COVID-19s IMPACT ON TRAVEL AND HOSPITALITY
The immediate impact of COVID-19 sent shockwaves through the travel and tourism industry. Workplace shutdowns and self-quarantine protocols triggered a mass migration to the digital world of Zoom calls and remote employment. Social distancing mandates and travel restrictions trapped people in their own bubble, all but eliminating family vacations, weekend excursions, and globe-trotting adventures. Consumer demand for both business and leisure travel collapsed.
While some governments around the world had eased protocols and restrictions, reported cases are once again spiking around the globe. What will the travel landscape look like once global restrictions are lifted and borders opened? How will travelers unreservedly consider flying, taking cruises, and staying in hotels?
How Consumers Feel About Travel
In the US, many people are afraid to venture far from home. According to ongoing polling by the Harris Poll, only 33% of Americans say they would stay at a hotel, and only 28% feel comfortable flying within three months of the COVID-19 curve flattening.
“For the travel industry, there are indications that it could take months for business to pick up even after the COVID-19 curve flattens, with a significant percentage of Americans saying they envision staying relatively close to home for several months,” says Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, Forbes senior Travel contributor.
The poll indicates it could be some time before Americans return to several popular travel activities:
Taking a cruise: 1 year or longer
Flying on a plane: 4-6 months
Visiting a casino: 4-6 months
Staying in a hotel: 4-6 months
Going to a sporting event: 4-6 months
Going out to dinner: 2-3 months
Hosting/attending a large social gathering: 2-3 months
Certain measures could make Americans feel more comfortable about activities in the aftermath of COVID-19:
Extreme cleaning of facilities: 57%
A COVID Vaccine: 55%
Mandatory masks for workers and patrons: 50%
Mandatory spacing of seating: 46%
Necessitated COVID-19 Testing: 43%
Required occupancy limits: 42%
Thermal testing of the facility: 24%
Here's what we’ve been seeing in the travel industry as we settle into the new normal.
1 - Staying close to home
Home represents a safe-space for many right now. A road-trip revival is anticipated, with some looking to vacation close to home. Local tourist attractions will have the opportunity to capitalize on this trend by targeting people in their communities.
2 - Outdoor activities
Countless Americans crave quality time in the great outdoors, and being on lockdown has given them a newfound appreciation for time outside. Industry experts detect an increase in demand for outdoor attractions and destinations. Hiking trails, water activities, beaches, and camping are already the first activities people feel comfortable resuming.
“Just under half (45%) say they are noticing outdoor advertising (billboards, outdoor video screens, posters, and signage) more than before the pandemic and 38% say they find these ads useful because they provide them with information on COVID safety and hygiene”
3 - Open spaces
Travelers will likely continue to feel uneasy in large groups and practice social distancing after COVID-19. This will likely encourage traveling in smaller groups and choosing off-the-beaten-path destinations.
Destinations will need to continue to adapt to this. Adjusting the layout of retail shops, restaurants, and other indoor facilities can help guests and consumers feel more comfortable. Most airlines have implemented new seating options to allow passengers to maintain an appropriate distance during flights.
4 - Technology
Technology enabled millions to work from home without skipping a beat. Video conferencing tools like Zoom make virtual work more feasible than ever. Travel technology may also become vital to the industry, as electronic passports, IDs, boarding passes, and medical screenings can help travelers move through airports with minimal social contact.
5 - Managing Resurgence
Cities like Dubrovnik battled the collapse of the tourism industry after government lock-downs prevented crowds of international travelers from entering the country. Dubrovnik saw a slight increase in tourism fueled by local stay-cations and resumed international flights. The restart was short-lived as COVID cases began to rise and Croatia found itself on other countries' restricted travel lists. Spikes around the globe are forcing countries like France and Germany to enact sweeping restrictions reminiscent of the first days of COVID.
As 2020 comes to a close, it will be critical for companies, cities, and countries to remain vigilant with suggested COVID-19 protocols to allow for the complete re-opening of the travel and tourism industries. We will continue to see an emphasis on physical distancing, sanitization procedures, and
6 - Pent Up Demand
Once travel restrictions are loosened we are likely to see demand return slowly. Savvy travelers and homebodies alike will be anxious to get away from the four walls that have contained them this past year. While business travel is likely going to experience a slow return to pre-COVID thresholds, leisure travel will bounce back as more and more people become comfortable with safety procedures that have become commonplace.
"Bucket list travel locations are going to be one of the things that stimulate the recovery, for sure, people will want to do things immediately, once they have an opportunity to do so," says Tony Johnston, head of tourism at the Althone Institute of Technology.
Preparing for post-COVID travel
COVID-19 permanently reshaped the travel industry. This presents an unprecedented opportunity to make the changes your organization requires to attract pandemic weary travelers. MMR Research Associates can help you understand how your target audience reacts to COVID-19 and how to tailor your business to their needs today and tomorrow. See how our Framework 360°™ approach will provide you with the insights you need to meet your business objectives.