• The travel industry has been decimated by safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic, as consumers stay put at home.
  • Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking Holdings, said comparing the COVID-19 with the industry’s struggles post-9/11 is a “good analogy.” 
  • He believes that new safety protocols being put in place today will eventually lead to a rebirth of travel over time, like it did after 9/11. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The travel industry has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. Even as stay-at-home orders are lifted, travel activity remains at depressed levels with people continuing to worry about safety and opting to stay put.

In August, Booking Holdings — which owns Kayak, Booking.com, Priceline, Rentalcars.com, OpenTable, and Agoda — reported that gross bookings fell by 91% in the second quarter. Revenue additionally fell 84% from the same period last year to $630 million. 

Glenn Fogel, the company’s CEO, has worked at Booking Holdings in various capacities for almost 21 years.

In a recent interview with Business Insider, he said looking at how travel fared after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 is “a good analogy for today.” 

“Each crisis, when you’re in the middle of it, you’re at first afraid that travel is never going to come back. Is this going to be something that’s going to go on forever? And when will it stop? But after you’ve been through a few of these, you realize it’s always going to come back,” he said. 

He lived in Manhattan at the time of 9/11 and remembers some people uttering they would never get on a plane again.

“But it wasn’t that long before people started traveling again. Yes, there were changes. The security was much stronger,” he said. 

Airlines including Delta and JetBlue are currently blocking out the middle seat to allow for social distancing on flights. An August survey found that travelers are willing to pay as much as 17% more to fly with an airline that is blocking out middle seats. 

Airlines are also requiring passengers to wear masks on planes, and airports have signs reminding people to stay six feet apart from each other.

Meanwhile, hotels are advertising their revamped cleaning protocols to entice travelers to book a stay. Hilton, for example, partnered with Lysol maker RB and the Mayo Clinic to come up with a new set of procedures amid the pandemic.  

Today, Fogel is hopeful that more protections and technology will be rolled out so that people feel safer traveling. 

“I think people just have an innate desire to travel,” Fogel said. “We’re gonna take a little bit of time, but I assure you travel in a few years will be bigger than it was before this terrible epidemic.”

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