 2020 · by Katie Bauer