Charting travel’s new future

Almost no sector has been as badly affected by Covid-19 as travel. And there are now two distinct new normals for the sector – the new consumer experience, and the new burdens on the travel industry.

Despite the fact the “air bridges” haven’t even been officially announced, there has been a huge surge in holiday bookings leaving European tour operators’ phones ringing off the hook. Add to this the resumption of domestic travel on 4 July, with campsites and hotels fully booked around the country, and we can take this as confirmation that travellers are more than ready to book trips and spend money. This can only be good news for the entire sector.

But it will not be easy going forward. For many businesses and individuals, it is already too late.  Over the last few days we have heard heart-breaking stories of business large and small facing an uncertain future. Those who have survived now have the challenge of regaining customers’ trust, many of whom they were unable to refund when their trips were cancelled early on in the pandemic.  And at the moment, it is only domestic and European travel that has started to open up, with no certainty around when the rest of the world will open to UK travellers. New Zealand won’t be opening until well into 2021.

Aviation arguably faces the biggest challenge, with many still not convinced planes are a safe way to travel.  Eurotunnel, reported that bookings on 27 June were three times higher than those on the same day in 2019, as British travellers seek to go abroad while avoiding planes.

Until a vaccine is available, the world of travel will continue to be an uncertain one. If a country sees a spike in cases, they can and will close their borders at short notice, meaning unlike in a pre-Covid-19 world, people will be less likely to book their trips in advance. Consequently, travel companies will have to compete to win those last-minute bookings.

And competitive prices will take on a new meaning as well. The Sicily Tourist Board have already offered to pay for half the price of tourist’s holidays to the island in an effort to entice them back, while San Giovanni in Galdo, Italy is offering free holidays to the village.

Social distancing will need to be maintained; companies offering group tours will rethink the types of trips they offer. Aeroplanes will have to consider how they will keep passengers at a safe distance: Zephyr Aerospace has already designed a double-decker plane, while other carriers have announced plans to keep the middle seat free on all flights.

Luxury hotels have announced they will be offering more in-room dinner service; the buffet will be no more for the moment; outdoor dining pods are being built. Ultimately, it will be those companies that are innovative enough, and can afford to adapt quickly that will succeed, both at home and overseas, and creativity and flexibility will be key to the success of the travel industry.

At Think we’re privileged to work with many organisations who operate visitor attractions, wildlife centres, parks, gardens and historic buildings. With more people holidaying the UK there are opportunities for these destinations, our imagination, resolve and hard work are the tools that will be needed to make the most of them.

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