There are lots of opinions as to when and how travel will recover post the coronavirus peak, and what will change. Here are some thoughts.
This pandemic will have a profound impact on us all. It will stay long in the memory, and it will change us in so many different ways. It is also going to change travel and tourism for years to come – travel preferences, travel patterns, and individual behaviours.
How quickly travel and tourism fully recover to 2019 levels is primarily dependent on the effectiveness of the solutions found to eliminate or control the spread of the coronavirus, and how quickly they can be implemented. The safer and less anxious people feel, the more they will travel, and they will be eager to do so.
There will be pent-up demand, but the return to travel will be gradual. It’s likely that restrictions will first be eased and monitored, and then further relaxed as the coronavirus is controlled. People will be anxious and cautious at first and will generally follow safety advice. They will do the things they believe to be the safest – initially getting out and about within their areas, and re-connecting with family and friends in person where possible.
People are then far more likely to enjoy day visits or take short breaks within their own countries first – taking in places that are familiar to them or that feel safe to them. As this will apply to all countries, and for other reasons, international travel will take longer to recover.
With a slowdown in international travel, the domestic markets within all countries will significantly increase in their relative importance. The domestic market in Ireland will, therefore, be crucial to the start of the recovery for the tourism sector. Expect a massive promotional drive to encourage and stimulate these breaks, but only when it is safe to do so, and expect deals and creative offers from individual businesses to form part of the response. All businesses will be actively working to win an increasing share of whatever business is about, hoping to replace some lost overseas business with domestic business.
In-destination marketing will become increasingly important for all tourism-connected businesses. They will be promoting themselves to both domestic and overseas visitors already in the country and during their trips around the country. Local business will also be extremely important.
Social distancing measures, and the memory of why they were imposed, will stay with us for a very long time. They will be engrained and likely to have a significant impact on travel behaviour.
People will favour individual (non-group) travel over group travel. Therefore, families, friends, and solo travellers will be the first to get out and about, and this will be essential to help begin an economic recovery.
Some segments will be more adventurous than others. Younger people are likely to be the first to return to travel in numbers. Seniors and those with a health condition are likely to be the most cautious. The feeling of safety will be even more important to them.
People will watch out for each other more than ever before. Generation X (now aged 41 to 60) are thought to have been a key group in taking the coronavirus seriously and imploring others to do the same. They, together with Millennials (aged 26 – 40), are likely to continue to be protective of children and seniors and to advise of caution in travel. They will also practice it when either children or seniors are accompanying them.
Group travel and large gatherings, of any type, will take longer to return to 2019 levels, particularly international group travel. This will impact group tours and the MICE sector (meetings, incentive travel, conferences/conventions, and exhibitions).
Outdoor events that are not overcrowded are likely to be the first events to recover. It will take more time for indoor events to return to BC (Before Coronavirus) levels.
Fresh air and the great outdoors will be increasingly valued. Seas, rivers, lakes, beaches, forests, national parks, and other areas of natural beauty will be sought out.
Outdoor activities, not involving crowds, will be preferred. For example, people will enjoy walking, cycling, golf, swimming, all water sports, horse riding, and fishing.
Smaller personal tours (guided or self-guided) rather than larger join-in tours will be preferred – particularly if outdoors.
Attractions that are not overcrowded, particularly outdoor attractions, will be the first to reach BC (before coronavirus) levels. This includes gardens, parks, heritage sites, greenways, and blueways.
More people are likely to use their own cars for non-city leisure breaks and to get out and about. More overseas visitors are, initially, likely to be individual (non-group) travellers. Their mode of transport will be dependent on the nature of their break e.g. city break or touring. If touring, own-car or car rental are more likely options now.
Business travel will be still important but less essential for many. The restrictions on travel, and the requirement to work from home, will have ‘tuned’ more individuals and businesses into online meetings and networking. In addition, the budgets of many companies will be more constrained as the economic impact of the pandemic is felt.
People will be more conscious of hygiene when it comes to where they stay and visit, and they will have increased expectations and be more judgemental. They will be aware that many businesses, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, announced special cleaning measures to reassure guests.
The coronavirus pandemic means many international travellers are likely to stay closer to home for a while until they are sure it is safe to venture abroad.
Different countries will emerge from the peak of coronavirus crisis at different times, and this only adds to the uncertainty as to when flights will resume between countries and where it is safe to travel to.
In addition, the abrupt halt to travel and trade will have economic consequences for airlines, businesses, and consumers. Discretionary spend will be tighter, and this will impact global travel and spending.
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