The latest trend leading the travel surge.
Less than 24 hours before I was scheduled to board a flight to Costa Rica, it finally happened to me: I tested positive for COVID-19. Instead of snorkeling, paddleboarding, and seeking afternoon respite in the shade with a cold beverage in a tropical destination, I found myself relegated to my couch in Brooklyn.
The disappointment felt so intense that upon recovery and with my husband’s encouragement, I booked a solo trip to Miami, Florida. The long weekend, which included a splurge-worthy stay at The Setai, served as a reward for getting through quarantine and getting over COVID.
Although I’d been eager to travel before I tested positive, now I was downright ravenous for an escape.
Turns out, I’m in good company. “Revenge travel,” vengeful travel, carpe diem travel—whatever you want to call it is happening all over the world at an increasingly rapid pace.
It’s hardly surprising that the past two years have left many a travel lover bereft, anxious, and antsy. Some of us have dipped careful toes in the sand, while others have held off (and held off again) as new variants emerged and the ever-shifting CDC guidance challenged previous understandings of what was okay and what wasn’t when it came to leaving our homes and participating in the world at large. Others still are stuck staying home, including many immunocompromised and families with young children.
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Much of the American public appears to be trying to move past the pandemic. And for a growing number of vaccinated adults, many who’ve experiencing break-through cases or experienced mild symptoms, and who’ve recovered on a standard timeline, the call to travel beckons.
Prices Won’t Drop, so Book Now
Nadine Maffre admits her family’s recent trip to London came about a bit impulsively. Maffre, a travel writer based in France, had plans to take her son to London well before the word “coronavirus” ever entered the conversation, but then travel restrictions and rising cases in the UK forced her and her husband to put the trip on hold indefinitely. That is until the family of three became infected with COVID. “Knowing we would benefit from a period of natural immunity, combined with the easing of travel restrictions to/from the UK, I booked our trip to London for a week after we all tested negative!” Maffre says.
Traveling during the school holidays meant increased prices, which Maffre says they would’ve typically tried to avoid. But not at this juncture. They’d been waiting so long to take this trip that Maffre admits she spent more than she normally would have. “I wanted to make it especially memorable! And there was a sense of urgency with us having just recovered from COVID—it felt like a safer time to travel there.”
Industry insiders like Felix Brambilla, CEO of Overseas Leisure Group, a B2B luxury travel platform, also discuss this sense of urgency, albeit with the importance of booking now due to increased travel demand and price considerations. “I do recommend booking in advance as flights and accommodation prices are not decreasing anytime soon,” Brambilla says, adding that “The strong inflation of luxury lodging has not deterred travelers from planning ahead either.”
Brambilla is seeing this reality across domestic travel for U.S. residents and destinations throughout the Mediterranean.
Luxury travel consultant Jill Fischbarg agrees, “In terms of summer travel, it’s essential to book now as the demand for travel is high and availability is tightening.”
Revenge Travel Is Still Going Strong
Origin, a travel company that creates personalized trips for its members, reports a huge uptick in bookings since Omicron has slowed down and countries have dropped restrictions. Co-Founder and CEO Eli Bressert says the surge is resulting in scarce supply “in the most sought out destinations,” as people who’ve had COVID “are now past the fear element of catching it.” This renewed desire to travel, which Bressert refers to as a “vengeful travel” is manifesting in requests for longer, farther trips to places such as Thailand or Chile.
“We are making a conscious decision to dip our toes back into the water of normal life behavior with the understanding that COVID isn’t going anywhere.”
Similarly, Brambilla cites “revenge travel” as one of the pandemic’s travel trends that’s still going strong. And Victor Nikonets, CEO of b0arding, a travel marketplace, shares intel from a months-long survey his company conducted. The survey’s findings revealed that 3 out 10 travelers booked a trip after recently surviving COVID.
Getting and surviving COVID is exactly the impetus that inspired Julie Bogen, senior editor at The Atlantic, and her husband Jake Wyse to plan an early spring beach vacation in Miami. For the Maryland-based couple, whose two-year-old daughter will be sitting this trip out to give mom and dad some much-needed couples’ time, the three-day vacation is less about feeling like they deserve a nice getaway and more a result of no longer feeling “debilitated by fear,” says Bogen. “We are making a conscious decision to dip our toes back into the water of normal life behavior with the understanding that COVID isn’t going anywhere.”
Bogen says they’re “splurging on the hotel we had wanted to stay at the first time we went three years ago but couldn’t justify at the time, and we’ve already booked two (also outdoor) meal reservations—one at Mandolin, which I’ve been dying to try, and one at Kyu where we’ve been before.”
Rates across highly-sought out travel regions are significantly higher than previous years, says Fischbarg, the luxury travel consultant. She points out, “the travel industry isn’t immune to inflation.” But people are prepared to pay what it costs. “Vacations are a high priority and as travel restrictions are being lifted, the luxury traveler is willing to spend to have the best experience,” Fischbarg says.
Whether resulting in impromptu post-COVID travel or a big (read: expensive) summer vacation, domestic or international, this particular type of travel is a hot ticket, one which industry pros predict is only going to get hotter.
“As one client said, ‘my husband now has a new lease on life,’” shares Fischbarg, who helped the couple plan a last-minute trip to the Bahamas after they recovered from COVID.
It’s a feat, recovering from Covid, let alone navigating the years-long pandemic that rocked every corner of the world; it’s no wonder travel is heating up again. “We cannot stop talking about how excited we are,” says Bogen, adding “the notion of this beach vacation, now, feels markedly different.”
Indeed, it felt so different for me that instead of scoffing at the price of the fresh coconut water served to me oceanside, I savored every last sip.