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Travel Is on the Wish List This Holiday Season

By Roger Dow

Dec 10, 2020

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Planning a trip to Grand Teton National Park can give you a mental boost, even if the getaway isn't immediate.

Photo by haveseen/Shutterstock

Planning a trip to Grand Teton National Park can give you a mental boost, even if the getaway isn't immediate.

Early New Year’s resolution: Let’s keep embracing our passion to travel.

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Editor’s note: This is the first column for AFAR by Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association, the Washington, D.C.-based organization representing all segments of travel in America. U.S. Travel’s mission is to increase travel to and within the United States. 

The global pandemic that will forever define this challenging year has touched everything we do, but probably no aspect of our lives has been as profoundly affected as our ability to go from place to place at will. That has inflicted a heavy toll on many aspects of ourselves and our society: our familial relationships, our ability to turn off and recharge, our business meetings and events, our connection to other peoples and cultures, and the 1-in-10 American jobs that were supported by travel pre-COVID but now have been reduced by more than a third.

We don’t quite know when yet, but the fog of 2020 will eventually lift. Until it does, there is strong evidence that we can do ourselves a favor by continuing to imagine, talk, and learn about travel. (The fact that you are reading AFAR, which is devoted to educating people about travel, is a clue that you’re off to a good start.)

As previously reported in this space, polling conducted by the Institute for Applied Positive Research found that 97 percent of respondents feel happier when they have a trip planned. This aligns with voluminous research showing that anticipating an upcoming travel experience can measurably benefit one’s outlook and psyche.

U.S. Travel Association CEO and president Roger Dow

It’s a useful lesson for this holiday season that will feel very different from any in memory. At a time of year when most of us are looking to feel inspired—and with inspiration in desperately short supply this year—we should allow ourselves to be uplifted by the experiences that are to come, whenever they may be.

Other polling reveals that even though Americans remain largely wary of traveling in the near term, taking a trip remains a high priority for most as soon as the pandemic subsides enough to allow it. In fact, even though many say they are not yet ready to travel at the moment, about half of Americans report that they would be either happy or very happy to receive a travel-related gift for the holidays.

The travel industry, in carefully deliberating on how to navigate the difficult present and eventual aftermath of the health crisis, has embraced all of this input. The result has been the Let’s Go There initiative, which holds an essential message for the traveling public: When the time is right for you to travel again, we will be ready to safely welcome you back.

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Although completely devastated by the pandemic, this industry recognizes that health and safety must reside at the core of our message to our customers. We know that a restoration of travel will only come about through a strong restoration of consumer confidence. It is why travel businesses have been laser focused on a vigorous and conspicuous commitment to best practices that protect our customers and employees. It is also why we have favored urgings of vigilance to get past the pandemic over calls for people to take a trip right away—despite our eagerness to see everyone moving again.

But we are also certainly urging travelers to keep their travel flame lit. Read about a destination. Talk to friends and family about the next time you’ll get together and where. Even go online and put a future journey on your calendar—favorable rates and cancellation policies are easy to find in every corner of the industry right now.

There are signs that the end of this dark road may soon be in sight. The news around a COVID vaccine is very promising, and even until it is widely available, we know so much more about the workings of the virus and how to keep it under control than we did at the outset. I, for one, am daring to dream that I will see all of you on the roads and in the skies in 2021.

After all, it is the season of hope, and hope is a gift we would all do well to give ourselves this year.

>>Next: Where We'll Go in 2021—When We Can 

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