What's next for travel, road trips, and small-town adaptations for a remote world

Here & There - May 1, 2020

Here & There is a weekly-ish email from Kyle Frost about travel, the outdoors, and other stuff. If you’ve been enjoying these updates, please consider forwarding it to a friend. If you’re reading it for the first time, consider subscribing (it’s free!).

What’s next for travelers?

This week, I wanted to talk a bit about how I see things progressing moving forward. As some localities start to lift lockdown restrictions, we’re starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel — even if that tunnel might still stretch until June.

  • Luxury travel will be one of the first sectors to start rebounding. With lots of money comes access to private travel options and exclusive (socially distant) lodging.

  • Most consumer travel will be close to home for a while. Road trips will be the theme of the summer (and potentially the next 12 months). They’ll start on the shorter side, but as areas become more consistently “open”, I think you’ll see the radius of the average road trip increase significantly as people get antsy and feel that car-based trips are the best way to continue staying socially distant.

  • As lodging begins to re-open, consumer focus will be on small short-term rentals, camping, and cabin-type accommodations. I think startups like Hipcamp, Tentrr, and Getaway could see the most interest this summer.

  • The marketing for larger hotels and more resort-like lodging options will focus on cleanliness, and they’ll operate a diminished capacity for the entire summer season (if they even open) — both for better social distancing, and because of a lack of staff.

  • I don’t think consumer plane travel will truly rebound until *next* spring. Not only will road trips trump flights this summer, but with the spectre of a second COVID wave in the fall/winter…it could be a while before folks are comfortable with flying again (at a significant scale).

How will mountain towns adapt?

  • Local, local local. After years of courting fly-in out-of-towners, the focus has to be on driveable markets. Local businesses in hospitality need to start generating content around their cleanliness practices, social distancing procedures, and why they’re a great spot for a road trip now, as it won’t be long before travelers are thinking about July/August options (if they aren’t already).

  • Decreased lodging capacity will keep some controls on visitation, but it will be a challenge for mountain towns to mitigate crowds as a flood of folks want to get out of their house and onto trails. There is a legitimate worry that road-trip travelers will funnel to the available open destinations — overloading them and potentially leading to a re-shutdown. Outside Mag had a few thoughts on that topic.

  • There’s not going to be a good “one size fits all” strategy for destination marketing. With timelines being different everywhere, destinations will face a huge challenge as local restrictions not only affect whether people can come *to* a place, but whether they’re currently allowed to *leave*. This is possibly a much larger issue on the East Coast, where a road trip might take you through several states that have differing guidelines.

The death of the mega-influencer? - I think the days of giant social accounts getting flown across the world are numbered. They’ll still be a part of marketing in the future, but for the next 12 months, tourism boards (and brands) will turn to smaller, more localized content-creators and other trusted sources for a few reasons. One, folks just can’t travel very far right now. Two, with travel so localized, there will be an increased desire for authentic, local content. And three, budgets are being slashed, so paying someone with a bajillion followers a ton of money for an unclear ROI isn’t very high on the priority list right now.

A quick update regarding last week's email on the ski industry. As expected, Vail announced this week that Epic Pass holders will be granted credits of 20-80% toward a 2020-21 pass. They also added their own pass insurance, similar to Alterra’s, if slightly less comprehensive. While there are still plenty of whining keyboard warriors, it seems to me like about a good a deal as they can offer given a pretty shitty situation.

Fun Stuff

Katie Boue started a great twitter thread about the future of the outdoors. Lots of varied opinions and worth a read.

I loved this short film from Patagonia about athlete Brooklyn Bell. I think it’s awesome that more brands are telling stories like this.

I’m pretty bummed that this will be the last episode of Cody Townsend’s FIFTY project for the year. But, on the bright side — it’s a great one. I wrote a bit about why I love it and shared a few of my favorite episodes.

Congrats, you made it this far! If you’re still reading, I’d like to share a few things I’m thinking about with regard to this newsletter. Would love your thoughts — just reply or hit me up on social media.

  • I’m thinking about splitting these emails into 2/week. One more focused on quick hits and analysis of news in the industry, and another that’s slightly deeper dive into a particular topic.

  • Doing interviews of interesting folks

  • Podcast-style conversations with industry leaders, photographers, etc. I’ve had a few people ask me about this.

  • Feels like everything is pretty COVID related right now, but I don’t want to overload folks with doom and gloom — should I engage more around photography/past trips, etc?

Stay safe, stay healthy. As always, feel free to reach out with ideas, feedback, or stuff you think I should talk about via email, Instagram, or Twitter.

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