Travel – if you can….
Somehow the world will not be the same, post-COVID. Maybe better or could be worse, but certainly different. The sheer enormity of the pandemic that engulfs the entire world has unleashed waves of shock, disbelief, and anger among people. It straddles the world economy like a colossus.
Taking a snapshot at what holds in store for the Tourism industry in the wake of this virus, we come forth with the reality that this sector is going through a cataract of crisis. Major Travel companies are looking at heavy losses and a drop in demand yet hopeful about a swift rebound.
Analyst Nick Wyatt, head of research for travel and tourism at GlobalData, one of the largest data and insights solution providers in the world, shares his invaluable views, with Ritu Ghai, on the impact of COVID pandemic on Global Tourism.
“The impact it has had on the industry has been nothing short of devastating. Travel restrictions have taken the option to travel away from many people, and even where travel is possible, low consumer confidence is pulling on take-up. This has all culminated in deficient demand.
Airlines have been forced to ground flights in large numbers, and for extended periods, hotels are seeing very low occupancy, and some are closing their doors temporarily. Cruise liners have suspended sailings globally. Companies across the sector have been forced to prioritize cash preservation, and this has driven decisions to furlough staff in unprecedented numbers.
Such has been the impact that some companies have been forced to ask for government support. The U.S. has been visibly active in this regard, with airlines set to receive billions in grants and interest-bearing loans.
IATA estimates that the global airline industry could lose $252bn in revenue in 2020. All of this stems from people not traveling. For example, GlobalData’s early-stage forecasts indicate that international travel to China will fall by 36-40% in 2020, and France, the most-visited country in the world, will see a drop of 39-43%“, he states while mentioning that these data points are early-stage forecasts and subject to potential revision.
When questioned about the future of the tourism industry, Nick replies, “This remains to be seen, but it is complicated to see any way in which it can emerge from this crisis unchanged. We’ve now moved beyond this being a short-lived phenomenon, and this increases the chances of failures. Failures tend to result in consolidation, and a look at history points to a substantial likelihood of consolidation in the airlines’ industry as failures may allow those that survive to cherry-pick routes and possibly even acquire distressed assets if they have the cash available to do so.
The cruises industry, on the other hand, is already very consolidated, so there is much less scope for further concentration there. However, people like (and in many cases need) to travel so the industry is not going to disappear and we may even see pent up demand drive increased travel once restrictions start to ease as people look to take a well-needed break, visit friends and relatives, and conduct business trips.
The question marks are over how long lockdowns and restrictions will last and nobody knows the answer to that. When they are lifted, the bounce back will depend to some degree on the state of the global economy and people’s level of disposable income. If this doesn’t take too high a hit, we may see a strong bounce back in 2021, but 2020 will be an annus horribilis.“
Throwing light over how the Tourism industry can revive itself, he explains, “To some extent, at the mercy of the broader economic situation, but there are some steps that operators in the industry can take to try to ease their road to recovery. Now, the likes of cruises and airlines can encourage re-booking by offering incentives such as extra credit vouchers so that people travel at a later date rather than claim cash refunds. Intermediaries should look to maintain partnerships with key transport and lodging providers. In the mid-term (say, 1-3 years), players should invest in effective marketing campaigns, incorporating the learnings from the COVID-19 crisis.
It will also be crucial to prepare for a potential change in how customers see the world and to assess how demands and expectations may change. They should also prepare for a market rebound that might require a very different product/service that needed now within a different competitive environment. Consumer behavior will be changed by what we are currently experiencing. There are questions over how people will react to hygiene, which will have ramifications for airlines, cruises, hotels, and car rental. Hotels should look to market hygiene standards provided by daily, professional housekeeping as this should be an advantage over accommodation sharing sites.“, he concludes.
Plan a Getaway…
For the last two decades and more, the Tourism and Hospitality industry has dominated the world. Cities and countries have been bustling with inbound and outgoing travelers and borders ceasing to a bar for the travel enthusiast.
Then Corona happened to put you in lockdown and quarantine your plans. Travel became the first casualty of this crisis. But the wanderer spirit in you refused to be under quarantine. We talk to a few Globetrotters and look through their lens on the future of Tourism and where they would dash to, whenever the bans are lifted.
Payal Kapoor, famed Interior Designer, based in New Delhi, who infuses art & design to bring out the best of Interior Solutions, talks about the Tourism future in this situation. “Corona outbreak has significantly impacted this sector, and people are not so keen to travel to the USA or Europe for fear of contracting this virus. This means that whenever travel becomes a possibility, inbound tourism to places like Uttrakhand and Himachal will be more sought after as Corona Virus effect has been minuscule in these places.
Also, economic slowdown and tight financial conditions will lead travelers to opt for cheaper options. People will either postpone their plans or look at COVID free areas within their own country”, says Payal, the vision behind the interiors of Hotel Umaid Bhawan Palace, G.D. Goenka World School, Vasant Kunj, TATA’s Corporate Office. Palace on Wheels, Rajasthan, PVR Mega Mall Gurgaon, to name a few.
Lushin Dubey, Indian stage actor and director of famous plays, Untitled and Pinki Virani’s ‘Bitter Chocolate,’ is waiting to go to the U.S., her second home. “My husband, Professor of Applied Mathematics, at Yale and Stonybrook, is based in Long Island, New York state. I know it’s a badly infected COVID area, and I am worried. Once the travel restrictions are over, I want to reach there and give him a silent hug for at least 5 mins.
Then, as soon as life permits, I want to travel with him to someplace in the hills or retreat into Dharamsala. I am a Buddhist practitioner. I would love to go with him and possibly my family, into the heart of nature and a place where higher consciousness of spirit and energy dwells. One thing the pernicious tidal wave of COVID has taught us that never to take tomorrow for granted”, reflects this award-winning actor and theatre artist.
Talking to Capt. Amit Singh, an airline pilot with over 30 years of experience, we get an insight into the changes that will come into the Travelling rule book of people. “We humans have two very positive and enduring qualities. The first is that they are social animals and love to travel. Secondly, they are resilient and adapt to new circumstances with ease. In months to come, these needs will transform into a new set of rules to facilitate travel and tourism. Enhanced hygiene pre-requisites and contactless transition/transactions are the few rules which are intact something that no one should have a problem with. This is what the mom’s always said, don’t meet strangers, keep tidy and clean”, he recalls and lets us in on his travel plans, post corona threat.
“I look forward to revisiting Europe. Its a place which has been hit hard but it has seen great battles like the world wars. Yet, they have managed to preserve their art and culture. My last visit to Berlin and the museums in November last year was a memorable one. I was planning a cruise to Greenland in the summers. As and when the visit is feasible, I would love to board the cruise liner and head to the zenith, top of the world“, says Amit Singh, former senior management of IndiGo & AirAsia. Armed with a fellowship by the Royal Aeronautical Society, London, for his contribution to aviation, Singh is a passionate aviation blogger and a keen sportsman.
Today as we battle a global crisis, the inspiring travel plans and viewpoints of these people are raising hope for a bailout from this situation. Even though the Coronavirus effect is claiming several sectors, particularly Tourism, yet there is hope.
Maybe this verdict is too early and too favorable. But with the efforts of Travel companies, Government sectors, and committed globetrotters, Tourism is poised to revive and bounce back even better and more equipped.
Travel lives in the hearts of people. Its what makes our memories memorable and fascinating. It is all about loving, living, and exploring.
About the writer
Savoring the publication of every article of hers with equal enthusiasm, Ritu Ghai recalls a childhood full of books. With a never-ending desire to read more and write creative, she certainly has a way with words.