The Travel Comeback: Experts Weigh In

You’d be hard pressed to find someone not nursing a major travel itch right now. While some restrictions have been lifted, we still have a ways to go from the world being wide open again. In the meantime, we asked the experts to assess the state of travel today, plus what we can expect from this ever-changing industry at least through the rest of this year.

How and When Travel Will Rebound

The fun has already begun

“We’re already seeing an uptick in travel, particularly in the luxury and resort segment. Resorts with ample outdoors spaces naturally provide the ability for guests to maintain social distance, while still enjoying activities and relaxation. We are seeing particular interest in properties which offer a variety of villa or private residence-style accommodations, where guests can enter directly from the outside. For example, COMO Parrot Cay, a private island resort in the Turks & Caicos has been seeing a steady increase in bookings over the last several months, going from 32% occupancy last October to nearly 85% occupancy currently. Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, has also rebounded splendidly and is at nearly 100% occupancy. Throughout the summer, some of our domestic clients - predominantly those with ample outdoor space and in rural areas - were experiencing greater interest and occupancy than ever. Similarly, we are seeing increased interest in full-floor takeovers, where guests can stay just within their group. Lastly, the testing requirements to reenter the country introduced earlier this year have led to an even great interest in US territories in the Caribbean including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.” -Melanie Brandman, Founder & CEO, Brandman Agency

Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve - Private Infinity Pool

Roaring 2022

“During the Covid pandemic some people collected household goods. Others ignored the warnings altogether. We’re all wired very differently. The same holds true to the comeback of travel. Some travelers are already busy earning those precious airlines points, while others are still holed up at home, vaccinated or not. Ultimately, we will all travel again but at different paces and to destinations within our respective comfort zones. It will be a gradual process till the end of 2021. If the vaccines deliver on their promise and keep their efficacy even with new variants popping up, I believe 2022 will be 'roaring.' All the pent-up demand, the longing for human connection, the hunger for non-home-cooked food will lead to a massive resurgence of domestic and international travel. Reconnecting with family and friends will be a major driver. Wide open spaced and remote locations had their moment during the pandemic. However, 2022 will see the return of big city bustle. Take New York City, its heart never really changed and with the rollout of vaccines, the city’s buzz and excitement will grow exponentially. Broadway will open up again, restaurants will operate at full capacity and large concerts at Madison Square Garden will mark the beginning of a new era.” -Gabriele Sappok, Partner, IMAGINE PR

Pleasure before business

“We can look at the way travel rebounds through two lenses. Business travel will not return as quickly as leisure. As companies and employees have (finally) embraced video conferencing, the days of 24-hour trips to attend one or two short meetings will likely end. I see ‘work from hotel’ programs likely to continue to provide business travelers with more options and amenities. Our client Wythe Hotel had partnered with Industrious early on and many of the larger global hotel brands followed to develop new meaningful offerings. These much-welcomed innovations will be here to stay. People are hungry for leisure travel and there will be an incredible demand after so many people spent the last year cooped up at home. As vaccination rates increase, so will leisure travel bookings. Many seniors who were among the first to be vaccinated are already traveling to reconnect with loved ones and get back to checking adventures off bucket lists. We will see the quickest increase in domestic travel to places that provide great outdoor adventures, like the national parks and beaches. However, international travel will take longer to recover as travel bans remain in place and vaccine passports and rules are confusing.” - Sara Joseph, Senior Vice President, Lifestyle & Travel, BerlinRosen

“Companies that are staying remote this year are organizing really cool get togethers/meetings at resorts for their teams.  This might turn into a quarterly trend for those who are no longer paying rent and now have that discretionary budget to do that.  If I could get out of my office  lease I would take my entire team to a spa resort for three days!” -Laura Davidson, President & Founder, Laura Davidson PR

What Post-Pandemic Travel Looks Like 

What to expect

“Some things that will be different post-pandemic: travelers will be more aware of booking terms and conditions; hotels and domestic destinations that relied heavily on long-distance and international clientele pre-pandemic will continue to value the newly found local and regional markets; the weekend getaway that includes a flight will transform into at least a long weekend getaway that involves some remote work.” -Nestor Lara Baeza, Partner, Xhibition PR

PR & media adapts, too

“Media relations is the cornerstone of PR and the makeup of a firm’s contacts would establish which markets they served. If your firm had primarily US contacts you would be seen as a US agency. However, for those of us in travel PR, we’re starting to see a shift. Before the pandemic, editors would primarily commission or assign US freelance writers to travel stories. We as the publicists would arrange for their travels, more often than not overseas.

When COVID hit and borders closed, US editors had to rethink this strategy. To get around their landlocked writers they started using international writers in the local markets to pen these assignments. This strategy comes with a few benefits. By removing the need to fly writers we’d be reducing carbon emissions, along with saving time and money. For our client, Casa di Langa, a new luxury hotel opening in Piedmont, Italy, they were delighted to hear we’d only have to cover a local train ride, rather than an international flight from the United States. Another benefit is the hyper-local expertise these writers bring to a story in their own backyard. 

Casa di Langa

With that, we’ve had to shift our media relations abroad, upgrade our media database and cast a wider, more international net to secure coverage for our travel clients. In working with international writers, with their own local editors, we can now also secure both US and international coverage. This has allowed us to expand the markets we serve adding UK media relations as a new service offering. With the rollout of vaccines here in the states, US writers will travel and get commissioned international stories again. As a firm, we’ll continue to develop our media relations here at home and overseas.” -Alexandra Avila, Co-founder, REYA Communications

Changing for the better

“I think we will have vaccination passports to travel internationally if they can figure out an app that doesn't compromise consumer privacy.  And people will be wearing masks on planes for a long time to come. Hopefully they will soon have easy, quick Covid tests prior to boarding a plane. Planes, trains, hotels, etc will all be cleaner -- which is a good thing! We won't see "overtourism" for a while, thank goodness, but I do hope people will travel more responsibly in the future and not take travel for granted, like we all did in 2019.” Laura Davidson, President & Founder, Laura Davidson PR

The Role of Mass Vaccination

Introducing the Vaxication

“There's huge pent up demand for travel, and we're seeing several trends emerge this spring, including the rise of vaxications - vacations that are being planned now to be taken once vaccinated. Travelers are feeling optimistic, and in fact, the spring edition of MMGY Global’s Portrait of American Travelers® survey shows traveler sentiment is now back to pre-pandemic levels. Sixty-two percent (62%) of U.S. adults expect to take at least one leisure vacation during the next six months. Domestic travel, including road trips, are the preferred way to travel due to personal safety concerns, and health and safety are heavily influencing decisions on where to go. Another positive indicator for the industry is TSA has reported airport screenings are up as more and more passengers return to domestic air travel.” -Julie Freeman, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, MMGY NJF

More desirable destinations

"Countries with a vaccinated population will be desirable markets for destinations looking to rebuild their tourism industries quickly. We see it in our Israel office, where the country has one of the highest inoculation rates, and new business queries are coming in from destinations that want to reach the Israeli traveler first." -Nestor Lara Baeza, Partner, Xhibition PR

Key Travel Trends to Watch 

Mental and physical wellness offerings 

“Wellness has also become a part of everything. This too was on the rise pre-COVID, and the pandemic has only made it more prominent - from virtual fitness classes, to a prioritization of sleep and self care, thinking of nutrition as medicine and exploring all sorts of outdoor activities. Hotels and resorts are blending the new with the old- so many people have missed in-person spa experiences and can't wait to get a massage, while others now expect in-room fitness options to be a given.” -Melanie Brandman, Founder & CEO, Brandman Agency

Wellness meets the great outdoors this summer at Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado (Xhibition PR)

Try-Again Trips + Missed Milestones

“The pent-up demand for travel is tangible and there’s a sense that, as soon as travellers feel confident enough, they will feverishly start booking to make up for lost time and to recreate missed milestones. For many of these travellers, the first priority is to finally fulfil their thwarted 2020 travel plans. Whether it’s a cancelled holiday to visit family on the other side of the world or a carefully planned trip of a lifetime that never materialised, Try Again Trips are going to be a common trend for the near future.” -Emma Hartland-Mahon, Vice President, J Public Relations

Good vibes & the great outdoors 

“Consumers will be looking for products and practices that produce good vibrations, especially those that also extend a sense of safety, security and privacy (i.e., new cleanliness protocols across retail and hospitality, a resurgence of “cottagecore,” demand for private villas or bungalow-style suites for leisure travel, second homes in less-populated areas, and private jet transportation).

Tradewind Aviation

Biophilia, a yearning for the great outdoors, will be a lasting result of 2020 and will manifest during the next decade with an increased emphasis in architectural plans that encompass both indoor and outdoor spaces (i.e., spas, malls, and office buildings featuring outdoor courtyards, open-air atria or rooftop gardens); greater use of biophilic design (natural color palettes, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, and the addition of balconies/verandas to hotel guest rooms); and an increased demand for nature-filled experiences (such as camping, glamping, and RV rentals).” -Hawkins International

Exploring secondary and tertiary domestic travel markets

“Located about two hours outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, California’s Gold Country has grown in popularity thanks to its beautiful scenery, down-to-earth vibe and charming small towns. Gold Country get its name from the California Gold Rush of the 1800s, when fortune-seekers flocked to the hills with big hopes and dreams. Mining boomtowns including Auburn, Nevada City and Grass Valley are rich with historical experiences but have retained their popularity in large part because of the vast array of outdoor adventures available here, from skiing and snowboarding in the winter to mountain biking, hiking, rafting, tubing, swimming, and rock climbing. Professionals from Silicon Valley and throughout the state have relocated here seeking affordable homes and a greater connection to nature. The influx of new residents has included many creatives from the design, fashion and culinary fields, and innovative new restaurants and boutiques are popping up throughout the region.

Holbrooke Hotel

The charming downtown of Nevada City and Grass Valley offer an impressive variety of sustainably-sourced restaurants, wine rooms, clothing boutiques, and sporting goods stores. These two cities are also home to two of California’s oldest hotels, both of which are undergoing multimillion dollar renovations under the stewardship of Santa Barbara’s Acme Hospitality. The National Exchange Hotel in Nevada City will channel the spirit of Lola Montez, one of the biggest stage stars of the mid-1800’s, who was just as comfortable bellying up to the bar as she was entertaining an audience. This 38-room hotel is being given new life and will soon reopen with a brand new lobby and guestrooms, and an upscale food and bar scene. Five minutes away in Grass Valley, the Holbrooke Hotel - built in 1862 - has received a similarly extensive renovation to offer modern comforts while celebrating the Gold Rush era’s rugged outdoorsmen, yet with a sophisticated twist. These new upscale lodging offerings will give visitors new reasons to seek out Gold Country as one of California’s quintessential travel experiences.” -Andy Keown, Director at RHC 

Blow the budget trips

“After so long at home, savings have soared with many travellers looking to up the ante on their next escape. 'Save and upgrade” will be a clear trend coming out of the pandemic. People are less inclined to wait to take those bucket list trips and more willing to treat themselves. According to The Times UK, travellers are spending 37% more on holidays than they did in 2019.” -Emma Hartland-Mahon, Vice President, J Public Relations

Supporting local

“From checking in on neighbors to supporting local businesses, the pandemic heightened the importance of community. Picking up on lessons learned during 2020, hotels are likely to become more integrated into their neighborhoods, offering locals space for exercise, entertainment, work, relaxation, and even business. Along with supporting the local community, these partnerships helped increase hotel foot traffic, opening up the possibility of heightened F&B revenues, while introducing neighbors to the potential of staycations.” -Hawkins International


Five Minutes With Michelle Songy

Meet Michelle Songy, the founder of Press Hook. A unique platform rethinking the way brands and media connect, Michelle launched the company after personally experiencing the disconnect between these two sides of the coin (despite how interconnected they really are). Today, journalists, brand reps and publicists can all reap the benefits of her smart technology. Learn more about Michelle's game-changing concept below, plus how comms pros can make the most of the Press Hook platform.

What attracted you to the marketing and comms industry and how did you get your start?

Prior to launching Press Hook, I was a founder of another tech startup and had worked with marketing/PR agencies. It wasn’t until we had to cut down our budget that I started to learn the process myself. I was also in charge of our company blog, so I was constantly looking for new trends in tech to write about. I got a glimpse of a journalist's life and thought, wow, they have a lot of work on their hands in sourcing content and connecting with business owners to get the information they need. Not everything you need is on a company’s website, and I realized companies with a nice press kit on their website had most everything I needed to write my blog post. It took a lot of learning and time to really understand the ins and out of the PR world, and I grew fascinated with so many opportunities to make certain processes more efficient between media and publicists. So I ended up starting a small PR agency of my own, focused on startups! When that wasn’t enough, in 2020 I realized we needed an all-in-one solution to connect us in one central hub.

What is the concept behind Press Hook?

Just like we use Cision/Muck Rack for finding journalist contacts, journalists didn’t have a system to source brands, products, publicist contacts and experts for their stories. I wanted to build a digital version of HARO and combine the best of existing PR technology with a marketplace of brands and media to connect and exchange pitches. We help make sure brands and publicists don’t miss an opportunity, and create digital press kits with 1,000’s of tags, which are our “angles'' to make the brand as newsworthy as possible.

How can brand communications and PR pros best utilize Press Hook?

By signing up! All you have to do is create a profile, and you will have a nice looking digital press kit for your clients (that you can update live anytime). Make sure to check the tags, those are important in making your clients show up in results and guides. Once you’re on Press Hook, journalists can easily discover and contact you directly about a story they’re working on. They can even request a sample of a product to review, so you have all the control to manage your clients media relations for them. Our goal by creating this collective of brands, is that we can bring publicists/marketers more press opportunities to the table, so more press coverage. You can also submit press releases to be distributed to our network, increasing the eyes on your news. From a community aspect, we have PR Pro Slack Channels, Clubhouse Chats on Thursdays, Monthly Q&A Roundtables with Journalists and more that you’ll have to join to see!

Any future goals and/or plans you’re working towards with the platform?

We want to be the all-in-one solution for journalists, publicists and businesses. So there are lots of new features to come, including real-time journalist feeds, placement analytics, direct messaging and a workplace for media publishers. Our goal is to make the newscycle stronger and more reliable through dynamic, innovative technology so journalism and public relations can work more efficiently and effectively in the modern, digital age.

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