Travel -after COVID19

In two weeks, I was meant to depart for an around the world trip: Thailand-Egypt-Athens and the Greek Islands- Milan- Malaga- Morocco- New York- Seattle and Spokane- Los Angeles-Taipei-Bangkok-Sydney.

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All carefully planned from late last year, it was going to be a fun trip that included three bucket list items and a new One World partner Royal Air Maroc. Seeing many of those destinations are now “COVID19 hotspots”, this would now be an insane and impossible trip.

Instead, I am grateful that I am safe and healthy and, I’m looking forward to voyaging from MBR to BTH to LVG after two weeks in self -isolation.

To cancel  my 2020 plans. I have been dealing with nine airlines, two ferry companies, multiple bus and train operators and hoteliers. They have all had different strategies for handling changes and refunds in this crisis. This has been an “interesting” challenge in itself. In some cases, the process has been delightful. In others, the companies (I am looking at you Premier Inn and Virgin Atlantic) has been abysmal. 

It has made me more and more concerned for the 305 million people globally that rely on the travel industry for jobs and equally curious as to how many of the companies I have been dealing with, will be operating when I eventually can do this trip?

Just three months ago, it was expected that 2020 would set new records for tourism. The number of scheduled air passengers was expected to be over 4.72 billion. Air profits were tipped to be over  $US29 billion globally.  Forecast Hotel room bookings mirrored this growth, as did homestay programs. In January, it was stated that: “in these times of uncertainty and volatility, tourism remains a reliable economic sector”.

The travel industry has not proved to be resilient and has collapsed into a mammoth black hole, in effectively a month. In the most recent assessment, the airline industry is now heading to a loss of revenue of US$252bn as a result of COVID-19. The value of the three largest cruise line companies in the USA: Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean has collapsed. Hotel occupancy is way down and revenue per available room has fallen to the lowest for years.  

 

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Planes sitting on the tarmac at Hong Kong international

As plane after plane has been grounded, ships mothballed, hotels shut, attractions locked up and staff laid off, many companies are delaying their  inevitable collapse. IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac said: “The airline industry faces its gravest crisis…Without immediate government relief measures, there will not be an industry left standing.”

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Me on an empty Airport bus at Dublin Airport, a month ago. Passenger numbers disappeared in days. I had plenty of social distance but was not always wearing a mask then.

The travel industry won’t have a rapid restart as most of the planet will be in an economic downturn for a long, long time.

What will this mean?

  • Until we have a vaccine for CVID19, it will be hard to travel as we previously have.  Social distancing rules will last long after the vaccine is here and COVID19 will potentially flare up in different spots, shutting places down until the virus is contained again -and again, and again.
  • People are going to be very very  price conscious. Think shorter holidays, fewer frills and intense scrutiny of deals.
  • I think we will see a rise in nationalism which will urge people to holiday at home. Many people will feel reluctant to go too far from home especially when they have seen how some companies and governments have treated tourists, guests and travelers. Maybe more caravanning, staying with relatives, staying at home?
  • This mistrust will be accentuated by the knowledge how quickly travel insurance companies cancelled insurance policies reinforcing a reluctance by some to go overseas if they cannot coverage
  • The cruise industry is going to have to work very hard to rebuild its reputation, as the situation has been completely bungled by governments and companies. globally.  There are going to need to be new protocols around ill passengers, and how countries help cruise ships that are in quarantine.
  • Many businesses having extensively and successfully field tested Zoom and Facetime for meetings, will resist having people travel to meetings and conferences for cost and time reasons.
  • I am not sure how anyone is going to market anything that will attract vast crowds. Music concerts, Conventions, Theme Parks will be harder to sell to people who have had months of requests to “keep their distance”.
  • We are going to see major consolidations and the loss of multiple brand names. I was once predicted the world would have less than 20 airline groups by the 2030s. This could happen. It’s very hard to run a budget airline if every second seat has to remain empty.
  • In some cases, we will see temporary or permanent nationalisation of travel companies (eg Alitalia). In other countries (such as Norway), struggling travel related companies will be given subsidies or loans. In other cases, the government will allow some business to vanish. For example, the Australian government is currently offering no help to Virgin Australia.
  • People are going to be much more conscious of health and sanitation and much more demanding about it.
  • We may see requirements to demonstrate that you are vaccinated against a range of conditions including COVID19 before you can board a flight.
  • Some countries will make it harder for people from other countries to visit. For example, many Asian nations may be reluctant to allow Italians and US citizens to visit for a long time.
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This pic: Above the clouds between LAX & DFW- the climate ahead remains bumpy for all

The impact of COVID19 will eventually pass but it will fundamentally change the status quo policy, socially and economically across the globe. Travelers and travel providers will need to be ready for the “new normal” whatever it looks like.

Which of my predictions do you think are accurate?

Stay Safe.  

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