As we venture into this unknown world, here are eight ways we think travel will change.
We’ve always believed that travel and optimism go hand in hand. As part of our Dream Now Travel Later program, we’re focusing on the ways our industry can adapt and what it will look like on the other side. We know that people are still looking for inspiration and excitement, so it’s a good time to create beautiful content or develop new virtual experiences. It’s also a time to focus on the future, whether that be upgrading your product or fine tuning your offerings to better meet your clients’ needs. And we’re encouraging you to take this opportunity to think about how we can make sustainability part of the fabric of the travel industry going forward.
So, as we venture into this unknown world, here are eight ways we think travel will change.
It will start slow
When current restrictions lift, travellers will be cautious. We can’t expect the industry to bounce straight back to where it was pre-pandemic. Restaurants and hotels may open at a limited capacity, and airlines may finally do away with the dreaded middle seat. Travellers will do their research, speak to people they trust and read the fine print before they take their first steps back into the world.
Domestic will boom
It is almost guaranteed that domestic travel restrictions will be lifted first, so that means a lot of people will be holidaying at home for the foreseeable future. A study by the University of Queensland found that more than 50% of Australians want to travel domestically when the bans are lifted. In the Czech Republic, all international travel and incoming tourists are banned for 12 months. President Milos Zeman has encouraged citizens to explore the beauty of their own country this year.
Focus on quality, not quantity
“I really believe that COVID will make us re-think travel – clear away the junk,” says Bill Bensley, the architect behind some of Asia’s most spectacular luxury hotels. “I think we’ll travel less post-crisis – I know I will – but mostly I think people will be radically more selective about where they go. That’s a positive for our world.”
Travel optimisation is key
Prior to the COVID crisis, overtourism was one of the industry’s biggest concerns. Now, as cities stand empty, it’s given people pause to think about how we calculate the value of tourists. In the future, destinations will want to consider not just the economic benefit tourists bring in, but also their environmental impact and potential drain on local resources. It could shape the places we promote and the kind of traveller we target. “That takes pressure, in theory, away from those destinations under so much stress from visitor numbers,” says Professor James Higham, a sustainable tourism expert from Otago University. “[It] shares the benefits with communities which don’t see many tourists.”
Seeking human connections
After so long in isolation, what many people are missing most is genuine human connection. It’s one of the best parts of travel – the opportunity to engage with other people and experience their way of life. While people look for different things from their travels, the desire to connect with others throughout the journey will be a common thread,” says Misty Belles, managing director of global public relations for Virtuoso.
Health will be a priority
Expect to see hand sanitiser, no touch technology and increased hygiene standards become the norm across the travel industry. Social distancing measures, in some form, will likely stay in place and people will be wary about being too close to other people. Cruise lines in particular will need to focus on the health and safety of both their passengers and crew.
Travel agents will make a comeback
In the face of rolling travel bans, flight cancellations, hotel closures and numerous other restrictions, many travellers suddenly found themselves stuck, either physically or financially. Those who booked with travel agents found that their assistance was priceless. “In a post-COVID world, people will value advisors for their connections and guidance that go beyond destination and product expertise. Having a real-life person to assist [you] underscores the significance of human connection and the reassurance of knowing someone has your back,” says Belles.
Tourism will be everyone’s business
Cruise ships floating offshore after being refused permission to dock and travellers stranded in foreign countries as all flights were suspended became some of the most powerful images of the pandemic. It made it clear that tourism is an industry that was broad impacts and it needs to be treated as such. Governments, tourism boards and operators need to work together to ensure that, in the event of a similar crisis, there is a solid cross-organisation approach.