This Summer May Be Different, But It's Not Cancelled
Updated: 5 days ago
The coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on travel and tourism. Travellers are rapidly cancelling trips, striving for refunds and/or salvaging future trips.
In short, disruption on this scale has never been faced by this industry until 2020.
Why Coronavirus will Change Tourism Forever
Covid-19 turned the world of travel upside down (alongside most of 2020, to be honest).
There's a bit of a crisis happening for the travel and tourism industry. Across the world, hotels are at 29% occupancy, less than half of the 72% over the same period in 2019 (STR, 2020). The pandemic is changing how people travel both currently and for some time to come and the future of travel will depend on more than just demand.
It’s unsurprising that some age groups tend to more eager travellers than others, even with the pandemic continuing (see Veuer). Many travel operators are targeting those aged 20-28, since this age group “is much more eager to travel again” (Forbes, 2020). In true millennial fashion, they want to maximise experiences while minimising risk, more than Gen X and Baby Boomers (Fuel, 2020).
Travellers are more conscious of their health and that of others.
Millennials have been suggested to be less concerned with the consequences of contracting COVID-19 than older generations, who may have contracted pre-existing conditions over time. Still, millennials are anxious to protect the health of themselves and others (Baratti, 2020), and accept that many countries have imposed mandatory two-week isolation requirements for those entering the country.
“As much as we think about our own health when we travel, we should have compassion through realisation that we may inadvertently bring the virus with us,” - Dr. Nabarun Dasgupta, infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina
For the travel industry, health and safety must be prioritised. Travellers will be stressed (unsurprisingly) due to limited entry points, additional checkpoints and/or inconsistency of travellers' compliance with safety protocols.
It's vital that companies make travel better, not just safer, and a customer-centric approach has never been more important. Intensive hygiene measures must be introduced in ways to avoid making trips more stressful and difficult, including post-pandemic. This includes giving customers more choice and control of their journey, and will prove increasingly important to build consumer trust and confidence.
Jet to Joyride
CNN (2020) says “it’s the summer of the RV” (caravan for us UK/Ireland folk).
Demand for air travel has plummeted. Interest in road trips is certainly greater than usual, with many feeling safer when traveling in their personal vehicles with a tight-knit group.
I am a huge advocate for road trips – a camping weekend in Roscommon was one of the most hilarious and memorable holidays I had with my friends.
So, switch out flights for road-trips, airports for camping grounds caravan keys, sun cream to hand sanitiser and BOOM, you’ve got a corona-vacation.
Local – #stayhome
Travellers’ reluctance to mass tourism and Instagram-worthy experiences will compel the travel industry to re-innovate towards more sustainable, ethical and mindful operations post-pandemic.
Beaches, mountains and quaint local towns are and will be in high demand. This means travellers can take shorter trips, but more frequently. This means you don’t always have to be designated driver. This means you can help local, independent businesses who have likely struggled a lot more than anybody is giving them credit for.
This means a win-win situation for both consumer and local tourism industry.
Recent survey results showed that millennials desire huge discounts and will spend less money this summer than other age groups (Fuel, 2020).
Covid-19 has exerted huge downward pressure on air travel prices. Add into the mix the economic stress that people have faced in the current employment situation means finding deals are even more important for hopeful travellers.
Airline operators are reducing prices to tempt itchy-foot passengers, which has led to a new millennial phenomenon: the rise of the ‘#coronavacation’. Grappling over the cheap flights, despite risks, to lock-in (not lockdown) their summer travel plans.
Having looked at Skyscanner recently (force of habit), I noticed how the ‘everywhere’ search tool was a much more obvious option. This suggests that people are feeling the wanderlust, and grappling for the cheapest deals to travel literally anywhere.
Here’s what Skyscanner had to say:
“We know that it may not be the best time to travel. But in addition to providing updates and advice regarding COVID-19, we still want to inspire you so that when the world does open its doors again, you’ll be ready to explore it.”
Is this hotels’ chance to reclaim the limelight?
In my previous blog, I discussed how the rise of the Internet and smart technology (Internet-enabled devices) permits on-demand access to the sharing economy’s services. These include Airbnb, Couch-surfing and Uber, and their popularity in recent years has soared.
However, since the pandemic, it’s been found that travellers likely deem staying in someone else’s residence to be riskier than staying in hotels. Hotels will be exclaiming cleaning regimes and prioritisation of guests' health, safety and security. It may prove more difficult for the likes of these services to establish and enforce strict standards across their independent hosts (Cole, 2020). Although Airbnb hosts must now implement an ‘Enhanced Cleaning Initiative’, will this be enough to restore consumer confidence? How many hosts will decide it is not the effort? I am a huge advocate for Airbnb, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
Maybe 2020 is the year that hotels can reclaim some of the limelight.
So, yes, our initial travel plans may be thwarted (trust me, I feel ya, I'm meant to be in Australia right now), but it's clear to see COVID-19 cannot completely ruin this summer. Even if your summer getaway is only 30 minutes from your house, or even camping in your backyard, there's hope ahead for both traveller and industry.
So, whether you choose to travel domestically, internationally or #stayathome, here's hoping that everyone has a safe, enjoyable and memorable summer 2020!