It has now become vital for travel service providers to take note of emerging trends and needs of travelers to clearly understand future developments and changes in the tourism industry. Currently, there are four significant emerging trends that the travel industry will be taking note of in modes of travel, planning and booking, technology, and destinations.
Travelers are now expecting tour operators to take into consideration many factors to help curb their basic fear and concern of the coronavirus pandemic. Firstly, tourists want to use only those modes of transport and sight-seeing of places that comply with safe social distancing rules. Previously, Vietnamese visitors were quite interested in packing into cars to explore crowded and bustling cities, strolling through busy markets or visiting popular tourist attractions. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has made them wary of safe healthy habits. This is why observing strict social distancing rules is a new emerging trend in 2021. Tourists now prefer scant populated destinations, calling for tour operators to innovate and make appropriate arrangements to meet their needs.
Secondly, tourists now much prefer to travel in smaller groups. Unlike earlier tours which often saw large groups of twenty to thirty tourists previous to 2020, tourists will from now on only choose to travel in small groups to avoid getting infected from the disease. This trend has made tour operators create and design products that will replace earlier travel packages to avoid crowded and heavily populated destinations.
Thirdly, a new segment of more responsible tourists have emerged. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a serious recession in the market and travel companies are having to drastically innovate and bring in changes that will be most favorable with future travelers. This new segment of tourists wants to explore the world, see new and interesting places, have wonderful experiences but at the same time conserve and protect the tourist destination and the surrounding environment. Therefore, travel companies are now gearing to adjust and make all the necessary changes to satisfy their customers and create a new lucrative market.
Fourthly, the importance of medical tourism has now emerged in a big way. This is not exactly a new trend in the tourist industry, but when the pandemic causes intense stress, then many people want to look for medical tours to take after the virus is finally contained.
Planning and bookings
Since the current and ongoing pandemic is still very unpredictable, reservations made by travelers, such as for accommodation, is for much shorter period, so as to minimize risk of sudden policy change or other unforeseen occurrences. One survey done by Sky scanner last year in 2020 indicated that tourists tend to make bookings for accommodation at the very end of their travel plans. Hence, in response to a growing trend among tourists, travel companies have now begun to make several changes in their booking policy to make it far more flexible and attractive to travelers.
Tour agents have now suddenly become quite indispensable. At a time when life can be suddenly disrupted, and tours can also be cancelled abruptly, tourists want reliable information from a credible source on the latest situation of the pandemic. The unrelenting Covid-19 pandemic has made the role of travel agents much more significant in offering support to travelers. Previously, travel agents only sold tickets and arranged tours, but now their role has changed to providing accurate and reassuring information about a travel destination. The travel agent is now called upon by tourists to answer a multitude of questions from suggested tours, availability of cheaper tickets, update on health and safety, room reservations to cancellation of air tickets.
This is also a time for tourism destinations, airlines, hotels and car rental companies to cooperate and come together to work with travel agents to ensure they have all the information necessary for tourists for their travel comforts as well as any possible catastrophic disruptions.
Technology in tourism industry
Digital technology has been used in Vietnam by the tourist industry for several years. The sudden eruption of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 made the switch and universal adaptation of digital technology even faster than ever before. Many countries have promoted the application of digital technology in this sector in the belief that it is an effective measure to tackle the consequences of policies that limit the spread of the disease, such as limited contact or social distancing.
Online travel and virtual tours of global tourist attractions have become increasingly popular. In the future, virtual experiences may become essential criteria for travel companies, because they will provide visitors with an opportunity to connect with tour guides and experience the destinations before they book an actual tour. Designing such virtual experiences will help travel companies attract customers and introduce their products in a very direct way.
New and lesser-known travel destinations have recently become quite popular. The trend for tourists to seek quiet pristine and unspoiled travel spots will continue, and the need to go to such spots will be even greater in 2021. The new psychology of the traveler is to seek a safe and less crowded destination. Such places allow for natural social distancing, while the traveler can enjoy a stress free holiday and also stay connected with nature.
This growing need for exploration and avoiding popular travel spots, will be the new trend in Vietnam, and the travel companies will have the need to identify such locales for tourists who want to avoid crowds. However, without a doubt Vietnam will have to work at reviving the domestic tourist market first, as the recovery in international tourism will depend heavily on the success of global vaccination programs.
The recovery of the tourism industry in Vietnam will depend in its ability to contain and control the Covid-19 pandemic throughout the country, and declare safe zones for travel. Besides vaccination programs, tourism recovery will also depend on efforts to keep tourist attractions safe. Currently there is a reasonable plan for recovery of the tourism industry in ASEAN countries in the first quarter of 2021. By the third quarter, positive effects of the vaccine will further promote normalization that will then pave the way for a full recovery of the tourism industry in the entire region.