There has arguably been no industry hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than travel, but there are signs of hope on the horizon.
That's according to Kyle Potter, the executive editor of the travel tips, reviews, and flight deals website Thrifty Traveler, who thinks the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine will see more people take to the skies in 2021.
The Twin Cities-based website, which employs six people in Minneapolis, is looking to capitalize on a potential renewed vigor for travel by launching its largest ever sale, offering $20 off its Premium service, which alerts subscribers to the cheapest flights, airline flash sales, and business class deals.
Speaking to BMTN, Potter thinks that the second half of 2021 should see a resurgence in demand from travelers itching to get away.
"All but the most diehard travelers basically wrote off travel during the pandemic, for good reason," he said. "They weren't traveling, and they weren't booking future travel, either.
"But starting with the news of effective vaccines and now distribution beginning, for the first time since the pandemic started, it feels like there's actually some degree of certainty around travel in late 2021. We've felt that with growing interest in our site and Premium service over the last several weeks. And the booking trends from airlines and travel companies also show people are starting to actually plan trips in 2021."
While the pandemic had the potential to be devastating to Thrifty Traveler as the bottom fell out of the airline industry, Potter says that "surprisingly" it managed to hang on to the majority of subscribers to its Premium service.
It helps, he says, that airlines have been slashing flight prices to historically low levels in an effort to entice people back onto planes.
"We're still studying what went right and wrong in 2020. But we think it helped immensely that from the very start of the pandemic, we've focused almost exclusively on flight deals for travel far in the future," he said. "Better yet, we've been finding some of the cheapest domestic and international airfare for 2021 travel that we've ever seen, period."
A return to normality remains a long way off, with Potter thinking it won't be until 2024 until service from Minneapolis-St. Paul International reaches the levels seen in 2019, and some of MSP's international routes might take years to return.
When people do have the confidence to travel once again, what happens then?
Potter thinks that they'll go big, with COVID creating an "if not now, then when?" attitude among many that will encourage them to splash out.
"There's this unshakeable sense that people are ready to go bigger than ever when it comes to their next vacations. After putting off a year-plus of trips and being cooped up, those people fortunate enough to be able to travel will have more money to put toward their next trip," he said.
"There's almost a carpe diem attitude to it. Why put off that huge, bucket list, 'never thought we'd ever go' trip when the next catastrophe could derail travel again?
"And we expect people will also extend their trips longer than they would have before. When you work from home, time away from work will feel more precious and important than ever. And the freedom to extend your vacation by working from some villa or Airbnb in your destination makes that even easier."