Due to the rapid spread of COVID 19, the world's commercial airlines and aviation businesses face a great deal of pressure on revenue as a result of travel restrictions and a tremendous decrease in passenger demand. According to one global estimate, approximately 100 million in the travel and tourism sector jobs have been eliminated or will be. Based on the data by STR, rates have greatly decreased for domestic hotel occupancy. Rates are now around 25 percent.
According to Skift's recent survey, the desire to travel has not faded, with one-third of Americans still in hopes to travel within three months after restrictions are lifted. Which is not a complete surprise seeing how many have been stuck in the house longer than one might desire. Everyone pretty much has started to reach their breaking point. Aren’t you ready to travel? Well, here’s what some of the travel experts' had to say on the impact of coronavirus and their predictions on how we will travel in the future:
“So many people around the world rely on tourism – not just the travel companies and airlines. It is the more vulnerable individuals on the ground, who enrich your holidays – such as the Yala safari guide in Sri Lanka, the incense seller in Bangkok and the tour guide at the Taj Mahal – who will all suffer from the instant loss of income,”
“Realistically, most people are not going to be fully comfortable booking big trips for a while, except at the very high-end, where insurance is easier to come by and there is less of a concern about holiday funds during and post-coronavirus. The shift to digital and non-committal travel planning makes sense – no one wants to be sold a holiday right now. Companies will need to offer their would-be customers an exceptional online experience, where travel dreamers can design their perfect holiday online with no mention of the ‘d-word’ (deposit), as this will make them run to the hills.”
“Wellness was already a growing trend in the travel industry. Health awareness, mindfulness and wellbeing is at the forefront of all our agendas. Today, the growing demand for something more meaningful has led to the opening of many innovative hotels offering different types of wellness – from weight-loss to detox programmes, new fitness regimes to illness recovery, yoga retreats to stress relief. At Little Emperors, the demand for wellness has noticeably increased and I imagine will continue to do so. People want a holiday that they don’t need a holiday from.”
What has been the impact of the crisis on the private jet industry?
“In the initial phase, there was a huge spike in enquiries as people were trying to find alternatives to cancelled commercial flights, beat new travel restriction deadlines or just check options in case they needed to get home or be with loved ones. It is region-specific as countries are at different stages, but throughout January to March a significant number of flights still operated, although dealing with constantly changing rules was quite a challenge. As the world is now increasingly facing lockdown, and people are heeding the global call to reduce physical interactions and non-essential travel, things are certainly getting quieter and I suspect we’ll see this trend continue for the next few months, possibly longer.”
Has there been any positive effects of the current situation?
“I think this crisis is bringing out the best in many people around the world, and it is quite uplifting to see communities rallying around each other. We have certainly seen this within our own industry, too, with some operators and owners offering their aircraft for relief missions and being prepared to carry medical cargo as well as passengers. We may look back and be glad that we had this very nimble global infrastructure of private aircraft augmenting the commercial airlines during a time when many of them have grounded a substantial part of their fleets.”
Living in Hong Kong, is there any light at the end of the tunnel?
“Hong Kong, along with several other Asian countries, seemed to have remembered the lessons of the 2003 SARS outbreak and acted swiftly to control the spread. Early action meant that we never went into full lockdown, although as we move into April further tightening possibly lies ahead. So, we are not out of the woods yet, but it feels as though careful monitoring and lower level restrictions may mean that the impact on life in Hong Kong might not be as severe as we are seeing in many Western countries.”
What do you think will be the impact of the Coronavirus on the travel industry and what, in your opinion, is the future of travel?
“There is no doubt that the travel industry is being hit incredibly hard. While this is uncharted territory with no one able to confidently predict the path ahead, I do believe that the industry will recover and thrive once this crisis has passed. However, I believe we will see a changed consumer and the industry will need to evolve as a result. I expect that as travel will once again be considered a luxury, travellers will be looking for meaningful experiences, be that the opportunity to give back through conservation or charitable activities, or to undertake a truly life-changing challenge or expedition.
The coronavirus crisis has certainly shaken consumer confidence in international travel and I don’t believe we can expect this to instantly return and in the same form as it once was. In terms of what this means for the travel industry, I believe we will see increasing demand for private group holidays in the form of private yacht charters and villa rentals, as families and friends reunite but remain nervous about abandoning social distancing.
This would increase the appeal of flying privately as it allows travellers to avoid densely populated airports and to travel as smaller groups of people. Private terminals would allow for higher levels of hygiene and increased social distancing, and private aircraft could well be seen as safe zones where people can truly relax in an environment they can control.
When travel restrictions are eventually relaxed there will be heightened precautions as countries try to prevent Covid-19 and other infectious diseases crossing their borders. This will likely add up to international travel becoming more time consuming and more expensive, the consequence of which will be a boost to domestic tourism, but will also likely see people travel internationally less frequently but for longer periods of time.
While, short term, it is a painful time for our industry, I do think meaningful recovery will have begun before the end of this year, allowing for re-hiring and growth. People will always want to travel, and post-Covid-19, the ability and freedom to do so will be appreciated all the more.”
What's your advice for travel companies trying to stay afloat in this difficult time?
“As difficult as it seems when things look so bleak, you have to keep a level head, make decisions and execute them quickly. Managing cash flow needs be the first priority and don’t be afraid to have frank negotiations with landlords and suppliers. Everyone understands how difficult things are right now and you’ll probably be surprised at how understanding people will be – they want you to survive this and many will do everything they can to help you.
Remember that your staff are your business so try your hardest to take care of them, and if they need to be furloughed try to reach an agreement with them on this, stay in touch with them, and encourage them to do something productive with their time off. Governments and Central Banks are throwing everything at this so research what assistance is available and keep checking back for updates as the situation is very fluid.
With any major event such as this, new opportunities always lie over the horizon, so it’s a case of trying to look through this initial crisis, see what is changing and where the opportunities will be and plan for the recovery which will come.”
Photos courtesy of nationalcelldirectory.com