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A change is in the wind...

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

The Adventure Connection team attended WTM Virtual two weeks ago today (09 Nov-12 Nov) and, despite some big frustrations with their systems, we were pleasantly surprised by the event. More to the point, we were very pleasantly surprised by the positive mood of industry colleagues we talked to during a packed schedule.

There was a palpable change in mood from Monday onwards. 'A change is in the wind' I found myself thinking as meeting after meeting referenced the news about the vaccine and the potential release from the Covid curse of 2020.

As many readers know, I'm a bit of a sailing addict, and the only thing I can compare the feeling I had was to the sixth sense you develop when you notice a wind shift at sea. A gradual dawning that something quite significant is happening. In this case, the travel industry starting to mobilise to capture the demand that will surely follow.

Just about everybody we spoke to was buoyed by last Monday's news about the Covid-19 vaccine being 90% effective (and news of other vaccines that followed). We realise that we mustn't get too far ahead of ourselves and that the roller coaster (apologies for mixing metaphors) will continue in the months ahead, but it was a very welcome boost. Suddenly, this was an unexpectedly bright light at the end of a very long dark tunnel (no more metaphors I promise!).

The Wanderlust Magazine reader survey came out on Tuesday 10 Nov too and, even though this survey had taken place ahead of the vaccine news being released, it gave far greater positivity than their previous surveys had. Here's a quick snapshot of what the survey said:

We have watched the BBC and other news channels intently over the last two weeks. There are clearly significant challenges ahead with the roll out of the vaccine - first there needs to be approval from the MHRA (the independent body that regulates the issuance of medicines and vaccines); then there the logistical exercises involved in manufacturing and distributing the vaccine across the UK; and of course the prioritisation as to which vaccine and who gets it first (the most vulnerable, the elderly and healthcare workers will be first in line).

There is a lot that can go wrong here and none of it is really predictable - but as Deputy Chief Medical Office Professor Jonathan Van-Tam (JVT to his friends) said "I believe we are on the glide path in" (his analogy, not mine!) towards a safer world again. He also predicted cross-winds and bumps along the way but expressed confidence that the end is in sight. And this was echoed by Government Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Based on the wind-shift we are sensing, plus a good measure of my own gut feel based on 30 years of industry experience, and some further research telephone calls to several UK tour operators (just to make sure we weren't imagining things!), we've made a few of our own predictions below too. We don't have a crystal ball but this is our expectation of the months ahead based on our knowledge of how the market and industry is likely to move now.

There is still a giant caveat over all the timing of all of this because of the logistical complexity, but I think there is genuine cause for optimism for the travel industry and the travelling public. We don't want to speak too soon - but things do seem to be looking up at last.

Source: The Adventure Connection's prediction assuming vaccines are approved for release by MHRA and the intended programme of vaccination takes place in Dec, Jan and Feb 2020.

The point of the above graphic is to help people in the travel industry in trying to predict the timing of the recovery in travel. Nobody can predict the future but this is our best guess of what will happen over the coming months assuming all goes well with the vaccine roll out here in the UK. Whether this is a best case scenario based on government ambition or not, one thing is certain, that the mood has changed and there is cautious confidence emerging. And for the travel industry at the moment, confidence is king.

As we head towards the end of November, we will be preparing some further predictions for the first adventure destinations to emerge as we say goodbye and good riddance to 2020 and head into 2021. Watch this space for more.

We would love to hear your thoughts about what (as in, types of travel) and where you think will be first out of the blocks as the industry re-emerges from Covid-19 and also how you think tourism should be restarted to most benefit local communities and nature.

2020 has been hard for many, especially in countries where there is little government support, and I sincerely hope that we can help to bring back income to those working in tourism who need it most - this is usually local people working at grass routes level.

Normally, a shift in the wind is followed by re-setting of sails and sometimes a change in direction. In this case, the change has to be towards a more sustainable and better travel industry than the one we left on hold earlier this year - we will do everything we can to support DMCs and tour operators who support cleaner and more sustainable practice.

We did miss our usual social event at The Fox on the last Wednesday evening of WTM though! Let's hope it's back for next year but let's also hope that we've learned some lessons this year and can genuinely build back better in 2021.

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Best wishes from all at The Adventure Connection

Mark Wright

20 Nov 2020

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