Last week we spoke of tomorrow’s client, this week, let’s talk about tomorrow’s traveler. Last week was a week of good news for us. The new Johnson & Johnson vaccine received emergency approval and is likely shipping to states as this column is published. As we know, it is a single-dose vaccine and when combined with the other two, we are poised to really get the vaccination effort underway in earnest. And that is great news for the industry and for travelers. And while the pandemic has harmed us in many ways, travelers now have an opportunity to press a reset button. And it is partially up to us to see to it that tomorrow’s traveler does not screw it up.
Hopefully over the past year you have noticed a change in our planet. There are fewer planes in the sky, and less gunk is falling on my white car. In my neck of the woods, the Chesapeake Bay has been clearer than it has in years. The air is cleaner and easier to breathe with so many businesses and factories shut down. Some say that the pandemic was a means to give our planet a breather. And I think I agree.
While the waters and wilds of Alaska were pretty pristine in 2019, I wonder what they will look in 2022 when cruising returns after a two-year hiatus? I am looking forward to seeing the less-polluted canals of Venice when I am able to return. What about Hong Kong Harbor? The smog over Los Angeles? As this pandemic evolves, the damage we have done to our planet over generations is healing, and it is glorious.
I am not a tree-hugger by any stretch of the imagination, but who doesn’t like nice things. When you buy that new car, you take care of it. When you install new carpeting at home and all of a sudden everyone removes their shoes at the front door. You know the drill.
Now, as we exit the pandemic, we have been given a gift of a refreshed planet, and as stewards of that planet, we have a responsibility. As representatives of an industry that sends people to explore our planet, we too have a responsibility.
The pandemic presents an opportunity for all of us to be better travelers, and more conscientious when it comes to the future of travel and the planet.
The larger industry is responding and incorporating more environmentally friendly policies beyond the “we’ll was your sheets only if you ask us to” placards in the bathrooms. And we should also make sure our clients are responsible travelers when they resume.
Ask your clients to think about how they travel. Is there a better way? Instead of a drive to New York, why not take the electrified Amtrak? On a drive vacation, does it make sense to pack bicycles to navigate your destination. Does it make sense to rent them on a non-drive vacation? (Amsterdam I am looking at you here!)
And just as travelers become engaged and aware, so will destinations. And the destinations that are at the forefront of reducing their carbon footprints will likely be the ones to attract tomorrow’s traveler.
Of course, the threat of another virus is around the corner-no one feels it will be another century. So, destinations, hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and everything all the way down to the VRBO property in the boondocks will need to be mindful of sanitation and deep cleaning. The new traveler will expect spare PPE, contactless transactions, modified food and beverage presentation and offerings, and of course proper safety protocols for any employees.
But corners will be cut. All destinations and products will not be able to attract tomorrow’s traveler. Some may have legitimate reasons—do I expect the same level of health safety in the middle of Brazil as I do in Central London? Others may simply be trying to cut costs. There is a lot of wheat and chaff that will be present in the industry for tomorrow’s traveler; and that is exactly why travel professionals are sitting in the catbird seat. We must know the destinations. We must know the policies. We must know the risks. And we must advise accordingly. In the end, tomorrow’s traveler (just like yesterday’s) is ultimately responsible for their own safety; but with the changing environment they will be needing someone to guide them along as they explore a foreign land—or maybe a familiar one. Here is our chance to shine!
Together—travel advisors, destinations, travel suppliers, and tomorrow’s traveler can work together to make out world cleaner and more sustainable. Opportunity awaits and it is a big one. Let’s not screw it up!