Industry Chats: The changing face of Travel
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Industry Chats: Travel
The Travel industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. With vaccines beginning to be rolled out in many countries across the globe, will a return to travel soon be on the horizon?
Seems like consumers are willing to take the next step. According to Topdeck Travel’s research, 93 per cent of young adults claim that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have increased their desire to travel. After spending a year mostly cooped up indoors, travellers will be looking for new places to visit.
Our expert of this issue: Colin Carter – Weather2Travel.com
Let us introduce to you Colin Carter from Weather2Travel.com. We have discussed the impacts of the COVID-19 virus on leisure and business travel, what the road ahead looks like and how every single one of us can help.
How has the lockdown changed the aspirations of travellers?
There is much pent-up demand to travel. Those who love to travel just want to be able to do so, safely, again.
I’d suggest that it’s more about changing priorities – whether that’s proximity to home in case the worst should happen, unwillingness to fly for too long wearing a mask or the need to book a holiday that’s truly flexible, people are more aware of what they need to feel reassured about travelling.
I suspect that the domestic market will continue to soar this year, as it did in 2020, while the international market will likely take a little longer to recover. That said, there are plenty of people who are ready and willing to travel far and wide as soon as possible.
What would you advise to travel providers?
Consumers are primarily concerned with the central question of safety and security. How safe is their holiday going to be? Are they going to get their money back if their holiday is disrupted? It is a matter of recognising this need as a travel provider and taking away consumers’ fears through cleaning protocols, cancellation policies and clear communication on travel restrictions.
We have already seen many companies making great efforts to implement reassuring policies. Hotels and holiday companies are working hard to make their customers feel at ease about booking, travelling and staying with them. If this is applied strictly and well communicated to consumers, I believe people will book and travel. It’s about instilling consumer confidence in the current climate.
Is the trend of the digital nomad still ongoing?
That trend was already happening pre-COVID and I think it will be around for a while. Obviously, with Brexit, there are going to be restrictions in terms of how much time you can spend in a European country, so there will be caveats to that.
However, with people’s increased ability to work out of the office, there are opportunities for destinations and companies to capitalise on this growing market of digital nomads. Everything from suitable, well equipped workspaces, refreshments and reliable Wi-Fi to flexible policies can play a part in attracting digital nomads.
What are other expected trends for travel this year?
The trend of distanced holidays
Whether people are travelling to the next county, one of the home nations or further afield, private accommodation, has never been more appealing. Other options include setting up your own space on a camping – or glamping – break in a tent, caravan or lodge type of accommodation.
Fly drive holidays, where car hire is included, and self-drive holidays from home will likely prove to be popular also, given the independent and distanced nature of these breaks.
Adventure & activity holidays
We know that the risk of contracting COVID-19 is much lower when we’re outside, and adventure holidays that include a huge range of outdoor activities will likely prove popular with all manner of travellers.
From walking and cycling to sailing, kayaking and camping, being in the fresh air when you know you can rely on the weather will certainly be on many people’s agenda for their travels this year.
The demand for big holidays and big experiences
We’ve already seen an increase in spend on individual holiday bookings, as people look to make their next holiday a little extra special. This might be a longer duration, higher standard of accommodation, more exotic destination or larger multi-generational holiday.
For some, the crisis allowed them to save a little extra money that they’re willing, if not itching, to put towards a once-in-a-lifetime holiday.
They also might be looking to stuff their break full of activities they never thought they’d get round to previously, like hot air ballooning, an adventure tour or seeing some of the world’s most famous sights.
I think the demand for beach holidays will bounce back to the same level as before, and as soon as possible, as the majority of that market will be looking to get away. We might see slower recovery for short breaks, especially as border restrictions make travel more of a hassle.
Speaking of nature and outdoor holidays: Sustainability is quite a buzzword at the current time. Would you say there is a shift in the understanding of the impact that travel has on our environment?
COVID-19 showed how our world can change when people do not travel. We saw changes in the CO2 levels and cities like Venice and Dubrovnik had much-needed breaks from over-tourism.
Before COVID, we noticed people considering sustainability more, evaluating where and how they travel. We can see this in the increased number of people booking train and coach travel, for example.
Currently, it’s unclear how sustainability will be adopted into future travel plans long after the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. If we enter a deep sustained recession with mass unemployment, people’s holiday budgets will be squeezed and they will likely prioritise price and convenience over sustainability, as they did in the 2008/2009 recession.
That said, there’s still plenty of demand, as discussed above, for holidays and new, exciting experiences in different countries. People want to reconnect with nature and the wider world, be that by train, river cruise or adventure tours such as a cycling break.
The shape of business travel has, I suggest, changed forever, with fewer people taking flights for short meetings and might have a greater impact on the whole industry including leisure travel.
You mentioned the obvious decline in business travel. A segment in the industry that is probably most affected by the pandemic. What does the future of business travel look like?
Obviously, the impact of that segment is massive, primarily for airlines and hotel chains. Particularly large hotel chains, owning a huge number of properties relying on business travellers to fill up their rooms daily.
You also need to consider travel extras like car hire, airport parking, airport lounges, airport hotels and so on. In the first instance, they are going to be massively affected by this, just the drop in the sheer volume of traffic that they’re experiencing by not having as many consistent business-related travellers.
They will have to adapt to the new demand, as there will certainly be less business travel in the future, whether because of the environment, cost or simply because we have now realised that many meetings can be held online.
What is your outlook on the future of travel?
There’s no denying that the travel industry needs to adapt in a number of ways with some travel restrictions in place for the foreseeable future, shifts in consumer behaviour and reduced business travel.
The short-term prospects are still not clear in terms of how quick the recovery will be, but leisure travel will come back and there will be quite a high demand for people to travel as soon as they can. This will start with domestic travel followed by short-haul holidays followed by long-haul destinations.
How can consumers support the travel industry?
1. Now is a great time to book: there are many flexible offers and travel deals encouraging
people to start planning now.
2. Book with confidence using an accredited holiday provider and be sure to read the T&Cs and cancellation policy of any holiday booking.
3. Booking holidays or combined flight+accommodation holidays offer additional protection through ABTA and ATOL.
4. If you’re just looking for accommodation, book directly with the property owners, whether a hotel chain or cottage provider, rather than an OTA. Without them there is no holiday accommodation.
Thank you, Colin, and Weather2Travel.com for your expertise and insights! We look forward to a continued prosperous partnership in 2021 and wish the travel industry all the best!