The Washington Post Calls It “Revenge Travel” I Just Call It “Intertemporal Substitution”

Live and Let’s Fly is ready to go full-on ‘revenge travel’. After being stuck home, he’s out traveling and wants to do so with a vengeance. It’s as though the very act of traveling makes a statement that we may be down briefly, but we won’t give in, we’ll return stronger than ever – travel as a revolutionary act of defiance against the scourge of the global pandemic.

There’s an angsty new term to describe this apparent pent-up demand: “revenge travel.” And lately, many industry insiders are talking about the sinister-sounding buzzword.

…That restless mood has many pro travelers and experts predicting revenge travelers could bring back leisure tourism with a bang — though others caution revenge may not be as sweet as we’d like.

The idea of ‘pent up demand’ isn’t new. The most hopeful point to a resurgence in travel in China, which has its viral flare ups but isn’t nearly as affected by the virus today as the United States. However in China capacity far outstrips demand and airlines are dumping seats cheap. The government is pushing state-backed carriers into the air with excess capacity.

Travel in the U.S. isn’t likely to come back as quickly as in China. When it does, though, everyone’s going to be excited about it. We’ve spent more staycationing not at local hotels but in our own homes. We’ve binged more Netflix, eaten more dinners at our own tables, and rolled over vacation time if our employers would let us.

So we’ll do more of the travel in the future that we’ve been denied in the past. We won’t do double the travel a year from now, making up for a lost year of travel plus the amount we’d have normally done. But we’ll have fewer of those meals at home, less Netflix, since we’ve already covered 2020’s and 2021‘s in those categories.

We’ve binged on one set of activities we can do while we’re home, and do less of it in the future while doing more of things we had been denied (or denied ourselves). You can call it ‘revenge travel’ I’ll just call it intertemporal substitution.

The thing is though that no matter what you call it, it’s not going to turn back on like a light switch,

So travel will come back more slowly than many expect even if some of the demand that does materialize once people feel safe to travel, are permitted to travel freely, and have the funds to travel will be driven by a desire to ‘get back out there’… with a vengeance.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I think that you’re undervaluing the psychological effect of the mere existence of a vaccine. When the first vaccine is approved, people are going to believe that the end is in sight and will start planting vacations. Trade groups will start planning conventions.

    The actual difficulty of vaccinating enough people to produce herd immunity, etc. — most people won’t concern themselves with that.

  2. This article (both the quoted article and Gary’s reasoning) also cheerfully neglects the increasing likelihood of a full-scale economic disaster that rolls all the way up the chain. While those of us in white-collar positions have been sitting at home complaining about Zoom, every indicator of the real macroeconomy has set off alarms the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

    The latest Census Bureau pulse survey data indicates that 1 in 10 Americans are experiencing food insecurity, and Congress just went home content to let the unemployment benefit run out. 9.5% real GDP contraction isn’t something to sneeze at, and as everything from re-closing of restaurants in hot spots to MLB’s rolling-back of their attempt at a season indicates, we’re not just going to close our eyes and will our way to a V-shaped recovery. The odds of this rolling up from the base and then creating a shock wave through to the top of the economy – including the so-far-untouched white collar class – are increasing by the day.

    So I find it interesting that this article takes as a given the fact that most people who want to travel will have the means to. Buckle up folks, I’m happy to be wrong, but I think we’re in for a wild ride.

  3. There is too much job loss right now to even contemplate travel. I feel fortunate that my spouse and I are still employed- that’s not the case for everyone. I’m taking this time to shore myself up financially and then poke my head out sometime next year and see where the world is at. There are also optics to consider- flitting around the globe may not read well to a client who is a small business owner simply trying to survive.

  4. This all sounds nice but if a person is going to travel for leisure they should not expect to be protected from this virus. If they think that it’s so life threatening to them that they should wear a mask 100% of the time when they travel by car, plane or train then they should thing twice about non-essential travel. The reasoning behind wearing a mask seems to be to protect others from yourself. In that same thought pattern if you are doing non-essential travel for fun you are endangering those that have to travel for essential reasons.

  5. People are so stupid. They consider travel to be a right, so they want to asset it. The idea of waiting out the virus until it is really safe to travel just doesn’t resonate with them. And at least one reader will comment on my post that, if that’s how I feel, then I should cower at home in fear while they are enjoying time at a resort in some exotic destination.

  6. My understanding of “revenge travel” is that its more than just that and includes an aspect of going bigger/fancier/more expensive/special. If you normally spend a week in Hawaii every year, maybe next year is when you finally do the Seychelles. Always wanted to spend a month in Italy but never found the time? Next year is when you make a point of doing it. Basically, after the virus people will be doing more of the once-in-a-lifetime trips they’ve always put off in the past.

  7. @brteacher How do you “plant vacations”?
    @charlie How do you “asset travel”?
    Just read about people mistaking the Norwegian flag for a confederate flag outside a B&B in St. John, Michigan. Are we getting dumber or what? Just when I thought the people in the south who support chump were the dumb ones.

  8. The vaccine isn’t going to trigger a resurgence in travel on its own. Opening of borders will. But that’s not happening until a vaccine (or multiple vaccines) is/are out and the public is well on its way to being inoculated. That 2024 timeframe that came out from the IATA is probably not wrong which means things are going to be very ugly for air travel into late next year at the earliest.

    And I too worry about the economic toll running up the socio-economic food chain. When you’re a consumer based economy and 10-20% of that economy is forced to stop consuming because they’re out of work…it’s going to disrupt everybody else eventually.

  9. Rog – your anti-Trumpers who went after the statue of a Civil War hero and abolitionist and an American Revolution general whose will left money for improving the lives of blacks clearly proved to the world weeks ago that those in the party of the jackass aren’t necessarily mental geniuses.

  10. @alohadavekennedy. I could care less about statues. They are fodder for pigeons and that’s about it. However, chump loves them. Can’t wait until a chump statue goes up so the pigeons will enjoy it. I believe that’s what he deserves as the Number 1 shithead of the universe, or should I say stupid shithead!

  11. I agree with Mr. Leff. As soon as there is a vaccine, and travel restrictions and quarantines are lifted, I’ll be flying all over the map again – and then some. But as Gary also stated, that “then some” won’t be making up for *all* the lost travel in 2020, simply because it’s not feasible and I can only accrue so much vacation time with my work. Nonetheless, I’m hoping as early as next Memorial Day to start spreading my wings… well, the airlines’ wings, that is.

  12. I’m vastly enretained by those who can turn any subject into an excuse to vent their frustrated political views!
    The article was an opinion of the potential future of travel. Period.

  13. Rog, you really have issues. Go find a safe space and figure out your problem with Trump. Thanks..

  14. Agree many people won’t travel until vaccine and/or effective treatment (which Bill Gates projects will come later this year before any vaccine is widely available). However, I suspect that impacts business travel much more than leisure travel. Sure there are people who wouldn’t dare get on a plane or travel anywhere right now but personally I am not letting the virus stop me although my travel since early March has been road trips instead of flights. Planning my first flights for September and October then have an international trip planned for November (assuming I can go and can cancel if no penalties if I can’t). I’ve been on 4 casino trips and stayed in quite a few hotels (and a rental house in Florida over the the 4th of July). I wear a mask which inside and around people, try to distance from others not in my family or immediate group and have worn out my hands washing them or putting on hand sanitizer. Also, doesn’t hurt that, while 62, I am in excellent overall health, watch my weight, eat healthy and take vitamins and other supplements (Vitamin D has shown to have positive impact on the immune system for example).

    Bottom line is there are many like me that not only will travel before there is a vaccine but are traveling now. I know this is a subset of the overall travel market and fully agree that even if the leisure market came back completely by end end of 2020 (not going to happen) that business travel won’t come back until likely 2022 (if even then since video conferencing, reductions in attendance at large trade shows and scrutiny of travel expenses isn’t going away). Bottom line the airline and hotel industry, IMHO, will NEVER get back to “normal” as it was in 2019. The key is what is their future and how do they adapt to it. Some will prosper and many will fail.

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