Brownell CEO & President Troy Haas shares his thoughts and personal experiences about the return of travel.
The world is slowly opening up to travelers, and there is a surprising factor that is increasing their comfort and confidence in the travel process: travel itself. The light at the end of the tunnel for the industry that has been most devastated by the pandemic is at long last beginning to shine.
A travel conference put on by SKIFT, the leading business intelligence firm in the travel industry, put the spotlight on the road to recovery. During the conferences, Barry Diller, media mogul and chairman of IAC and Expedia Group, said, “If there is life, there is travel.” He is investing in the recovery with a $1 billion position in MGM Resorts. Diller surmised that travel would return to normal by Spring of 2021 because of people’s innate desire for connection.
However, there is a small but growing population who are ready to venture out sooner.
Southwest surveyed their database and found that 50% were comfortable with the idea of travel. Remarkably, after those surveyed traveled, their confidence in traveling again rose to 80%. This is encouraging data that helps us move from a place of safety to a place of comfort to a place of confidence.
I have traveled a handful of times myself over the past few months and have found the safety precautions implemented by airlines, hotels, and other travelers comforting and, moreover, innovative. I rarely encountered an unmasked face at airports during transit, and I noticed other travelers being generous with distancing. During my stay at Montage Palmetto Bluff, I was impressed with their usage of UV light wands to sanitize documents and high touch surfaces. I can see why Palmetto Bluff was the #1 resort visited by Brownell travelers this summer.
On a trip to Santa Barbara, I was struck by Ritz-Carlton Bacara’s creative use of outdoor space. Activities and dining outdoors felt like it added to the quality of the experience, as opposed to a protocol forced by the pandemic.
And most recently, I attended a socially distanced, small-group conference at Sea Island. Yes, a conference! Again, I was pleasantly surprised at how the COVID innovations actually improved the experience. Golf and ballroom mixers are usually the name of the game at these events, but I was offered a deep-sea fishing experience instead. By it’s nature – small group and fresh air – it was a perfect alternative. Why didn’t we think of these things before?
Anecdotally, the feedback from intrepid Brownell travelers who have traveled by air or visited a hotel in the last couple of months is equally as encouraging. During trips in the United States, Mexico, parts of French Polynesia, and the Caribbean, Brownell Travelers have loved the pivot to more outdoor dining and fresh-air activities. Our advisors have proven to be invaluable resources in helping travelers untangle the complicated web of restrictions and requirements to help our clients make solid destination and experience decisions.
As a “small but mighty” leader in the travel industry, Brownell is cognizant of our role and responsibility in pulling the travel industry out of its death spiral by helping travelers regain confidence. We believe that the right way to do that is by putting our money where our mouth is. We have introduced a series of EDUs, or Educational travel trips, for our staff and network of independent travel advisors. First-hand experiences of everything from transiting airports, to ordering room service, to trying out “COVID-friendly” activities allow us to better advise our travelers on what to expect. An added bonus is we get to beef up our knowledge and recommendations for inspiring domestic destinations that are often overlooked.
As I think back to March of this year, it seems incredible that we advised our clients to stay put. Who could have imagined a travel firm whose very existence depends on planning trips would advise travelers not to travel. It seems equally incredible that after what we’ve experienced over the last six months we now say that it’s ok to get back out there. We understand that travel is impossible for some and too uncomfortable for others. There are travelers in high risk groups, those with loved ones in high risk groups, and those who just aren’t ready without a vaccine or other significant marker. To travelers who identify with those groups, I want to stress that that’s ok too. Under no circumstances should you travel without feeling the confidence and anticipatory joy that comes with experiencing the world.
We will be here for you when you are ready, and we’ll leave the light at the end of the tunnel on for you.