News & Views

Trend or Foe? Revenge Travel

As travelers canceled plans left and right this year, one term has cropped up, illustrating how pent-up demand for travel might explode in the near future: revenge travel.

The term, appearing in the Washington Post this July, sounds sinister, but it’s not really. The idea is simple. Travelers who have been denied the chance to take a real trip will splurge, going extra hard on their first trip once restrictions lift and we can return to whatever normal ends up looking like.  It’s more of a revenge on COVID than against anything else!

Multiple studies on revenge spending in China in the 1980s have led to the concept being applied to travel. True or not, it is providing a glimmer of hope for a battered industry reeling to attract visitors. We’ve all seen our plans for the summer and autumn canceled or rescheduled, but travel hasn’t fallen off the radar as something we’ll never do again. On the contrary, people are dreaming of getting away from their homes and home offices to experience, well, anything different at this point!

It sounds tantalizing for the travel industry. We love the idea of waves of people spending big bucks to visit destinations and upgrade accommodations and inject even more money into the economy. They’ll buy Champagne instead of seltzer, first class instead of coach, suites instead of doubles – the list goes on.

There’s only one hitch – it’s probably not going to happen. At least not like we imagine it.

Much has been written about the trend, and no one seems fully convinced that this sort of spike in spending will happen. It’s neither trend nor foe – it’s more like fiction that needs some rewriting to become true.

Let’s be real

For destinations banking on an epic return to travel, check the numbers first. It’s not just COVID cases rising around the world, the fear of this new wave in some places, or closed borders that will prevent people from traveling. Those obstacles, well, they’re very real, but they will fade in the coming months and years. But just because the gates will open doesn’t mean there’s a flood awaiting.

Unemployment. Low money velocity (something to learn about!). High levels of distrust. A volatile stock market, They are all going to prevent people from uniformly clamoring back to travel. For many people, traveling abroad or across the nation simply won’t be a priority in the immediate future.

Some simply don’t have the means. They have lost their jobs or they are supporting someone who has. Others are truly waiting until life returns to a semblance of normal before spending their saved cash. And many in the U.S. are still waiting, albeit without much hope at this point, for a second stimulus check to get things going. While the stock market sometimes paints a rosy picture of the economy, the truth is that everybody is not ready to throw down for a trip, and especially not for one that would be more lavish than before.

Hope on the horizon

For those who are ready to go, who have pent-up demand, and who have weathered COVID-19 in the black, revenge travel could be an approach to take. Instead, it’s more likely that luxury travelers will hit the road as before, bringing increases in spending to destinations, but in a more gradual rise than the spike imagined by revenge travel.

Soon, slowly, mid-level and budget travelers will follow as the economy rebounds, as coffers fill up again, and as faith in travel is restored by summer 2021. In the meantime, there’s no vaccine or immediate end to COVID that will see a return to pre-pandemic spending.

Encourage spending 

For the foreseeable future, there are other ways to encourage spending rather than hoping for a sharp spike of revenge travelers who will never manifest. Instead, pushing deals for locals will help maintain bookings as quarantine regulations remain in place. Staycations, work from home holidays, and other local endeavors are the temporary bandage for the time being. They will help your local businesses get through the worst of it, and keep them operating for when more visitors return.

Regaining trust with travelers from further afield will be a long road, but being realistic about their spending upon return is key. Hotel and lodging prices will need to be lower. Deals on dining and attractions will need to be abundant. Transportation costs will have to be reasonable. Visitors have to feel like they aren’t being reckless while businesses have to make ends meet. It’s a delicate balance to strike.

It’s true that there will be extreme pent-up demand in the future – DCI’s whole team is feeling it, trust us – but that doesn’t mean we’ll all have the means to satisfy that wanderlust right away. As people return to work, find new jobs, and dig themselves out of economic hardship, things will get easier.

Better for some

For those who will be engaging in revenge travel, however, there is another consideration. Travelers won’t be flocking to the usual destinations. Second-tier cities, offbeat locations and natural escapes are likely to get any influx of spending before the mainstream destinations will. Vaccine or not, travelers want to get away from people, so crowding into a historically popular destination is low on the priority list.

While most places will see a gradual return, revenge travel – or at least something that looks like it – could bring spikes of spending to these lesser-frequented regions. It’s an opportunity to set themselves apart from the tourist magnets that aren’t likely to be as strong when we eventually get out on the other side of this pandemic.

Tempted to tap into the potential of revenge travel? It’s not a bad move! DCI has 60 years of marketing destinations both large and small, and we understand the opportunities for your industry. Get in touch with Kayla Leska at [email protected] to learn more about how you can position your destination to succeed post-pandemic.

Written By

Chiara Peretti

As a public relations intern, Chiara has worked with a number of destination clients and has established strong relationships with leading media and digital influencers.

More Articles by Chiara Peretti

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