The spread of the infectious Coronavirus has undoubtedly changed defined living patterns and its impact on travel has been huge.
In just a matter of weeks, people have become accustomed to wearing masks, stocking up on essentials, canceling social and business gatherings, scrapping travel plans, and working from home. Workplaces have increased options for teleworking and work from home has begun an increasing part of people’s regular schedule. Even countries with relatively few cases are taking many of these precautions.
Seems like the whole world is already accustomed to this new way of living; but how long will it take before people go back to ”normal”? When will we see our society starting to allow larger movement (domestically and across borders)? Will the travel industry ever recover to pre-Corona times? And have we seen a shift in travel patterns?
Shifts in the Travel Industry
The travel sector is seeing the most drastic hit with canceled flights and empty hotels. While people still want and need to go places, the virus has created new priorities.
Travelers will need to know that it is safe to travel and might see actual physical changes made to make travel safer (such as the installation of Plexiglas protection screens at airports, physical distancing where possible..etc).
Airlines will have to focus much more intently on cleaning aircraft and ground facilities. Carriers will need to serve food and beverages in a way to reduce the transmission of disease but also ways for consumers to more effectively clean themselves and the surfaces they have touched. They could even score points with passengers by using facility and aircraft cleanliness as a competitive weapon. So far, only Delta, with its new “Delta Clean” advertising effort, has created a brand-related promise to provide cleaner planes.
Travelers will feel safer with less crowded airplanes meaning airlines will have to fly with empty middle seats. Several carriers last week announced plans to eliminate some food and beverage service and middle seat assignments to cut costs and reduce interaction on board, they will also continue to be less stringent with cancellation and change fees for some time.
Even with the expected reduction in capacity, travel service providers will have to offer low-priced deals to fill their remaining capacity to economically sustainable levels. Consumers — especially leisure travelers — have shown repeatedly that they will respond positively to true bargain prices, research says.
Travelers may feel safer at hotels rather than vacation rentals. Travelers will probably have concerns with alternative lodging options such as Airbnb and other vacation rental sites because they may struggle to communicate and standardize rigorous cleaning routines.
Airbnb is rolling out two voluntary sanitization and coronavirus prevention programs for hosts, including one that would block guest arrivals for 72 hours between stays.
With the knowledge that the depth of such cleanliness programs could be a defining factor in post-corona virus guest confidence, Airbnb’s plan has some hosts opting to use a booking buffer tool that would automatically block reservations for an established period, such as 72 hours, between stays. Cleaning would be the only permissible activity during this duration. Under the cleaning protocol program, hosts could pledge to clean every room in a home using enhanced guidance and procedures, according to Airbnb, and there would be a certification process.
Business travel may bring recovery for airlines. While many businesses may get more comfortable with conducting meetings virtually, people need interaction, and a prolonged pause in regular business dealings may jump-start air travel as people look to get back to business and create opportunities.
Local travel will likely lead towards the reopening timeline. When travel does restart, outdoor and small group activities appear to be more promising when compared to larger-scale activities. Travelers will equate ‘rural and outdoors’ with good health and ‘crowds and public spaces’ with higher risk.
Business travelers will be less influenced by distance and perceptions of health-related risks tied to big cities and instead will travel where their business needs take them.
Impact of COVID-19 on Sustainability
The current pandemic will undoubtedly contribute to the enhancement of the natural environment state, especially over the air quality and natural habitat.
There’s nothing good about the coronavirus, but with a ban on non-essential travel and some countries in lockdown, we’re able to witness what happens to the Earth when we’re largely absent for the first time: when the world stays home, the planet benefits and thrives.
Of course, a global health crisis is not the answer to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the phenomenon should give us cause to reflect on the impact human activity has on the planet — including how we travel.
Based on Twenty31’s research from monitoring and speaking to various multiple global and Canadian media sources, associations, think tanks, and expert opinions from the tourism industry and government, it has come up with the below timeline chart, for a potential fall reopening of the travel sector in the Western world.
Travel, which globally generates 330 million jobs or 1 out of every 10 jobs, is a very meaningful part of modern life. People love to travel, and business travelers need to travel. Therefore, travel will return! The travel industry has rebounded from past crises and experts believe it will bounce back again.