In 2020 the world stopped travelling and we found ourselves locked down. But there are plenty of reason to be cheerful about 2021 as Lyn Hughes reveals
Vaccines will potentially be the big gamechanger for people to be confident enough about travelling again. And, conversely, for countries and hotels to be confident enough to welcome visitors back. Will this mean vaccination passports being introduced and it being a condition of getting on a plane, joining a trip or crossing a border? That we don’t know yet, but either way the wave of vaccines coming to market is positive news.
Back in 2019 (remember then?) there was much concern about overtourism. We heard horror stories of some of the world’s great sights crammed with tourists, of city neighbourhoods taken over by visitors to such a degree that locals and the businesses that served them were driven out; of cruise ships spewing out huge numbers, many of whom would not spend any money locally and wouldn't necessarily even know where they were.
Meanwhile, one of the most shocking photos to go viral was of a long and very tight queue to get up Mount Everest. And farmers were having to put signs up asking instagrammers not to trample their crops while seeking the perfect photo in a field of lavender or poppies.
It should take a while for anything like those numbers to return. What a joy it will be to visit previously popular destinations and be able to really enjoy them.
The restrictions and concerns around overseas travel have led many of us to explore our own backyards to a much greater degree than before. Indeed, look at the most popular Wanderlust articles of 2020 and the list is dominated by UK walks (the Wanderlust team is based in the UK)
All this has led to travel suppliers having to rethink and in some cases reinvent their offering. Some UK tour operators have introduced domestic trips that mirror the type of tour they would usually run overseas. Locals have introduced experiences to really showcase their destination - everything from foraging to stand up paddle boarding to guided walks. Exploring one’s own country has never been sexier.
What have you missed about travel? I bet it's not so much about the incredible places, the spectacular scenery, the UNESCO sites. Isn’t it about the smaller things? Interactions with local people and getting an insight into their lives. New friends to sit around a bar or campfire with. People watching from a city square café, while also trying to work out what the locals around you are drinking. Navigating public transport. The sense of achievement when you manage to make yourself understood.
All these combine to making the memories that truly linger, and make travel so much more than a ticklist of places. Bring it back on.
We surveyed you, our readers, regularly during the pandemic (thank you if you participated) and the big message that came through again and again was that we intend to truly appreciate our travels when we can go again.
Let’s face it, we had been spoilt. We were free to travel practically anywhere we wanted with only political unrest or natural disasters proving a hindrance. Flights, in real terms, had never been cheaper, meaning we could choose to celebrate birthdays overseas and expect our friends or family to join us. We could dismiss some places as “they’ll always be there when we want to see them.” We could travel spontaneously, on a whim, because of a flight sale or because we were bored.
Now is the time to draw up that wishlist and act on it!
It is believed that tourism is responsible for around 10% of the world’s jobs. Since the pandemic untold livelihoods have been lost. Hotels and restaurants have had to close. Amazing guides have lost their work. Tour companies have had to lay off staff. And then there are all the other businesses that benefit from tourism from artisans making crafts through to transport providers. And the conservation projects, national parks, museums and heritage sites.
As places open back up visitors, especially conscious, caring travellers, will be needed and welcomed as never before. We can feel good about our travels and know that we are putting back just by being there.
Let’s face it, we’re all suffering from pent-up wanderlust. We’ve dreamed of where we would like to go. We’ve watched great travel and wildlife documentaries, sampled some virtual travel events, maybe tried a sofa safari.
But the world is still there. The wildlife-stuffed national parks, the ice-capped mountains, the beautiful waterfalls, the quaint historic towns. So, make sure you are travel-ready. Doublecheck your passport isn't about to run out, research some possible journeys and book some bucket list trips. This wonderful planet of ours is waiting for you.
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