New York City expects to reopen on July 1. France announced it would reopen to American tourists beginning June 9. Some national parks have implemented a ticketed entry system to prepare for an influx of visitors. Theme parks have loosened mask requirements for visitors.
We’re starting to see signs of tourism’s anticipated comeback this summer as more of the country’s population becomes vaccinated.
As of April 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that people who are fully vaccinated do not need to get tested before or after travel unless their destination requires it, and do not need to self-quarantine. However, travelers are required to wear a face covering on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Additionally, the CDC still recommends avoiding crowds and washing hands often even if you’ve been vaccinated.
What else can travelers expect from their planned adventures this summer?
Alan Fyall is a travel expert, the associate dean of academic affairs and Visit Orlando Endowed Chair of Tourism Marketing at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management. Fyall has published widely in the areas of tourism and destination marketing and management, including 22 books, and has conducted numerous consulting and applied research projects for clients in Africa, the Caribbean, the European Union, South East Asia, the United Kingdom and United States.
A British native, he estimates he has visited more than 40 countries. Below he shares his predictions for the 2021 summer travel season.
How will tourism impact the Central Florida region this summer?
I think ultimately it’s going to be very positive, but it’s also complicated. Florida in essence is no different from anywhere else. There’s a split pressure with the pandemic between wanting to open because commercially, that makes sense — but it only makes sense to those people that are willing to come here knowing that the situation may not be perfect.
So what do I mean by that? Saying that there’s no mask mandate, essentially you’re pleasing half the market, but the other half of the market will be far more wary and may stay away. And that’s not a political thing — that is just how the market’s behaving both here in the US and internationally. Every single country has got these dynamics and you’re never going to please everybody.
But I think that the positive for Florida, particularly Central Florida, is for the most part, the industry has been really, really responsible. I think that the city and the county mayors have done a good job in a very, very difficult situation. The theme parks have done an excellent job in terms of their adaptations. I think Florida has done as much as it possibly can in the circumstances of COVID. And I think we will reap the benefit of that in the summer.
What places will be desirable destinations this summer?
I would say anywhere that’s near a national park, state park or coastal resorts. I think they will boom this summer. You’ve got places like Zion up in Utah that are doing limited times and restricted shuttle buses because they just know the demand is going to go crazy. Obviously these destinations are amazing sites to see anyway, but what works in their favor is they’re outside, so they’re as healthy as you’re going to get. Even places that really aren’t on the tourist trail — even Pittsburgh, for instance, is going to be busy. People want to see their parents. They want to see their cousins and family. So I think people will travel anywhere and everywhere just to reconnect.
When will the peak travel time hit, and how long will it last?
There’s a lot of good articles at the moment predicting that the next seven or eight years are going to be the booming ’20s like the 1920s. I sort of buy that. The Florida and domestic market is picking up now, but I expect will be fully functioning by probably summer 2022. You won’t see the international market back in large numbers until maybe 2023 just because of the booking cycle. So I think two, three years down the line, it’ll be flying again. The biggest challenge is going to be business travel because of all the technology platforms and options for virtual meetings and conferences available now that have worked so well during the pandemic.
There is a precedent of vaccines for other illnesses being required or recommended for international travel. Why is the COVID vaccine passport such a contentious issue?
Politics. And that is a simple answer, but essentially that is the answer. The big problem at the moment is there is no consensus anywhere really as to what’s the right thing to do. For many destinations, these “passports” offer confidence to the industry and the market that it is safe to return with the economic benefits of opening outweighing the “rights” of individuals. Many European and Asian countries are accepting such passports, somewhat reluctantly, as the price to be paid for re-opening after a year of industry closure. The alternative viewpoint is that COVID passports create a “two-tier” society between vaccinated and un-vaccinated individuals with freedom to travel constrained by individual views on vaccinations or access to vaccines. There is no easy answer with strong arguments both for and against COVID passports.
I’m not particularly pro-COVID passports, but if you’re an industry that’s absolutely bursting to at least get something going — like cruises, for example, then they make sense. If you want cruises to start, there are very strong arguments to say, we’ll have a COVID passport for a defined period of time to at least get the industry moving again. So if that is the compromise and what’s necessary to get three or four ships at least up and running, it’s not ideal, but it’s a compromise, so why not? Either you get it going, or you don’t get it going. You can’t have it both ways.
How will air travel compare to road travel?
The airlines are doing pretty well. They have cut lots of the routes so they’ve got reduced supply, but what they do offer they are filling out. I think cars will be booming. This will be the road trip summer, as we’ve talked about because of the national parks, the coastlines and even the theme parks because they’ve demonstrated they can operate safely and they’ve done a good job.
Refundable has been the name of the game for the last year. What changes do you foresee?
I would cash your vouchers in quick.
Are you a believer in travel insurance?
It depends where I’m going and what the healthcare provisions are. In the U.S., no. If I’m traveling internationally, yes.
Are there any tools you’d recommend for travelers to make their lives run smoother while they’re traveling?
That’s a good question because keeping up with all the changes right now can be a headache. You need to be mindful of travel advisories. So let’s say for the sake of argument you’re traveling to France. You need to review what the advisory for travel is to France from the U.S. government, as well as the reciprocal advice from the French authorities. Bookmark them onto your phone and stick to the government advice, because ultimately that’s the advice that carries weight.