World Travel & Tourism Council reports “global travel could be adversely impacted by up to 25 per cent in 2020. This is the equivalent to a loss of three months of global travel. This could lead to a corresponding reduction in jobs of between 12 and 14 per cent.”
Jyoti Mayal, President of Travel Agents Association of India, said that there is zero business. “90 percent of the cancellations are coming from airlines...It will be a huge loss for the industry. It will take time even after the situation gets normal for the revival. Cruise business is badly hit. China, South East Asia and Europe will take longer to revive. This is a huge setback for the industry. We have sought a lot of exemption and relief from the government and are waiting for favorable support.”
In spite of these alarming concerns, all hope is not yet lost.
United Nations World Tourism Organisation's Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, “emphasized that tourism – which employs one in 10 workers worldwide, and with a proven track record for resilience during the 2008-2009 financial crisis and the 2003 SARS outbreak - is also well-placed to lead future recovery.”
“Our sector will provide the jobs people need to bounce back and will drive economic growth that will help whole communities and countries to recover”, he added.
“For now, we must be patient and stand ready”, the UNWTO chief said. “By staying home today, we can travel tomorrow. And travelling tomorrow will support jobs, celebrate culture and promote international friendship and understanding.”
Rohit Shroff, CEO and Co-Founder of Holidify, weighs into what travel would look like once travel bans are lifted and governments allow the movement of their citizens to and fro places.
1. A New Normal
Many travel experts in the industry believe that now is the time to reflect upon the kind of travel that has been promoted in the world and its impact on the world at large. As members of the travel community we need to address our collective responsibilities in global concerns of climate change and environmental reliefs.
Rohit speaks, “We perceive that once the situation resolves to a decent amount of normalcy, which might take about a year, people will want to bounce back as quickly as possible. Although there is no normal to go back to, we will get accustomed to a new normal - one that is more conscious and enthusiastic about travel.”
Andrew Evans, a writer for NBC News, echoes a similar sentiment, “Tourism can show us the magic of the world, and it can teach us the truth of staggering human inequality and a planet in peril...Slowly, our world will reconnect — border by border — and open up. And yet, returning to baseline should not be our metric for success, because mass global tourism had a very sordid underbelly. We must stop looking to “recover” the tourist industry but rather, work to transition travel and tourism to a truly sustainable level.”
2. Domestic Tourism First
Almost everyone in the industry agrees that domestic tourism will be the focus once the lockdowns are relaxed and travel is promoted.
“While domestic tourism will pick up before international tourism does, we might see a surge in rehiring once states open their borders and the local transmission reduces.” Rohit explains. Domestic tourism will be the limb that will help the travel industry to revive.
Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, adviser to Airbnb and founder of the Modern Elder Academy, thinks “there will be a rolling process for when travel starts again based upon the intent and profile of the traveler.”
“Some kinds of experiences — weddings, family reunions, transformational travel — may snap back faster because it’s the promise of happiness and connection with people you know or will get to know deeply.” He emphasizes.
3. Phased Planning
Travellers, especially in India, can look forward to a phased planning of their trips. Once the lockdown is lifted and as more and more states become COVID-19 free like Goa, travelling in and around such states would be permitted. Many travellers will be able to take weekend trips to nearby destinations and road trips would become the favourite go to as people would be inclined to travel solo in their own vehicles to avoid crowds and still adhere to social distancing norms.
The next green signal would arrive for short distance direct flights and train travels as people would be able to travel between different states that would be free COVID-19 zones. Movement between states would still be highly regulated and many public transports would introduce new methods of screening before and after boarding trains or flights. It is also under discussion that airlines might opt to disable the middle seat to promote social distancing and the same would follow for trains: middle berths might not be in service in the future.
It is only when India has surpassed the COVID-19 pandemic as a nation that long-haul flights would be freely available. International travel has a long time to exercise as much freedom as it would depend upon where you are planning to travel and the travel advisories maintained by those nations and their position in the spectrum of the pandemic.
Rohit agrees, “This event is probably the most impactful event that our generation would have seen. Yes, there is going to be a lot of set-back in terms of economic losses, job cuts and slow or negative growth in the next 12 to 18 months timeframe. Startups that were planning to raise money anytime soon might see difficult times, and all the startups should think of extending their runway anyhow possible. Companies will push profitability even if that means slower growth.”
He concludes, “However, in the long-run, probably in a 3-5 years scenario, we might look back at this event in terms of a lot of positives as well. This event is going to accelerate a lot of things that otherwise would have taken many more years to happen. Shift from offline to online in industries like education; healthcare will be expedited significantly. Some other industries, including the legislature and public administration, will probably start using technology way more than they have done so far.”
These are a few predictions that we believe would shape our coming travel days in a post COVID-19 world.