The global pandemic has changed the world. In both foreseen and unforeseen ways. The burgeoning sector of experiential travel has been affected too. So much of seeing the world in this way is about interacting with the locals and immersing in the culture. It’s going to be challenging to see this sector fully recover in 2021.

So how will Covid affect experiential travel in the future? We spoke to two experience-based travel experts to give their opinions on what lies ahead for this niche of the travel industry.

1.  A shift in mindset

Amanda Ho, founder of Regenerative Travel, a one-stop-shop for the conscious traveller believes that “Covid has forced many of us to reanalyse what is essential and important.  With less air traffic, our air quality has improved and habitats have regenerated without human interference. Consumers are beginning to realise that a lifestyle shift can occur by changing buying habits which is evident by the significant increase in sustainable lifestyle brands coming to market.”

She also believes that this shift is now being applied to the way we travel and how travellers will seek to explore the world. Travellers will want transformative experiences and to stay at independent boutique hotels that reconnect them with nature and those that support local conservation and community projects.

2.  A move towards more ethical practices

According to travel blogger Joanna Nemes and founder of The World in My Pocket, “Covid has shown the entire world how fragile our environment is and how easily it can be broken. Covid is the result of the man interfering with nature and destroying the natural habitat. I strongly believe that humanity has learned a very powerful lesson from this pandemic and will start making more conscious decisions when it comes to going on holiday.”

Joanna also hopes that more businesses will become environmentally friendly and choose not to promote activities that are unethical such as riding elephants or seeing dolphins perform in captivity.

3.   Large group tours will be unpopular

We’re seeing a shift in how people want to travel and with whom. What Covid has done is to create a need to travel in smaller groups.  Booking a tour which involves sitting on a coach for hours on end with a large group of people is now very unpopular.

In a recent report by OTC Travel, a company that plans tours mainly for Indian clientele, revealed that 63% of respondents (from India) were inclined to travel solo, while 23% wished to travel in small groups and only 12% were willing to travel with groups with more than 35 people.

People are now choosing to travel for longer periods of time but are choosing to visit a fewer number of places. They are choosing to spend more time in one place to really get to know the people and its culture over visiting as many places they can during their holiday.

It’s fair to say that 2020 has reshaped how we think about travel. The luxury of jumping on a spontaneous last-minute flight was curtailed and replaced with restrictions and border closures. When movement of people does resume en masse, Covid may well have just made people appreciate the place, people and environment that bit more than pre-pandemic. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this period, it’s that the impact we have on others and nature is huge and sometimes taken for granted. Travelling experientially in the future will allow those looking to reconnect with the world a more immersive and conscious experience.