There’s hope on the horizon for the travel industry as several countries cautiously begin to ease restrictions and allow travel under specific conditions. If you are curious to know more about the progress, then the Skift team put together a highly visual timeline showing the reopening of travel globally and in the US.
The pattern we’re seeing so far, and it’s in line with expert predictions, is tourism is opening up to locals first. But what else is expected for the travel industry outlook in the coming months and future?
Travel Industry Outlook and Predictions
We have scanned the internet for insights and opinions from tourism officials, government heads, and industry experts, which we talk about in this post. As a travel business owner or head, staying up to date with what’s happening and what’s been said can help to inform your strategic planning and prepare you for restarting your operations.
Understandably, the immediate to mid-term priorities appear to revolve around social distancing and health and safety. Whether these will factor into the long-term remains to be seen and will depend on the global status of the virus.
1. Travel Will Start Close To Home
As countries being to ease their restrictions internally by town, city, and state, travelers will be eager to take a break.
Movement may still be somewhat limited by regulatory authorities, and so looking local will be the obvious solution. Travel companies looking to get in on this action could consider adding a travel offering that will appeal to the local market.
Misty Belles of Virtuoso iterated this when speaking with TODAY; international travel will take longer to bounce back than domestic travel because people are wary of flying. Not only that, but countries will also take a while to open up their border to international guests.
Initially, travelers will also be cautious about traveling too far from home where their safety net is.
In an installment of CNBC’s Next Normal series, Elizabeth Monahan, spokesperson for Tripadvisor.com, is quoted saying “Tourism recovery typically begins locally. Travelers tend to first venture out closer to home, and visit their local eateries, stay local for a weekend getaway or travel domestically before a robust demand for international travel returns.”
2. Hygiene Will Be A Priority
It will be important to put sanitization and good health measures into place to protect travelers in the space they occupy. Hosts will also have to be vocal and visible about the measures they are taking to protect travelers from the virus.
CNN quotes Christopher Anderson, professor of business at Cornell University’s Hotel School, saying that, “everyone, whether it’s cruise, lodging or hotels, is going to have to change how they monitor and clean the environment that consumers interact with and communicate that back to guests in order to increase their comfort level.”
Eran Shust, CEO of Splitty suggests an opportunity for travel brands in this. If they’re upfront and transparent about the measures they’re taking regarding cleaning standards and keeping their guests safe, cautious clients will feel more inclined to trust them and possibly choose them when it comes time to book.
3. Tour Groups Will Start Small
While the need for social distancing is part of life, tour operators that offer guided travel or group tours will be focusing on smaller groups and more intimate activities in less crowded settings.
Speaking to Travel Weekly, Elizabeth Crabill, CEO of CIE Tours, guaranteed that there will be much smaller groups for the transition period. But for the long term travel industry outlook, she still anticipates their coach tours to attract 30 to 50 people.
In the same report, Tauck CEO Dan Mahar shares that pre COVID-19, their focus was on preventing overtourism by breaking into smaller groups and reducing the number of guests per guide. He says this strategy will continue to be relevant for them post COVID-19.
4. More Flexible Booking Policies
As the situation on the ground is changing daily, travelers are looking for flexibility in booking policies. This doesn’t have to be at the expense of travel companies, as they can protect themselves with clear cancelation terms and conditions that are favorable to the traveler as well.
Instead, travel businesses are revising outdated policies to be more flexible in regards to canceling, postponing, and rescheduling travel.
A point brought up in the CNBC Next Normal article, and something we saw in our own travel industry outlook survey, is travel companies would like to see industry suppliers hold deposits in a kind of escrow. This way, should something happen, they have the money available to refund clients who have already paid them.
5. Zero-Touch Travel
In maintaining high levels of hygiene, travelers are going to be looking to go contactless as much as possible. Touching surfaces across the entire travel journey can present a risk for everyone involved and increase the chances of contracting the virus.
The World Economic Forum mentions that automation will become the new norm in the journey from airport curbside to hotel check-in. Interactions ranging from check-in, security, border control, and boarding may see more contactless options taking place.
Your travel business won’t have control over these aspects, but zero-touch travel expectations will extend to payments, which you do have more control over.
As much as possible, be willing to offer online payments to your clients. Although not an official warning, the WHO has suggested that money can pick up all sorts of bacteria and viruses, and advise washing hands after handling money. Facilitating contactless travel interactions as much as possible will help to give your clients peace of mind.
Above All, Travel Will Resume
Despite the very trying times we’re in, the industry is optimistic about travel resuming. Travel + Leisure consulted with a panel of experts, all who had confidence that we will travel again and it will be as rewarding as ever. Sentiments were that the new age of travel might look and feel different but we can count on it positively impacting people and destinations when we get there.
This travel industry outlook is part 1 of 2 in our Readying Your Travel Business For Restart series. In the next piece we’ll share actionable tips to kick off the operational side of your business. Keep checking back to our blog for the details.