What’s your first move going to be when we can return to international travel? Climb every mountain? Ford every stream? Drive the highways and byways? At the very least, leave on a mother-lovin’ jet plane?
Just make sure your passport is renewed and ready to roll, because Broadsheet has asked Sean Martin, managing director of G Adventures in Australia and New Zealand, for his top-five predictions on what destinations will be hot (even those with sub-zero temperatures).
1. People will want to travel as far away from COVID as humanly possible
Let’s talk remote. How about a 10-plus-day trip to Antarctica on the good ship G Expedition, which sails from Argentina? Don’t worry – it’s definitely not a cruise ship. Rather than cabaret entertainment you’ll find experts specialising in geology, marine biology and polar history.
Martin also predicts a surge in wilderness adventures, in places such as Alaska and Canada. “With the US’s rates of vaccination, it’s likely to be one of the first travel corridors for Australia,” he says. “Over 40 per cent of people are telling us they want to get out into nature – an antidote to lockdown fatigue – so the national parks of North America will be incredibly popular. There are so many that are close to each other that you can hike through at whatever level you want – like Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Page and Death Valley.”
2. Non-exploitative, once-in-a-lifetime trips are go
Martin says Australians are using the G Adventures site to search for bucket-list trips, such as Mount Kilimanjaro, Everest, Patagonia and the Inca Trail. “Close to 25 per cent of our travellers are saying that they’re really keen to do something active,” he says. “Peru is so unique because it combines hiking with food and culture. We’re also seeing a lot of people taking a real interest in giving back to local communities. Our research tells us that 73 per cent of Australian and New Zealand travellers want their money to benefit local people.”
G Adventures’ chief experience officers (tour guides, in old language) are all locals, and the company operates what it calls the Ripple Score, which calculates the amount of money from each tour that remains in the destination.
3. Family holidays will also get way more adventurous
“I think coming out of this pandemic we’ll see a lot of multigenerational holidays, like the grandparents taking their kids and grandkids on National Geographic Family Journeys tour to the USA, Costa Rica or Peru,” Martin says. “They’re more interested in giving their kids a cultural experience and seeing the world, rather than just staying at a beach resort.”
G Adventures has had a partnership with National Geographic for more than five years and creates itineraries that provide plenty of opportunity for stunning photography, storytelling and education.
4. Trigger-happy types will book trips fast
After months living with snap lockdowns, Australians are used to making interstate travel plans very nimbly – and that will translate to international bookings once Australia opens its borders. “As soon as vaccination rates are up and border restrictions are removed, the demand comes back almost instantly,” Martin says.
Of course, with the possibility of borders slamming shut again, closer destinations will be appealing, particularly South-East Asia, which is likely to open up to us first – think Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and the Maldives.
But even those travellers that are first cab off the rank will be expecting increased flexibility when booking, and enhanced health and safety standards. “We recently announced our Book with Confidence policy has been revised to enable travellers to rebook their trip up to 14-days before it departs which is one of the most flexible policies in the industry. And we also have our Travel With Confidence policy in place, which includes increased sanitising including on transport, physical distancing procedures and mask-wearing,” Martin says.
5. We’ll stan the ’Stans
In a trend completely unrelated to the pandemic, Central Asia is becoming a popular destination – the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan offer ancient Silk Road cities, alpine lakes, and Timurid and Islamic-influenced Persian architecture. “It was an area we really saw growth in before the pandemic and our traveller feedback from those destinations was among the highest we’ve had,” Martin says. “People don’t want to go to places that are flooded with tourists. That’s when you really learn about a culture. And you learn about yourself along the way.”
This story was produced by Broadsheet in partnership with G Adventures. For more information or to book, visit gadventures.com, or call 1300 853 325.