Book now, travel later: A travel mantra for 2021

Two travel experts share their views on the travel industry – from tips on the best time to book your next trip to upgraded hotel safety standards.

Book now, travel later is the mantra both travel host Valerie Joy Wilson and concierge expert Sarah Dandashy share for 2021.

The pair were on a packed Clubhouse panel discussion hosted by Blacklane’s Director of Marketing Norbert Richard Meinike on Sunday night.

The room, filled with US travel experts, discussed a variety of topics including airfare pricing, hotel cleaning standards, and sustainability in the industry.

US-based Wilson said she was recommending those wanting to travel in the fall to start looking at flights within the next four weeks to take advantage of low airfares.

“The situation is that there’s going to be an influx point and we just don’t know when exactly that is going to happen,” she said,

“The want for travel is there and as soon as people start getting vaccinated and feeling comfortable and feeling safe again, they’re going to start getting back on planes like never before.”

Both Wilson and Dandashy said people thinking of traveling should make sure to only travel if they are committed to taking on the work of being a responsible traveler. This includes traveling when you feel comfortable to do so and when destinations begin opening up again.

Airfares are low but could rise as the year continues. Image credit: Artur Tumasjan/Unsplash
Airfares are low but could rise as the year continues. Image credit: Artur Tumasjan/Unsplash

Dandashy, who is currently in Portugal working on a hotel project, said flexibility for flights was at its peak.

““It’s going to be that tug of war with supply and demand until we can get back to a sweet spot because it is still a fluid situation,” she said.

“If you have the funds now, book now for the future and if you have to change, there is more flexibility than ever before.

“The first half of this year will be slower and then we will start to see it build.”

Will hotels be ready to meet demand?

An American Hotel and Lodging Association report last year found approximately 70 percent of hotel staff had been laid off or furloughed at the beginning of the pandemic. 

Dandashy said most hotels were still running on “skeleton crews” and were sometimes overlooking staff shortages to meet demand.

“They’re all kind of talking about getting the guests back but also part of that is the operations side of things,” she said.

“It’s going to be a really tricky balance…how are they going to start bringing back employees so they can work enough to live and then also be there ready for when, in essence, the floodgates do open.”

When demand does return, Dandashy said the initial focus will be on destinations away from crowds of people.

“We are seeing destinations that are near beaches or near national parks are generally fairing better than inner city destinations,” she said.

Hotels that are more remote could fare better than those based in cities. Image credit: Manuel Moreno/Unsplash.
More remote hotels could fare better than those based in cities. Image credit: Manuel Moreno/Unsplash.

Clean is the new amenity

When Wilson travels, she always wants to know exactly what is happening inside the property, such as room turnover times and products being used to disinfect rooms.

“Clean is the new amenity…I want to see the entire process before I consume a hotel product,” she said.

“I worked really closely with Hilton on their CleanStay program and it’s been really really interesting to learn about all the additional things that are happening.”

Although bigger hotel brands attract guests because of how quickly they’re able to enforce safety protocols and create an “industry standard” for health and safety, Dandashy said many guests were also looking to the safety of smaller boutiques.

“I’ve heard from a lot of travelers and some want to go with the big brands because of the big names and the comfort in that,” she said.

“And then there are many that actually prefer the comfort of being in a smaller boutique environment because they don’t want to be around a lot of people.”

The Clubhouse room on Sunday.
The Clubhouse room on Sunday.

Sustainability without the legwork

A lot of travelers care about sustainability and make choices to go with brands that do some of the heavy lifting for them such as Blacklane, Wilson said, which has been offsetting carbon emissions from all rides and operations for more than three years.

“I personally think a lot of people care about being sustainable, but they want it in a way that’s easy and manageable and that’s by going with companies and brands that are already doing the legwork for them,” she said.