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The Future is Looking Up

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s growing brighter by the minute.

Like many of you, I’ve been encouraged by the flood of good news in the fight against COVID-19. I’m also encouraged by the results of our recent survey (read more at  “Reader Research Confirms Groups Will Return in 2021”). People are eager to start traveling again, and many are ready to go now.

While Fauci and company will likely continue insisting we all stay home, I believe it’s time for the group travel industry to start ramping up in force. Here are four reasons why.

1. The Risk is Fading

Though COVID restrictions have been controversial since the beginning, there was arguably a moral imperative to limit activities during the worst surges of the pandemic. After all, a careless asymptomatic carrier might unknowingly pass the virus to someone more vulnerable, which could lead to their death. But now, four months into the vaccination effort, all the most vulnerable people in society have been immunized. The people we were protecting by limiting movement are now protected by their vaccinations. With the mortal danger largely neutralized, COVID-19 is now no more threatening than any other seasonal respiratory bug.

2. The Demand is Growing

Early on, some people suggested that group tours would be among the last segments of the travel industry to recover because tour groups traditionally skew older than the overall population. But a funny thing happened on the way to herd immunity: Older people were the first to be vaccinated. And once they got their vaccines, they were ready to travel. With the United States now vaccinating in excess of 2 million people a day — many of whom have been locked up at home for over a year — the pool of eager travelers is constantly growing. An astute group leader who offers those people an opportunity for adventure should have no trouble finding customers.

3. The Need is Pressing

When the pandemic began last spring, our leaders constantly told us “we’re all in this together.” But that was never really true — those of us whose livelihoods depend on travel and hospitality were in deeper than almost anyone else. While stimulus programs and easing restrictions have helped reverse some overall economic damage, the tourism industry has sustained incredible losses and received paltry government support. Restaurants, hotels, bus companies, tour operators and their hard-working employees around the country are still in dire straits. It’s time to show them some love and put them back to work.

4. The End is Coming

Far from “two weeks to flatten the curve,” the actual disruption in our lives has grown interminable. And there have been several false starts over the past year when victory over the virus seemed imminent. So it’s understandable that many people have become so accustomed to emergency conditions — and so leery of getting their hopes up — that they can barely imagine traveling again. But one day, this pandemic will be over… and it appears that day is coming sooner rather than later. We may not have been prepared when the pandemic began, but we can all be prepared when it ends.

It’s time for leaders at every level of our industry to look beyond COVID. There’s a lot of work to do, but together we can build a prosperous future.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.

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