Our founder and CEO, Nicole Smith, takes a look at what we can expect over the next year in travel.

It’s the million-dollar question we all want to know: Exactly WHEN can I hop on a plane to Paris/Tokyo/Dubai (insert your destination here)? As we hunker down at home — waiting for our coronavirus vaccinations, for international borders to open, and the sweet relief that travel is finally safe again — all we can do right now is mentally transport ourselves into our pre-Covid travel dreams.

As you probably know, travel was one of the first industries affected by the pandemic and will likely be one of the last to recover. Flytographer was definitely hit hard with the travel restrictions, and you can read how we pivoted in 2020 to ride out the storm. Did you know that “travel and tourism generate 1 in 10 of the world’s jobs,” according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)? So many livelihoods depend on the swift recovery of this industry, and there are a lot of people working hard to ensure we can get back to travelling safely as soon as possible.

As a founder in the travel space, I’ve been thinking a lot about 2021 and trying to predict what’s in store for travel in the next 12 months. Looking at our customer data and industry trends, I have a few predictions … but let’s be real … no one truly knows for sure at this point. All we do know is that travel will not look the same as it did in a pre-COVID world.

Saying that, here’s what’s been on my mind for the future of the travel industry for the next 12 months:

1. Domestic travel and staycations will remain a popular choice until fall.

Many people explored their own communities or did short road trips in 2020 and it’s amazing what can be discovered in your own backyard. We saw many opt for “hometown” photo shoots at a local beach, park or iconic landmark in their city. Others opted for short road trips. Although 90% of our customers are American and Canadian travellers, for the last 7 years our most-booked city in the world has been Paris — by a lot! Last year, however, it was Jackson Hole, WY that grabbed the #1 spot from the City of Lights … and even more surprising for us as we had only added this location in October 2019, right before the pandemic hit! In Canada, our most booked location was the incredible beaches of Tofino, BC. Given that children may not even be eligible for vaccines until the fall, I predict many families will continue to stay closer to home or do road trips again this summer. Personally, I am already planning a week at a nearby lake and will be a forever fan of #lakelife — especially with teenage boys!

2. Tropical and rural destinations will boom first.

Raise your hand if you are feeling the January blues! For many of us it’s dark, cold, grey — and to top it off, we are cooped up at home missing human connection. Close your eyes for a minute … doesn’t a tropical beach sound pretty amazing right about now? I loved visiting big cities in the past (Dubai was next on my list until Covid), but right about now, I am definitely leaning more towards either a tropical beach or wide-open rural spaces to hit that reset button. Other people seem to have a similar train of thought: Forbes shared research that, “the most searched destinations for winter 2021 include the Florida Keys, FL; the Smoky Mountains, TN, and NC; Naples, FL; Lake Tahoe, CA and Maui, HI. In contrast, destinations known for their bustling nightlife, such as Manhattan, NY, and New Orleans, LA, have been slower to recover in terms of travel interest. In 2020, search data already showed that nearly 90% of overall searches were for trips to rural areas.” Seems like we all need a mental break with some space to breathe.

3. Increase in multi-generational trips.

With families separated for long stretches at a time since March 2020, the first trip many will take will be to see the loved ones they’ve been missing. Grandparents and grandkids, eager for time together (and equally excited to escape their own homes), will opt for safe “third places” to meet up where a reunion and vacation can both happen. Multigen trips were on the rise before Covid hit, but we noticed a massive drop in 2020 — which is a good thing, as it meant people were socially distancing within their bubbles to keep everyone safe. But once travel starts to re-open, I predict a surge in these trips, as we’ve all come to realize what’s important and families prioritize creating closer bonds and lasting memories through travel. Over the past 7 years, Maui has been our top spot for multi-generational photo shoots, so it will be interesting to see if that trend continues later this year. I know my mom is looking forward to taking all the kids and grandkids to Disneyland once it’s safe. A family ride on the Incredi-coaster or screaming down Space Mountain are priceless memories that will last a lifetime.

4. Acceleration of bucket-list trip planning.

Be honest, how many times have you Googled plane ticket prices? If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that everything can change in a New York minute. Putting it off for a future date when nothing in life is guaranteed feels like too big of a risk. Planning that dream trip will move up everyone’s priority list. Even if it’s a year or more away, it feels good to start planning now so it actually happens when global travel opens up. Some of the most-searched bucket-list destinations are, according to Forbes, “Aruba (+2,298%), Santorini, Greece (+945%), St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands (+665%), Bali, Indonesia (+294%) and Naples, Italy (+207%).”  I predict that international trips will slowly start in the summer and ramp up in the fall after a majority of people are vaccinated and more borders start to re-open. I really hope so, as our global photographers are so excited to get back to work — they truly miss showing customers around their cities and capturing your vacation memories!

One thing we do know for sure is the pent-up demand for leisure travel is massive and only growing by the day. With many cities on lockdown, and people feeling cabin fever, it feels good to imagine SOMETHING to look forward to on the calendar — even if it’s still a little ways in the future. Most of us now have a lot of extra vacation days accrued, and in a post-Covid world, we will appreciate spending those days more than we ever could have imagined. Whether it’s a local adventure, road trip or holding out for that tropical getaway or bucket-list international trip later this year, so many of us have travel in our DNA and we can’t wait to live out our adventures near and far … especially with those loved ones we have been missing!

For me personally, there are three adventures that fill my daydreams (hey, making up for lost time!):

  1. Family trip: Taking my sons to an NBA game, sitting in the stadium cheering the team on, listening to the music, and feeling the energy of the crowd. 
  2. Restore trip: Swimming, reading, napping and Mai Tai’ing in (where else?) Maui!
  3. Bucket-list trip: Exploring Sicily and Puglia (ideally at Flytographer’s next Global Meetup).

What are your predictions for 2021? What places are you daydreaming about? I’d love to know! Find our Instagram post here and drop your thoughts.

Oh, the places we’ll go (as soon as we can)! 

Nicole ❤️