California travel will look different this year. Here’s what to expect

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After a brutal year in which California’s tourism industry was cut in half, travel and hospitality experts are seeing signs of a rebound in 2021.

A variety of elements may help spur pandemic-fatigued people to take long-delayed vacations, like the coronavirus vaccine rollout, a proposed federal stimulus plan and widespread adoption of new health protocols. Recent consumer surveys and market research indicate that Americans are sitting on caches of unused vacation days and anticipate planning bucket-list trips later this year, while also buying motor homes and visiting parks in record numbers. According to a recent report from the U.S. Travel Association, about half of Americans are feeling optimistic about planning a trip in the next 12 months.

But after nearly a year of shutdown orders and travel restrictions, and with vaccination programs faltering around the country, a return to vacationing normally is not guaranteed. Here are six predictions from industry insiders and travel experts on how leisure travel will develop this year, from flights and hotels to road trips and vacation rentals.

The Good2Go app ensures keyless and touchless restrooms.

Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle 2020

Touchless tech takes over: The shift toward routing boarding passes and movie tickets through smartphones ratcheted up last year as physical contact became taboo. Now, more companies and activity venues like ski resorts and theme parks are rolling out apps that allow users to order food, scan tickets and check into reservations. It’s a hard turn away from the brand of in-person interactions the hospitality industry is built on.