Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, the tourism industry made up about 10% of the total global GDP and accounted for more than 300 million jobs across the globe. The travel and tourism sector has always been one of the most important sectors and contributes significantly to the economic growth and sustainability of countries all around the world. However, fast-forward to the COVID-19 pandemic, the travel industry came to a literal halt. Flights were canceled, hotels were shut down, and travelers were forced to stay at home to abide by the stay-at-home appeal of the state – until trip stacking became a trend.
There’s only a limit to how long an individual can stay locked at home. These past 2 years have been particularly hard for travelers. Every problem comes with a solution, and travelers have finally cracked a way to ensure their trips don’t get canceled at the cost of uncertainty across the world.
The trend of trip stacking is quickly catching pace, and it seems to be the only way travelers can satisfy the craving and longing to travel.
Impact of COVID-19 on International Tourism and Travel Industry
There was no known cure for COVID-19 when the pandemic first hit the world. The virus was the first of its kind, and nobody knew much about it, except for the fact that it was highly transmissible.
The only way to keep safe from getting this virus was ‘social distancing.’ Basically, you lowered your chances of infection by staying a safe distance away from people.
The first step that nearly all countries took was to declare strict lockdowns. Businesses shut down to ensure minimum human interaction. Countries restricted both domestic and international movement for the same reason. Hundreds and thousands of people got stuck in foreign countries and were unable to take flights back home because of this.
People effectively had to cancel their travel plans.
There was a massive 70% decline in the number of international tourists between January 2020 and October 2020 as compared to the number of international tourists between January 2019 and October 2019. Either the people were not allowed to fly, or they didn’t want to spend their money amidst the uncertain situation.
This was the lowest level that international tourism had touched in the last 30 years.
About 217 countries have imposed travel restrictions in some form since March 2020. Some destinations are still not open for tourism purposes. As we mentioned earlier, tourism is a major contributor to a country’s GDP, and the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a significant hit to the global GDP.
The Current Situation
Many countries have started to lift travel restrictions. With lockdowns lifted in most countries, most businesses have resumed regular operations. And people are back to planning their trips for the year.
However, thanks to the ever-emerging coronavirus and its new variants, you can’t be sure when the situation changes for the worst.
Although things look much better right now as compared to how the situation was a year ago, there’s still a long way to go to restore international tourism to the level it was pre-COVID-19.
What is Trip Stacking?
If you’re an avid traveler, you may have already heard of the term trip stacking. However, don’t fret if you’re unfamiliar. That’s what we’re here for.
Trip stacking is a practice that most travelers do today. It’s when people book multiple trips during the same travel duration. For example, you book a trip to Rome for the month of October and also book a trip to Florida during the same dates.
It’s more like a plan A and Plan B. If destination A bans travelers from entering at the last minute, you’ll still have a trip to destination B that you can move ahead with.
How Did the Concept of Trip Stacking Originate?
The concept of trip stacking is fairly new – all thanks to COVID-19. The idea popped up when people’s travel plans (that they had made months prior) fell through due to the destination countries banning tourists.
Several countries stopped movement across borders to restrict the spread of the deadly coronavirus, which had no vaccination back then.
With flights canceled and the hotels close, people had no option but to cancel their travel plans. Although hotels and airlines accommodated their passengers during all this time, there was no end in sight.
One day, a country would declare that it’s welcoming tourists, and the next thing you know, the same country was closing its borders for tourists due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases. In short, you just couldn’t be sure that whether the country you’re planning to travel to in 2 months would let you enter or not.
And this is when travelers came up with the idea of trip stacking. Who would want to stay back home when their leaves have been approved from work and bags are packed? Certainly no one! Therefore, they started to book trips to multiple countries at a time for the same dates.
This would help if destination A refused to allow them to enter. They would still be able to travel to destination B in that case.
Development of COVID-19 Vaccine Giving Rise to Hope
Initially, every country had barred flights from other counties. There was a strict lockdown around the world. Everything was shut down to maintain social distancing. There was no possibility of traveling during the early months of the pandemic.
However, the development of the COVID-19 vaccination gave rise to hope that things would be normal again. Slowly and gradually, the lockdowns were lifted. Essential businesses were allowed to start operating at a 50% capacity. Countries reopened domestic travel.
It wasn’t long before several countries opened borders and allowed tourists from around the world to visit.
Each country had its ‘red list,’ which had the names of countries where the COVID-19 situation was out of control. Travelers who belonged to a country that was on the red list weren’t allowed to enter. However, others could come and go as they please. The travel industry soon started to regain momentum, and people hungry for travel started to make impulsive travel plans.
However, the easing lockdowns and reopening of international tourism is no guarantee that you’ll be able to visit the country you’ve planned to visit a few months down the road. Coronavirus is mutating rapidly. Scientists are discovering newer variants, like the most recent Delta variant.
The Delta variant of the coronavirus has been found to be more dangerous than the COVID-19. The worst part of it all is that vaccinated individuals are also catching the virus. Although their symptoms aren’t as serious as in unvaccinated individuals, the risk is still there. There’s still a chance that the country that’s next on your bucket list might cancel all the flights during your travel dates.
Therefore, trip stacking may help you move ahead with your travel plan, even if it’s to another destination.
What Factors are Contributing to the Popularity of Trip Stacking?
The concept of trip stacking hasn’t become so popular because it makes traveling possible for people during their planned dates. Other factors contribute to its popularity. Let’s have a look at some of these factors:
Flexible Hotel and Airline Policies
If hotels and airlines didn’t offer flexible policies, the idea of trip stacking would have never been a hit. People make their flight and hotel bookings in multiple destinations due to their free cancellation policies. Most of the hotels offer their customers a free cancellation.
The customers can cancel their booking even a day before their scheduled visit and not get charged. Travelers know that if they decide to travel to another country, they can simply cancel their bookings. There’s nothing that’s at stake here.
The same is the case with airlines. Airlines have been facilitating travelers exceptionally well during the pandemic. They give their customers several feasible options. Travelers could opt to change their travel dates without any additional charges or get a full refund with minimal charges.
When someone is booking tickets to multiple countries for the same dates, they know they can conveniently cancel their tickets to the country they aren’t traveling to (backup country) without much loss.
Facilitation by Travel Agents
Another important factor contributing to the popularity of trip stacking is how travel agents are facilitating their clients. Travel agents are going out of their way to help their clients book tickets and reserve hotels in multiple destinations.
It’s an opportunity for travel agencies to make money because not all people can take care of bookings themselves, and not every travel agency is offering these services. If the travel agents hadn’t facilitated people take this approach, this concept wouldn’t have touched the level of popularity that it’s currently at.
The Downside of Trip Stacking
While trip stacking appears to be all good, there are certain downsides to it too. If you see from a traveler’s perspective, trip stacking is good. However, it’s not in the best favor of airlines and hotels. Although airlines and hotels have been extremely flexible and accommodating so far, it seems like people have been taking undue advantage of this goodwill.
Things are soon going to change, and travelers won’t like it then.
Travelers will feel the consequences of trip stacking strongly in the near future. Some of these are listed below:
Price of Air Tickets will Go Up
The prices of air tickets depending on the occupancy of seats. When people book tickets even if they don’t intend to travel through that flight, the flight will appear to be more occupied than it actually is. With a higher occupancy, the price of air tickets will go up.
Airlines cash on demand and a higher occupancy depicts a higher demand. Therefore, you can expect the prices of air tickets to go up soon.
Hotels Might Cancel Their Free Cancellation Policy
Hotels aren’t really getting any benefit out of their free cancellation, no penalty policy. People have started to take undue advantage. Hotels are at risk of losing business due to trip stacking. You may want to know how. Well, let us explain it to you.
When you reserve a room in a hotel for your dates when you don’t intend to really visit, the room appears occupied on the system. It means it’s not available for anyone who’s actually willing to visit. If you had not booked a room, the hotel could have earned from a customer who was a sure-shot customer for them.
That’s how your plan B bookings can affect a hotel’s business.
Hotels might just cancel their free cancellation policy so that only those people book a room in their hotel who will really come. Their goodwill is costing them their business, and they’ve got no reason to stick to it, especially when the tourism and hospitality industry has already been suffering blow after blow due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When there’s a will, there’s a way. If you really want to travel this year and don’t want the COVID-19 pandemic to keep you from doing so, you know what you’ve got to do!
Trip stacking is a smart way to ensure that you get to travel, if not to your desired country, then to a country that’s second on your priority list. It’s not a bad deal, is it? Traveling somewhere is better than not traveling at all – what do you think?