What does Covid-19 have to do with travel?
Due to the widespread pandemic that has been termed Covid-19, many industries are suffering losses because of government’s decisions to enforce lockdowns, as well as other movement restriction orders. This contagious infection means people can no longer travel to work freely, and the transport of non-essential goods are becoming more and more confined. One of the most obvious – and hardest – markets to be hit is that for travel and tourism. Cancelled flights and movement restrictions coinciding with what would be peak summer breaks and vacation plans is a major loss. But what would this industry look like after it’s all over?
There have also been some theories as to what the kind of demand will look like, with one end of the spectrum thinking of an empowered people, who have learnt to live without the simple pleasures of travel, and the other end that sees a population starved of this pleasure, just waiting to get back out again. It seems as though the reality sits closer to the latter end, however, we see no problem with this: it would only mean new demand for what was once a commonplace commodity. Tom Marchant, one of the founders of the luxury travel operator Black Tomato, speaks his opinion – “After weeks and perhaps months staying home, this longing for authentic human connection and togetherness will be stronger than ever… But there will be less of a cookie-cutter travel mentality”. Which then brings forth the question, how far away from this cookie-cutter tree will the fruits of a post-Covid industry fall? Jannik Lawaetz, LuggageHero’s CEO, also agrees that this demand is going to come back stronger than ever – with experts in the industry particularly hopeful, it leaves no doubt as to the industry’s mentality being that of a thrust-back; a defiant push against the effects of this pandemic. So if the market is just waiting to be stimulated, when is it actually going to be rubbed the right way?
When might this change?
Much like all other industries, it looks as though this major economical blow will change the fate of what we now know as the travel industry. However, the future seems hopeful: as of recent statistics, the market has seen the past 16 days show a 229 per cent increase in global flight bookings that were made to the UK, during the dates around January 2021. A 171% increase was made in the same kind of bookings to Spain, as well. This shows that although people are currently withdrawing from travelling, what with all the flight cancellations and such, the consumers still have hope for the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021. Which also implies that, as Covid-19 worsens with hundreds of deaths everyday, the confidence of the people will move further and further into 2021 – not a great outlook. Although restrictive measures have been taken to limit the virus’ spread, as of today, cases still seem very much on the rise. It looks to be a longer wait than 2020-end. We can’t ascertain this though – cases such as 2009’s H1N1 have proven otherwise. The WHO declared the virus a pandemic that June, and by mid-September vaccines had been created. Seems short when you say it, but that was actually a whole 3 months! The pandemic was considered over by August 2010, though, which was almost a whole year later. Not to make anyone lose hope, because as of an update dated mid-March, vaccines for the coronavirus have already been in the making in China. Nevertheless, there seems to be plenty of suppressed demand waiting for the channels to open, so the sooner the better!
A ‘New Normal’, or back to the old ways?
Being one of the largest economic sectors in the world comes at a cost. This $8.8 trillion industry sees its doomsday because of the one thing it was valued for: access to other parts of the world. Even in a pre-Covid situation, there has been much speculation over the topic that excessive tourism might not be good for the long run – however, many countries see it as their prime source of money inflow, so they might be willing to take measures into their own hands if push comes to shove. Professionals at Tourism Industry speculate a full recovery by 2023, which is a full two and a half years from now. Although this seems particularly daunting (which it is), the travel industry might shift towards a more sustainable approach, allowing for preparation for any future outbreaks or economic dips. Countries are already switching to digital transactions and a more virtual approach to both essential and non-essential items: bank transfers, work meetings and social gatherings (even virtual graduation ceremonies!) are now part and parcel of today’s world, so looking at a more virtualized travel industry (i.e. VR tours and an immersive online experience) doesn’t seem so far off from reality.
The IATA has forecasted an annual loss of $113-252 billion for the airline industry: revenue projection prospects moved swiftly from a growth of 4% to anywhere between a 13 to 30% year-on-year descent. Unemployment is now a bigger problem worldwide, with an estimated $24 billion (plus) wiped away, as more than 825,000 jobs have been lost. But this isn’t all dull and dreary – the silver lining here is that tourist spots are getting a bit of a breather, and they’re using this time well. The infamous canals in Venice have seen clear waters for the first time in decades, and geese now flock regularly to the plaza. Imagine what this would look like on your next trip to Italy – isn’t that a good bargain? However, many sources claim that the future is more invested towards local exploration, rather than a global footprint. What this means is, once individual countries start opening up borders within themselves, people will definitely stimulate air travel and holidays: just not abroad. The prospects of natural wonders being explored in and around your city may just start to look like a good idea. People who want to explore will find a way to do it no matter what resource they have, and this seems like the next best option: if foreigners come to your country to look around, why can’t you do the same? Is what the logic behind this is. And why does this matter? Because this is a good hint: the travel industry could see a pickup as soon as nationwide lockdowns – such as that of India – ease off. Whilst this may not be an end-of-year affair, or a wait towards 2023, it is still a compromise as well as a prospect that shouldn’t be taken lightly. As the virus is still very much in sight, a careless populus during the much-awaited end to lockdowns could lead to an even larger spread of the infection. Which, by extension, means a longer wait towards an industry recovery.
How certain are we that this is the case?
Since travel isn’t an ‘essential’ good (which many travelholics might strongly object to), the future of it, as well as its return, is a wholly prospective deal. To sum it up, tentative dates may range from the hopeful year-end towards a full recovery only in 2023. What we need to keep in mind, however, is that the key word here is tentative: the best-case scenario sees a stringent adherence to government laws, coupled with a healthy lifestyle and appropriate medical measures. This doesn’t only make sure you stay Covid-free, though: it makes sure industries can start opening up faster. Lowered case rates mean that countries can now start shifting their aims from improving healthcare and trying to flatten the metaphorical curve, to focusing on the economic stimulation that many desperately seek. However, the worst-case scenario could mean multiple nationwise lockdowns, and a more powerful, mutated virus as a result: slowing down the economy even further, and hence delaying all your future trips to Bali, Greece and anywhere else you dreamt of going. Therefore, please ensure the safety of yourself and others by wearing your masks, using that sanitizer, and staying at home!