The coronavirus has crippled numerous economies here and around the world. It has disrupted life and businesses in ways that were simply unimaginable just months ago.
I know we are all tired of hearing it but… it is our reality; the world will never be the same as it was a few short months ago. Being in the travel and tourism industry, I get this question nearly every day from family members, friends, as well as, from concerned industry representatives from hotels, restaurants and local travel destinations; what will tourism look like as we begin to reemerge from our Covid-19 quarantines?
Unfortunately, the question that continues to swim through my head is, what will begin to help restore confidence for people to start traveling once the Covid-19 pandemic finally recedes?
For simplicity purposes, I will try to cover both topics within this blog for all of us…
I expect two types of travelers to emerge from the Covid-19 quarantine. To help explain, allow me to use an analogy from my childhood summers of going to the swimming pool with my friends. There were always two types of kids, those that would emerge from the bath-house, throw their towel down on the scorching hot pool deck and jump right in and then there were those of us, yes this is me, that would go put our towel down in a scouted spot on the pool deck and walk over to the pools edge and stick our big toe in to see how cold the water is… before we jump.
So how does this equate to travel and tourism or their industry as we reemerge from the Covid-19 quarantine? Good question but most of you probably figured it out without going very far…
Group A, will jump back into life as it was with the devil may care attitude. Right in the deep-end.
Group B, will be taking a more conservative approach. This is the group I want to focus on for the sake of today’s blog. Why, because this group will need a little coaxing and will be cautious of destinations, hotels and more importantly those “other” travelers within our Group A. They will look for opportunities to get out… but will want to rebuild their trust with cautious optimism and in some ways just like we all did before we jump in the pool, stick our toe in to feel the temperature.
I expect our Group (B) to start with short day trips or what we will call one tank trips. Venturing out for a day, seeing sights they have always talked about seeing and returning home that evening. They will look for local cultural destinations and experiences in their own backyard, so to speak, as they begin to rebuild their confidence in travel and most importantly keeping their family safe and healthy.
As this conservative traveler, Group B, begins to gain more confidence in their travel experiences they will begin to look at longer weekend getaways, regional overnights to a neighboring state or two away. BUT let us not forget their conservative nature, because they will be doing their research first. What does that mean, for our hotels and destination play particular attention to this little tidbit, they will be checking hotel, restaurant, and destination websites before booking. Checking to see if you have an “exposure prevention, preparedness and response plan” available online to ease their concerns.
Group B will also be reading the post pandemic “reviews” online from their conservative Group B travels on the hotels, restaurants and destinations before they venture out and they will have at least a rough idea of where they will sleep eat or go before they even leave the comforts of home. I am sure, some will be willing to spend a few dollars more for that peace of mind to keep their family members safe.
Well, that is what I believe a typical family vacation might look like in the U.S. once travel and tourism start to pick up again post-pandemic. Just when that might happen is still a little up in the air, yet it could be as soon as early as now for our Group A and maybe even as early as June for the Group B but I feel very confident that this summer and early fall will be filled with lots of new vacations stories with most of them being from very close to home.
In the long-term, the hypothetical trip incorporates several trends coming to travel industry going forward. These include traveler preferences for domestic destinations reachable by car and stays at hotel properties that have great reviews and have posted their “exposure prevention, preparedness and response guidelines” online and from the reviews travelers see that they are implementing their plan. I see a growing trend to unique travel experiences instead of international or larger metropolitan areas. Finally, I see a lot of “stay here, go there” hotels within an hour or their destination coming up big for their travelers in an effort to avoid crowded hotels and resorts and allowing vacationers to stretch their financial resources.
What does seem sure is that any rebound in the travel and tourism industry, will start slowly with a focus of staying closer to home. A recent study from Longwoods International found that 82% of travelers polled had changed their travel plans for the next six months, to dip a toe in the water before they jump in.