Comment: Travel confidence is surging

Global Rescue chief executive Dan Richards shares findings from the risk management firm’s latest surveys

Covid-19 fears are subsiding and travelers are significantly less concerned about taking domestic or international trips based on two key criteria.

First, three out of four people said they are ‘less’ or ‘much less’ concerned about travel today compared to the beginning of the pandemic, reflecting a 65% improvement in individual concerns about travel since the pandemic started. Second, fear of Covid-19-related quarantine or infection while traveling declined by 37% compared to January 2021.

As Covid-19 fears subside, traveller confidence is surging and people are returning to the airways, railways and roadways. It’s driving a significant bounce back in travel activity.

Global Rescue, the leading travel risk and crisis response provider, conducts quarterly Traveller Sentiment and Safety surveys of its current and former members. The respondents revealed a significant rebound in travel activity and confidence as well as critical preferences for international destinations and Covid-19 protocols.

Since the pandemic started a year and a half ago, nearly 86% of travellers have taken domestic trips and 42% have travelled internationally. Between April and October, there has been a 74% jump in people taking domestic trips and an enormous 207% increase in individuals traveling internationally.

Vaccination prevalence, its efficacy and the declining infection rates are contributing to a return to travel normalcy. According to the survey, 73% of travellers reported being vaccinated, or having recovered from a Covid-19 infection, makes them feel safe enough to travel.

The survey further indicates that the kind of travel protection services people are looking for is expanding, with some services increasingly important compared to pre-pandemic levels. Travel insurance and protection services are taking off at pace with travel as it resumes.

Since the pandemic, there’s been a 30% increase in travellers designating medical evacuation as the most important travel protection needed. Covid-19 brought to light the limitations of travel insurance and the importance of having a separate medical support and evacuation safety net that includes medical evacuation and transport for Covid-19.

More than half of respondents (53%) said having medical evacuation protection gives them sufficient peace of mind to travel. Respondents said rescue service from point of injury or illness, including Covid-19, and transport to a medical facility were more important than Cancel For Any Reason travel insurance protecting against financial loss from last-minute trip cancellation or disruption.

Travellers remain watchful when it comes to near-future destinations. A third of survey-takers (36%) said choosing uncrowded or remote destinations was an important factor to feel safe enough to travel. Respondents listed China, the Middle East, Africa, India and Russia as the regions they were least likely to tour. Canada, Mexico, France, Italy and Spain were recognised as the countries travellers were most likely to visit.

Conversely, respondents said wearing masks and physical distancing — common requirements endorsed by officials — were the least effective behaviors that would make them feel safe enough to travel.

Covid-19 vaccines and treatments are successfully saving lives. People are keeping their fingers crossed in the hopes the end of the pandemic is near. Unfortunately, government officials haven’t found and applied a standardised system that will encourage a return to international business and leisure travel. 

Some countries, like the US, still call for illogical rules like requiring fully vaccinated returning resident travellers to obtain and present a negative test result for Covid-19 infection. Vaccinated travellers to Bermuda who arrive without a negative pretest must quarantine until they get a negative result. In South Korea, a 14-day quarantine is required regardless of vaccination status. 

More pandemic procedural discernment will encourage people to book travel and help deliver the travel industry out of an economic crisis.

Dan Richards, chief executive of Global Rescue, currently serves on the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board at the US Department of Commerce and is a global member of the World Travel and Tourism Council

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