While it’s impossible to predict exactly when the coronavirus crisis will be over, what is clear is that our lives won’t be the same. We asked experts in the industry to predict how travel will be different when we’re out the other side. This is what they had to say.
James Thornton, CEO Intrepid Group
Travel has been so accessible to most of us for so long and it now feels like a luxury. We expect travellers will put a lot of thought into where they go next and how they travel on their post Covid-19 trips. We predict isolated, ‘clean’ destinations will recover fast. Whilst we’ve been confined to four walls, stunning landscapes like New Zealand’s South Island feel like a world away. Places like Norway and some of its neighbours are leading the way with their management of Covid-19. They also offer some stunning and isolated destinations, where travellers can get away from it all. If 2020 proves to be a year we spend a lot of time indoors, then 2021 will be about getting outdoors and getting active so cycling and walking are likely to be popular. We predict there will be lots of people looking to fulfill BIG bucket list travel experience – with Antarctica being at the top of that list – and that people will be looking for reasons to celebrate in 2021, including trips that are focused around local festivals such as the Rio Carnival trips we run. Following the Covid-19 outbreak, we think that consumers will be much more aware of where they go and how this impacts the environment. Because of this, it’s likely that travellers will consciously choose more under touristed destinations, such as Nicaragua or Greenland as well as opting for trips that involve low impact travel such as cycling, hiking and train trips. There may also be a rise in demand for community-based tourism, as travellers look for authentic travel experiences and the chance to see first-hand how tourism can benefit communities at grassroots level following the outbreak.
Tom Jenkins, CEO of ETOA
The natural reaction is to assume that the future will be a product of the current situation. It won’t. We are facing a unique crisis produced by government reaction to the threat posed to their health services. This will pass. Mass gathering will return. Theatres, cinemas and football matches will become crowded. Tourism will start again. We will be then be facing clients whose basic impulses will not have changed. They will still want to travel, to see the sights they have heard about, appreciate accommodation and enjoy the culture of a different location. Some will still want to increase their chances of melanoma by lying on a beach. So what the industry provides will not change. How it does so will be the product of the transition period. It is possible that consumers may develop a taste for under-visited domestic tourism locations. We may see a fashion for wearing face masks. Queues may look longer. There will be resistance to destinations and types of tourism that were associated with Covid-19. Some companies, crippled by the current crisis, will struggle to survive. We will undoubtedly see some spectacularly eye-catching prices to kick-start demand. It will be a golden period for the fast-moving entrepreneur.
Amanda Hills, president MMGY Hills Balfour Europe and Middle East
Given the unique nature of COVID-19, it is an interesting process to predict the longer term future impact on consumer behaviour and sentiment towards travel. What we do know from previous crisis experience is that the UK and Europe house some of the world’s most resilient~markets, with consumers who both bounce-back quickly, and are long accustomed to travelling overseas for both leisure and business travel. We see opportunities across the sector for brands and destinations that are brave now and continue the conversation with their customers in this important planning and inspiration phase of the consumer booking process – we see further growth potential for the wellness sector and nature breaks as a result of consumers both needing a holiday after a period of intense stress, but also as a result of pausing and resetting, reconsidering and recalibrating as to what is important in their lives. Consumers will emerge from this having redefined their comfort zones, and this could lead to a surge for off the beaten track, final frontier travel and ‘YOLO’ type adventures, as travellers seek braver, life affirming trips. The industry needs to be ready with value added offers and packages that can launch as soon as the travel pause is safely lifted.
Avi Meir, TravelPerk co-founder & CEO
Even when lockdowns in Europe are over and we start to travel again, countries will test [for Covid-19] at the border. Some countries will not even take the chance of testing at the border. Especially if you’re coming from an outbreak hotspot. Entrance will be refused unless you have a certificate of immunity due to the fact that you’ve recovered from an infection or because you’ve been vaccinated (once there’s vaccines available). Wristbands with barcodes like those in the movie Contagion are a very real prospect.
“Certainly in the short-term, travel will become more defined by purpose. Any business travel will need to be strictly validated as an economic activity, with companies tightening the numbers of employees who travel for them. This may mean temporary visas and more documentation that you’ll need to take with you when travelling.
A very influential paper from Imperial College London speculates that governments will need to turn lockdown measures on and off in order to keep demands on healthcare systems at a manageable level. This means there will be windows of opportunity to travel that last only weeks or even days. Even with airlines desperate to get airborne again, seats will be limited and we could see dramatic increases in pricing during those windows.
Along with hand sanitizer travel packs, it’s a pretty easy prediction to make that a lot more people will travel with masks. In the same way that companies like Away have made luxury, fashionable travel baggage, we will most likely see ‘desirable’ travel masks worn by Instagram influencers.
Even those who have recovered from Covid-19, and have built up immunity (if the virus doesn’t mutate too much) won’t want to travel with a cold. The current situation and the conviction with which the world is adopting social distancing will make it socially unacceptable to travel with a cold or any symptoms. The looks you will get if you cough or sneeze at an airport or on a plane will be scathing. I predict that social stigma will put a lot of people off, resulting in the potential for more no-shows on travel days.
Domestic travel will recover first (there’s no border control) and for most countries that means taking a train. Not only will we be able to get back on tracks (ha, a pun) first, we’ll also be more secure about it. Trains are less crowded, have windows that open, and also are much more environmentally friendly. Once the lockdowns we see in Europe now are lifted, I predict people will rush to take a train, just because they can.
Once we’re flying again, airlines will start boasting about their filtration systems. Some have already started emailing customers about their current systems in a bid to stop people cancelling. By the end of the year, it’ll be a question many people will be asking—how safe is the air onboard?
Published on Thursday, April 9, 2020