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What's a 'workcation'? 5 ways the pandemic has changed how we travel

How has the pandemic changed the way we travel? From masks on airplanes to the rise in work vacations, see what is predicted to stick around.
Illustration of woman vacationing in space
What's the future of travel?Katty Huertas / TODAY / Getty Images
/ Source: TMRW

There’s no question the pandemic has shaken up the travel industry, but how much? Below, find out just how different vacations are looking these days and how some changes may persist in the future.

1. Travel agents are becoming popular again

According to research from Travelport, 39% of young travelers ages 18-38 are now more likely to use a travel agency to book their trip.Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images

These days, it’s not just about finding a hotel or flights in the right price range. It seems like almost every destination has different rules and regulations regarding vaccine or testing requirements. “There’s a lot more research required before you book a trip,” said Claire Newell, travel expert, founder and president of Travel Best Bets. “It’s just so difficult to navigate everything now.”

If you want to plan a trip yourself, she recommends using the website covidcontrols.co to find out information (like quarantine rules, masking requirements, infection rates, etc.) about the destination you’re visiting.

But many are finding that working with a travel agent is the easiest route In fact, a recent study by travel technology company Travelport found that 33% of travelers are now more likely to book a trip using a travel agent because of the pandemic.

The research found that it's not only because of the agent's insight about health and safety guidelines — it's also their ability to change a ticket if needed.

2. People are spending more money on flexibility and travel insurance

“We know one thing about this pandemic: It’s constantly changing, and you don’t want to book your travel and be caught if you need to change your plans,” Newell said. She noted that prior to the pandemic, people would be more likely to opt for a lower price for airfare or hotel rooms, regardless of restrictions. These days, she says people will happily pay more to have the flexibility — just in case plans change.

Another trend she’s seeing is people opting for travel insurance. “People realized that you can get sick while you’re away, and with Covid-19 particularly, you can’t get back on a plane without having a negative test, so if you catch it while you’re away, who’s going to cover your cost for those days while you stay and recover?” she said. “So that insurance is really key moving forward.”

3. Workcations are on the rise

This is a pandemic trend we can get behind. ShotPrime / Getty Images

Many people found out they could successfully work remotely during the pandemic; a model that has sparked more workcations. “If you have to log in your eight hours, why not do it from the beach?” Newell said.

A spokesperson for Booking.com told TMRW they predict a significant rise in workcations, where people will combine work and pleasure on trips. Because of that trend, the company has introduced a Work-Friendly Program to highlight relevant lodging properties that meet certain criteria for remote workers (think things like free and reliable WiFi and a dedicated work space in the room).

4. Ethical tourism is more important than ever

The concept of supporting local communities and being cognizant of your impact on the environment you’re visiting has been around for a while. However, Newell said, all of this has come to the forefront because of the pandemic. “I think this is so important moving forward,” she said. “Tourism and hospitality has been impacted so negatively because of this pandemic.

“A lot of people want to help local economies so they’re choosing not to stay in large, multinational, corporate hotels,” she said. “They’re choosing to stay in local hotels and eat at local restaurants and buy from local stores.”

People are also looking for eco-friendly vacations. Research from Booking.com’s Sustainable Travel Report 2021 found that 61% of respondents said the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future.

“It’s so great to see, and I hope it’s a trend that continues to grow,” Newell said.

5. Health and safety protocols will stick around

Masks on airplanes aren't going anywhere anytime soon, according to the experts.Edwin Tan / Getty Images

“There’s no doubt in my mind that proof of vaccination for the foreseeable future is going to make it easier for travelers,” Newell said. “You’re going to have to go through more hoops if you travel and are not vaccinated.”

She also thinks masks on airplanes aren’t going anywhere any time soon. “I think they’ll mandate it for a while, and after that people will adopt that as normal practice.”

As for cruise lines, she believes the health and safety protocols they’ve put in place with the CDC will become the new normal for years to come. “Those were good moves that were probably necessary, and now they’ve become reality. Cruising has lots of loyal followers … I think people appreciate those changes.”

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