Like so many others, I love to travel and, typically, as soon as I get back from one trip, set my sights on the next destination on my list and start counting down the days.
As travel editor at the Vancouver Courier newspaper, a board member of the B.C. branch of the Travel Media Association of Canada, and a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, travel is a big part of my life, just as it is with friends and family and the many other travel writers I’ve come to know over the years.
But, with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve found ourselves in an unprecedented situation in which travel as we all know it has been grounded — with no set date as to when we might once again begin packing too many clothes for that weekend away or trip to warmer climes.
In an effort to catch a glimpse of future travel trends and garner information about just when some destinations might once again be open for business, I reached out to travel experts and tourism bureaus across Canada and the globe for answers to five similar questions.
And while no one can predict the future, all are hopeful travel will soon resume. But, how exactly that will look is anyone’s guess.
If you are part of a destination management organization or represent a property and want to share your thoughts, please drop me a line at email@example.com.
Five questions with Travel Nevada with Tracie Barnthouse, public relations specialist, and Kyle Shulz, Travel Nevada's research manager.
How do you measure tourism numbers in your market?
Travel Nevada receives visitation estimates from various sources. These include estimates reported by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA), the OmniTrak Group, and Tourism Economics.
How has COVID-19 impacted tourism in your region?
Tourism is Nevada's number one industry and COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our visitation numbers.
Visitors directly spent $40.8 billion in Nevada in 2018 and the industry directly employed nearly 297,000 Nevadans, according to estimates from Tourism Economics.
This means that over $111 million dollars was spent every day in Nevada by visitors to the state. The LVCVA and RSCVA recently released visitation estimates for March, showing a decrease in visitation of over 58 per cent in Las Vegas and over 49 per cent in Washoe County.
Even larger declines were expected for April.
This drop in visitation will not only hurt Nevada's hotels, but will also lead to decreases in gaming revenue and revenue for restaurants and retail shops.
Visitor spending also impacts other industries in the state, and this will affect many more industries and employees of those industries.
Nevada entered phase one of Governor Sisolak's Roadmap to Recovery on Saturday, May 9, and select businesses were able to reopen under strict guidelines to prevent the further spread of the virus. We are hopeful that this is the first step towards Nevada's economic and visitation recovery.
Do you believe the virus has changed the way people are looking at travel?
A recent study by Destination Analysts indicated that excitement to get back out on the road has increased, with 70.6 per cent of American travellers agreeing that they miss traveling and can’t wait to get out and travel again, however, 88 per cent indicated they'd initially travel with some trepidation.
In another survey by Destination Analysts, nearly 40 per cent of respondents indicated they would be changing the types of destinations they choose to visit.
It is likely that people will choose to travel regionally at first, with long-haul domestic travel and international travel likely to return to normal levels at a later time.
Based on this, we anticipate that travelers will stay close to home before branching out to road trips and then air travel. Nevada is an attractive destination for travelers, with our wide-open roads, charming rural towns, and limitless outdoor activities.
Road trips are a backbone of Travel Nevada's marketing strategy and we have 10 road trip itineraries available on our website.
What does the future hold for your destination and when do you think it will be welcoming visitors once again?
Nevada, and Las Vegas in particular, has been and will continue to be a bucket list destination to travelers — and we don't expect that to change.
Our research studies have shown us that prior to COVID-19, an increasing number of travelers have gone off the beaten path to explore Nevada's rural towns, and we expect that to continue and possibly increase as travelers look for less populated destinations.
As the travel pause ends and restrictions are lifted, Travel Nevada will enact a strategic marketing plan to aid in Nevada's recovery efforts.
That plan will focus on Nevadans rediscovering Nevada first, then on to the regional drive markets, air travel, and then international travel.
Canada is an important market for Nevada and is Travel Nevada's top international market. We look forward to welcoming Canadians to Nevada.
What travel trends do you predict for later this year and 2021?
Having gone without travel for months, we anticipate a demand for travel once restrictions are lifted.
We also anticipate the idea of freedom to resonate with travelers and there's no better place to enjoy that sense of freedom than on wide open roads, which Nevada certainly isn't lacking! We foresee road trips to be a big focus for not only travelers, but also destination marketing organizations.
We have already seen in various survey results that travel to rural destinations and destinations geared towards outdoor recreation will likely make people feel safer and return more quickly than urban travel.
In Nevada, outdoor activities are limitless, and we are hopeful outdoor enthusiasts will get out on the open road and enjoy the magnitude of outdoor activities available in Nevada.
In addition, the Nevada Gaming Control Board recently released guidelines for reopening casinos in the state and outlined steps that should be taken with regards to health and safety procedures.
Other trends, at least in the near term, will be regional travel as a replacement for long haul travel, road trip travel as a replacement for air travel, and "staycations" as a replacement for vacations.
Travel Nevada virtually
Escape to some of Nevada’s beautiful open areas, explore museum galleries or listen to a ranger talk about astronomy — all virtually. Below are some ways to experience the Silver State during this time of social distancing, and to inspire you for future trips.
All Around Nevada
- Virtual tours of Nevada ghost towns, the Black Rock Desert, small towns and more are available on this website from University of Nevada, Reno journalism professor Howard Goldbaum.
- Visit Carson City has a website with interactive 360-degree photos of places along the Kit Carson Trail Walking Tour and a stroll through the historical section of Carson City.
- Meet Carson Valley residents who love their home in the “Legends of the Valley” videos created by Visit Carson Valley on the organization’s web page on “How to Virtually Experience Carson Valley Until You Can Get here For the Real Thing.”
- Visit Ely’s Renaissance Village, featuring 12 small houses made into mini-museums exploring the different cultures that converged in this town, in this 360-degree video from Visit Ely Nevada.
- Explore some Fallon history through the Churchill County Museum virtual exhibit “The Fallon Theatre: A Century of Change.”
Great Basin National Park
- Ranger minutes – three-minute videos on a variety of topics from astronomy to bristlecone pines — can be found here (scroll down past park alerts).
- Cirque du Soleil, which has multiple shows in Las Vegas and around the world, offers several videos on its hub, including a special one-hour video showcasing three of its productions: “O” (at the Bellagio in Las Vegas) and international shows “Kurios” and “Luzia.”
- Five artists interpret the Vegas experience in virtual reality.
- “Vegas at Home,” a series of short video performances by Vegas performers, launched March 24 by the Greenspun Media Group. The first was a magic show by Westgate performer Jen Kramer.
- Dig into the history and culture of Las Vegas through archived stories from the Las Vegas News Bureau, a division of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
- Explore the geologic history of Lake Tahoe, via this video from the Tahoe Environmental Resource Center in Incline Village.
- A virtual ride on the Heavenly Mountain coaster is one of several online experiences offered by the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.
- The LTVA also has a webpage with interactive 360-degree Google Trekker pictures of hiking areas.
- Reclusive millionaire George Whittell built Thunderbird Lodge, including a 600-foot tunnel around the property, back in the 1930s. Check out this history and a photo gallery here.
- Go Tahoe North offers a network of live webcams, including views of Incline Village, here. Go Tahoe North also will be posting virtual tour videos on its Instagram page.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
- Historic Railroad Trail Virtual Experience eight-minute video.
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area virtual museum.
Loneliest Road in America
- Travel the stretch of U.S. 50 through Nevada, also known as “The Loneliest Road in America,” through this video from Pony Express Territory, the non-profit group based around the U.S. 50 corridor.
- Also enjoy photo albums of communities and events from Pony Express Territory here.
Great Basin National Park
Ranger minutes – three-minute videos on a variety of topics from astronomy to bristlecone pines — can be found here (scroll down past park alerts).
Mob Museum in Las Vegas
- Interactive microsite on prohibition, including this game.
- Microsite on the museum’s exhibit of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
- Archive of the museum’s past programs:
Neon Museum in Las Vegas
- Tim Burton’s “Lost Vegas” exhibit at the Neon Museum in Las Vegas was set to be up through April, so seeing it in person may no longer be an option, but you can take a virtual visit here.
NevadaMuseum of Art in Reno
- The state’s only accredited art museum, the Nevada Museum of Art, has put thousands of objects from its permanent collection online here.
- Check this live webcam to see how the river is flowing at the Truckee River Whitewater Park in downtown Reno.
- Hear the stories behind the artifacts and buildings of Tonopah in this 13-minute video about the town’s Central Nevada Museum.
- Get a sense of the culture and special events in Tonopah, a former mining boomtown, in this five-minute video.
- Meet the people and learn about the places in this historic mining town through the “Below the Surface” videos created by Visit Virginia City.
- You can also view Virginia City’s live webcam on its main street.
Virtual food and dining experiences
- Favorite recipes from local Reno-Tahoe restaurants.
- Eldorado Reno is sharing videos for some of their most popular dishes.
Peppermill Reno is asking its fans to tell them their favorite spirit and then they are responding with one of their favorite Peppermill drink recipes to recreate at home. Check out their Instagram handle @peppermillreno.
- Cynthia Ferris-Bennett of Sierra Chef is launching a video series for cooking at home. Her location is in Genoa and she will be doing produced videos from there.
- We’ve all gone social! Your favorite Las Vegas entertainers have banded together to show us their unique Only Vegas talents from the comforts of their own home through their social media channels. Through workouts, culinary events and music, you’ll get the Vegas experience without having to physically be here.