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With the lifting of lockdowns in China last spring, shoppers flocked to stores, snapping up luxury goods with abandon. The result of pent-up demand, the trend has been dubbed “revenge shopping.” As shoppers made up for lost time, the retail industry looked on with glee.
With COVID-19 restrictions lifting and vaccines rolling out around the world, revenge travel, a riff on the same concept, is poised to be unleashed. After a year of domestic drudge, who among us hasn’t fantasized about sipping a tropical cocktail on a golden sweep of sand? According to industry experts, we’re set to see an unprecedented amount of travel as soon as we’re allowed to do more than fantasize about it.
“When people are deprived of certain freedoms and forms of pleasure, they’ll try to find it elsewhere. Last summer, we saw more people willing to spurge as their regular outlets were being deprived,” says James Jackson, president of Tourism Jasper. “We saw it particularly with dining and accommodations. We couldn’t keep cabins on the shelf. They were in such high demand versus your standard hotel room.”
While we don’t know for certain if non-essential travel will be encouraged in 2021, you can’t deny the suppressed demand. Recent surveys by both Twitter and DCI, a travel public relations firm, reveal Canadians will prioritize spending money on travel post-pandemic – ahead of clothing, cars and smartphones.
It’s understandable. The loss of recent travel plans, the inability to reunite with loved ones and the monotony of sheltering in place are but a few of the frustrations set to ignite a travel boom. Additionally, few of us spent disposable income on vacations in the past year. With vacation budgets sitting unused, luxury add-ons have become more tempting. These small extravagances are a hallmark of revenge travel.
Not every night is going to be a celebratory one when you’re on a multi-day vacation, but last summer, Mike Day, owner of Evil Dave’s Grill and Tekarra Restaurant in Jasper, Alta., found regional tourists treated every night as an occasion. “We’ve never had higher Champagne sales,” he says. “We sold more than a year’s worth in two months. We were way off in our projections for high-end wine and red meat.”
Across Canada, other tourism stalwarts have witnessed the shift toward more lavish behaviour.
“Absolutely people are wanting their getaway to be something special. First and foremost, they want their experience to be safe. Second, they’re willing to spend more, and are looking for elevated experiences – not only at Fairmont, but throughout Whistler,” says Norman Mastalir, general manager of Fairmont Whistler.
In November, the property launched Snow Globe Dining Domes, private dining experiences complete with a five-course gourmet dinner and beverages inside a literal bubble. Despite a minimum spend of $840 a globe, they have been fully booked almost every night.
Besides being more willing to splurge, Canadians are setting their sights on all that they weren’t allowed to do in the past year. Escaping to the sun after suffering through an entire Canadian winter tops the list.
According to DCI’s travel survey, 63 per cent of respondents reported they were most interested in a beach getaway post-COVID, with a focus on meaningful, outdoor experiences.
Barbados, the first country to actively promote remote work via the Barbados Welcome Stamp, saw more than 350 Canadians enter the country on this visa throughout 2020.
“We’ve noticed Canadians splashing out a bit more and saw a surge in Canadians requesting suites with kitchen facilities, giving them the option of doing their own cooking or bringing in a chef for private dining experiences,” says Peter Mayers, Canadian director of Visit Barbados.
Should we not get the green light to travel internationally in the next few months, Canadians will know all too well what to expect this summer.
“It’s going to look and feel a lot like last year with possibly a few more international visitors, who will be welcome,” Jackson says.
LGBT+ travellers might be one of the first markets to put revenge travel to the test. This community is more likely to take several trips a year and outspends their mainstream counterparts by seven times the average trip expense, according to a study from the Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce and Tourism HR Canada last year. They’re also used to bouncing back quickly.
“As a community, we’ve become resilient. We rebounded the quickest after SARS and 9/11 and we’re expecting to see the same out of COVID. As soon as we’re assured it’s safe to travel again, we’ll be doing that,” says Darrell Schuurman, CEO of Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce.
Will revenge travel revive an industry crushed by COVID-19? That remains to be seen, but as we all know, living well is the best revenge.
The beach beckons
Beach and island escapes remain the top travel searches across booking platforms. Here’s a look at the regions of most interest to Canadians.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
With championship golf courses and unparalleled aquatic adventures in the Sea of Cortez, it’s no surprise Cabo San Lucas emerged as the number one trending destination according to Tripadvisor’s annual Traveller’s Choice Awards.
Besides the beach, city breaks, the desert, central coast and theme parks attract Canadians year-round, though peak visitation occurs during spring break and summer.
The convenience of direct flights from Western Canada can’t be beat.
Tepid shores in the south tempt swimmers, while rugged waves in the east lure the surf crowd.
Visitors will find secluded beaches on the South Coast, dramatic cliffs in Negril and lush rainforests in the Blue Mountains.
It’s said the Bahamas boasts the clearest waters in the world as viewed from outer space. World-class fishing, diving and boating opportunities are found off its 700 islands and cays.
More than a million Canadians travelled to Cuba in 2019, a country rich in history with a vibrant music scene beyond those sugar-sand Varadero beaches.
Cheap and cheerful, the DR is one of the more affordable Caribbean destinations – especially for families. Punta Cana and Puerto Plata are popular boltholes for the fly and flop set.