Around the world airlines, travel agencies, hotels and cruise lines are sinking fast, some going under while others are laying off hundreds of people. Hotel groups are even putting off thousands of new openings worldwide due to a lack of demand.
Is this the beginning of the end, or is it just the start of the crisis for the travel sector?
The travel industry will probably never again look how it did in early 2020 as changing consumer demands and the risk of re-infection determine change.
It will need to re-invent itself if it wants to survive. So, what lies ahead?
Demographics will change. The baby boomers will make way for the 18-35 age group who will be ready to travel as soon as possible, and as far as they can, because they will be less averse to the risk of infection.
The 60+ age group will find it hard to get travel insurance, be nervous of catching Covid-19 and will prefer to stay close to friends and family, as well as close to a proven healthcare system.
It is a case of “adapt or die”
Airports will have to change the way they do things completely.
They will have to take on the arduous task of taking temperature checks and testing, in effect becoming filtering centres for those deemed healthy enough to fly. Passengers will also have less of an appetite to spend hours in terminals eating or shopping before they fly, denying airports their major retail revenues.
It has been predicted that most airlines will choose to fly only their most modern aircraft, which are apparently healthier to fly in and cheaper for carriers to operate due to fuel efficiencies. They might have to remove extraneous weight onboard and become more sustainable.
Whether inflight printed magazines and plastic meal trays will still have a place on an airplane, is an open question.
Destinations in particular will need to re-evaluate and ask themselves what and who they are serving.
Several might pursue a high-value, low-volume tourism strategy focusing on higher spenders who stay in destination longer. Cities will need to spark to find interesting and exciting new reasons to attract visitors who are sceptical about being in built-up areas, taking public transport and including major indoor attractions on their itinerary.
Space and privacy will win out after the pandemic. Outdoor and nature will be much sought-after.
Hotels will have to invent new ways of keeping guests entertained. Visitors will probably avoid swimming pools and spas for some time to come, as these won’t fit with social distancing measures.
Self-service will have to be more extensively offered, with buffet breakfasts switched to room service breakfast.
Unlike previous recessions and recoveries, this cycle post-Covid-19 pandemic, will look very different. So deep and geographically widespread will be the impact that it will, unusually, be economy first, luxury last in terms of rebounds. It will probably change the dynamics of travel for the foreseeable future.