How will we travel in 2021? A post-corona forecast for travelers

Coronavirus, Phil O' Soph

The year 2020 was a year of changes in all of our habits. During times of pandemic restrictions of Covid-19 and many ecologic challenges, our perception of traveling changed over the years, too. And it was almost surprising for me to see and read how the joy of traveling altered in a very peculiar way to be a more negative hobby. Not only happened these changes over the last years very rapid, but they were also at the same time drastically in their approach and public perception. Quo Vadis, traveling in 2021?

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Approximate reading time: 7 minutes

Individual traveling was a joy when I made my first trips in Latin America

I remember times in which a traveler was regarded as someone who tried to realize him- or herself – Hoping to shape character and personality during all the jeopardies abroad. Travelers were more or less humble aspirants who are trying to learn from the world. A vibrant mix of an adventurer, daredevil, and carefree person who makes the best of things.

First, traveling before it is too late in life for that. Later, starting a traditional life in society as it was assumed before. With a family, job, and all the other obligations, traveling won’t be possible anymore.

Caspar van Kempen and Gertjan Loonstra
First travel experiences in Latin America in 2014

Very often, I heard how people envied me for my travels. But more in a positive way. That they subconsciously would like to do the same that I do and accompany me.

How individual traveling became a collective problem for society


For a couple of years, however, traveling was more and more considered as an unwanted cost factor for the collective. The questions arose if traveling was an essential thing in life and if it wouldn’t be better limiting it to a minimum.

A strong antipathy against travelers was formed from left and green activists who succeeded in moving this mood into the attention of the middle of society. Instead of looking for solutions on how to continue a travelers’ lifestyle and make it maybe for everyone more eco and more green, travelers got stigmatized as a group of sinners with a burden of guilt.

Traditional Paraguay

The previous positive envy turned into a suspicious resentment with a strong aversion against anyone who breaks out of society to go an own way. All these emissions for the joy of traveling? Shame corner for you travelers, how dare you?

Traveling in 2020 developed as a luxury good and daring exploits

But then the unwanted year 2020 came and changed everything. Covid-19. Coronavirus. A global pandemic, closed borders, minimized air traffic. Traveling was made literally impossible. Cancelations worldwide, millions of people lost their jobs, and financial losses were recorded everywhere.

And the longer Covid-19 remained a spooky thread for everyone, more environmental benefits happened. Luckily, these loud squallers in society got muted along this process as well. But were they at the end correct? 

Caño Hondo
Relaxing at Paraíso Caño Hondo

Suddenly, going on vacation was considered exceptional and extraordinary. Something precious that not everyone can do. And to be honest: Anyone who stumbles thoughtlessly through the world in these highly infectious times has to be daring and unteachable.

Maybe that’s always the case. When a product or service got unreachable, unattainable, or too expensive, we regard it as something almost luxurious. Scarcity creates exclusivity as my old professor from Economics tried to explain to us. Oddly, it is funny to remember that this happens for a former cheap and available thing as traveling and not for delicacies from an endangered species.

Let’s reconsider the art and relevance of traveling

What I didn’t understand was if the people from this community were now happy and satisfied with what they demanded before? In a way, they got with the global stillstand what they wanted. For my part, I feel quite limited in my movability and don’t like this feeling at all. No, I simply hate how it is. How can it be considered a better lifestyle to neither be allowed nor able to move freely? 

As a result, there is no rational reason for an auto-aggressive society to scourge and limit itself in such a way that circumstances should be equally unfortunate for everyone. So why brand the individual traveler as heretical and portray them as a scapegoat so that our collective understanding of travel is soothed and no one can / may travel anymore?

@Playa Los Patos (Dominican Republic)
Playa Los Patos

In these moments of change, we all scrutinize the question of the significance and the importance of tourism. Not only because of its emissions and what it does good or bad for the collective life. Overregulating our travel activities can’t be the result of a better collective daily life. Making traveling more eco and more green can be the solution. But only if a cooperative society agrees on perceiving traveling as an optional necessity and not as an obligatory burden for society.


Please more transparency and less pointless travel fees 

If I want to travel, I should be allowed. More than happy to go, I am anyhow. But without any restrictions and the feeling of guilt that left and green activists try to persuade society. I will never feel guilty about traveling. There is a big gap between guilt and responsibility.

I am pretty sure that the modern traveler is already aware of the consequences of his/her actions. No need to cast stones from the ones without sin. They are already feeling responsible for their travel actions.

Foz do Iguaçu
The majestic waterfall ‘Foz do Iguaçu’ in Brazil

Instead of paying some airport fees or redundant taxes that vanish in a budget of an airport operator or a governmental body and will never be seen again, I would rather know what happens with my obligatory financial contribution when booking a ticket. 

These additional and artificial costs are usually calculated arbitrarily, and neither appear they to be transparent for the traveler. Nobody knows what happens to the money. Can’t we just reuse this money 100% to counteract our vile travel burdens and do something really good instead?

It would be much nicer if these taxes and fees were put into ecological projects instead. Ideally, in those projects that would counteract the emissions caused by a flight. Be it to plant new trees and reforest forests or save other natural projects. There are already many airlines that ask their passengers to pay a voluntary fee during the booking process.

Ventanillas de Otuzco
Bringing color to the old graves in Otuzco

Above all, this financial expenditure must reach its actual goal as quickly as possible. Without cost-generating organizations and additional items that hold the money back and prolong the process. It is a well-known problem that more intermediate stations filter the actual donation amount, and in the end, only a small part is used for the desired purpose.

But if the airport, the airline, or the governmental body were to implement these fees and taxes transparently and immediately, then not only the individual conscience of the traveler would be reassured. These nagging activists also have one less reason to demonize the travelers for their lifestyle.


And how will we finally travel in 2021?

Many travelers lost their jobs and a lot of money. Less money means to focus on what is essential and what is avoidable. A vacation abroad should be maybe skipped and procrastinated for another year until things get back to normal. Domestic vacations are also nice. The demand for national and international flights will be in 2021 and the next years lower than in 2019. 

As a consequence, there will be less air traffic. Many airlines worldwide went bankrupt as a result of missing revenues during the travel bans. Flight connections will no longer be too closely linked. Maybe you have to step over one more time than before. All of this makes traveling by plane with longer waiting times a little more uncomfortable, but not impossible.

A very lazy and sluggish animal next to the sloth.

And what to do with all the empty capacities in hotels around the world? There’ll be a lot of discounts and low prices to obtain. The hotel industry will try everything to attract old and new customers.

Thus… How will we travel in 2021?

Not much different than we did before. There won’t be any green airplanes with zero emissions. Or new approaches to rescue the image of traveling. If we all still want to go on vacation after the global pandemic, we will do that. But less frequently and maybe not to the most distant travel destinations. If the fear of Covid-19 won’t be allayed – or the pandemic continues to exist in popular tourism destinations – the travel year 2021 will be a gloomy and silent one.

Only those ambitious travelers with an adventurous heart will continue their trips as never anything happened. And I hope, that both the consciousness of the traveler and their criticizers will be balanced. Only with a cooperative approach, traveling can regain a fair and unbiased perception from society. Individual travelers aren’t sinners or bad people because they are traveling. Especially not during times of Covid-19 when they try to keep hotel owners, travel suppliers, and other stakeholders with their expenditures alive.

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