The Future of Travel – The New York Times

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The logistical ease of group tours comes with a trade-off: traveling with strangers.

“I certainly appreciate the paradox: There is safety in numbers, there is risk in numbers,” said Jennifer Tombaugh, the president of Tauck, a high-end tour and cruise company. One solution, Ms. Tombaugh said, will be smaller groups with lower guest-to-guide ratios — a trend that had already been predicted to rise, pre-pandemic, by the United States Tour Operators Association.

Debra Asberry, the founder and president of Women Traveling Together, which runs affordably priced small-group tours for women over 50, expects the national parks trips to rebound first, just as they did after 9/11.

“It really saved us in 2002, and we think the same thing’s going to happen here: We’ll have a much heavier emphasis on domestic tourists, especially into the first half of 2021,” Ms. Asberry said.

After being cooped up for months, tour-goers may gravitate toward wellness experiences. “If 2020 proves to be a year we spend a lot of time indoors, 2021 will be about getting outdoors and getting active, with tours centered around things like cycling, trekking and mindfulness,” said James Thornton, chief executive of Intrepid Travel, which runs tours on all seven continents.

And overtourism, an industrywide concern, has renewed importance. “Ten years ago, people wanted crowded markets and big, well-known cities,” said Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, a community-tourism-focused tour company whose eight-day trips range from $650 to $3,200 per person. “Now there’s a real push for tours in Antarctica, the Galápagos, Mongolia and Tibet — all wide, open spaces.”

Exactly when and where touring resumes will depend upon several factors, including travel advisories and consumer confidence, particularly about developing countries with insufficient medical care.

“We want to make sure that we can do this in a way that allows guests to be present and soak in all they’ve desired to experience,” Ms. Tombaugh said.

— SARAH FIRSHEIN

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