Introduction to Preview 2021

In late 2019, then-editor of Travel Weekly Rob Fixmer sat down to pen the introduction to our annual Preview issue. "Let's face it," he wrote, "some things are simply unknowable, unpredictable, undecipherable."

Examples in the introduction included volcanoes, technology fails, political action, revolutions. A global pandemic was not on the list.

Of course, we did experience some of those things in 2020. But as soon as the coronavirus hit the world with full force in the first quarter, the industry focus was singlemindedly on the virus and its impact. Travel was necessarily curtailed, travel advisors went from dream-makers to refund-obtainers, and last year's Preview issue suddenly was a quaint reminder of hopes and dreams of simpler times  an era now known as "pre-Covid."

Yet here we are again, looking through the crystal ball at what 2021 might bring. And again, we face the unknowable.

Or do we? With our continuing focus on Covid-19, we know that much of 2021 will be driven and shaped by the response to the virus. In the short term, most experts project that the first part of 2021 is going to be tough. Especially at the start, the same challenges that we're facing right now will still be there. Airlines will lose money; cruise ships won't carry paying passengers; quarantines will continue; meetings and events will be pushed off.

But one theme, one strain (if you will) runs through our Preview issues year after year, in interviews with trusted sources, analysts and advisors: Optimism. The act of travel is an optimistic act, and the people who make up the travel industry are an optimistic, forward-looking bunch. So in our Preview pages you'll find optimism of a better year to come. And also stoicism. Travel may be bloodied, but it's not beaten.

Many of the predictions from experts, advisors, executives and journalists are that travel is poised for a comeback in the second half of the year. Could 2021 be the Year of the Comeback? Not immediately, perhaps. But it seems reasonable to predict that once the vaccination starts to take hold, and once transmission rates subside, and if there are no other major setbacks, that people will be eager  desperate  to travel. In the leisure space, we expect to see friends and family look for ways to make memories with the people they haven't seen or hugged in a year.

Meanwhile, we'll see how the adjustments and pivots of 2020 will play out. People will reckon with testing and vaccinations and whether proof will be required of one or both in order to travel. The easing this year of cancellation and rebooking policies will make travel more consumer-friendly. A willingness by companies to alter the way they view agent pay may change advisor-supplier relationships in the short- and medium-term. The ubiquity of Zoom makes home-based work even easier and more accessible. Mobile advancements pushed to the fore by necessity will make travel more hands-free and frictionless, and although the thrill of stepping into a buzzy restaurant is still a long way off, we're eager to see how hotels, resorts and cruise lines are rebuilding their dining and entertainment concepts to make things safe  and yes, fun.

If just a few of the trends we identify in the Preview issue play out, our 2022 edition will be quite different from this year's. Let's just say we're optimists.

-- Rebecca Tobin

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