Tourism is among the worst-hit sectors amid the Covid-19 crisis, as countries worldwide impose travel restrictions and eliminate non-essential (or even essential) travel to curb the spread of the virus.
Once the worst of the pandemic is behind us, these measures will ultimately ease but that doesn’t necessarily mean things will revert exactly to how they were before the onset of the outbreak.
Travellers will still be cautious about the destination they want to travel to. If they do travel, they will take necessary safety precautions and continue observing social distancing rules.
While it’s impossible to predict with complete certainty what the future may bring, the following trends are likely to shape the ways people engage with travel around the world.
1. No Early Bookings Of Trips
Before Covid-19 happened, the trick to seizing cheaper, better rates is booking your trip way earlier than your travelling date. Some people book months, or even up to a year in advance.
However, we believe that is set to change as we grapple with travel uncertainty — our future travel plans may be at risk of sudden cancellations.
With that, travellers will avoid confirming their trips too early so as to reduce disappointment as well as deal with the hassle of cancellations and refunds.
That said, we may instead book trips one or two weeks, or even mere days, before the confirmed travel dates — even if this means paying higher prices in exchange for a peace of mind.
2. Solo Travelling
Covid-19 calls for social distancing and there is already a shift from group tours to free travel among younger Chinese tourists after China reopened its borders.
In the days before the pandemic, Chinese tourists have traditionally preferred travelling in groups. As a result of the new lifestyle changes being brought about, group tours will no longer be the preferred option.
We foresee that this new trend will follow suit in other countries as people increasingly opt for free-and-easy, independent travel with maximum freedom over travel tours.
3. Opting For Medically-Ready Destinations
The Covid-19 crisis has seen citizens worldwide struggling to get the medical attention they need.
The healthcare systems of some countries have buckled under pressure and faced shortage of medical and critical supplies such as Personal Protection Equipment, ventilators and surgical masks.
This may give rise to the birth of a new trend with travellers favouring locations that have high-class medical facilities or infrastructure. This way, they can feel confident about dealing with an emergency if the need ever arises.
For one, Singapore, Australia and Taiwan are some of the countries that have been lauded for their swift responses to the coronavirus pandemic.
4. Off-The-Beaten Track
Post-Covid-19, travelers may opt for destinations in nature such as national parks, deserts and islands.
This form of tourism will allow them to adhere to social distancing rules, as well as discover and reconnect with nature, which many travelers have been unable to benefit from in recent weeks.
Moreover, such locations are typically less frequently visited by tourists and may benefit from the demand for less crowded places post-Covid-19.
5. Health And Wellness Tourism
We are also expecting to see heightened interest in health and wellness and well-being oriented hotels, brands and destinations.
Covid-19 has further emphasised the importance of health, and we foresee that travellers will consider their travel plans with health and wellness in mind.
Some of these wellness retreats include yoga retreats in Indonesia, or detox and rejuvenation programmes in Thailand.
There is already a growing demand in India, Middle East, China and Thailand and the rest of Asia Pacific in recent years. Covid-19 will certainly prove positive for this sector.
6. Staycations Or Short-Haul Trips
The restrictions on international travel and the feeling of insecurity associated with flights and airports will make tourism turn its focus towards the domestic market.
Travellers will be looking more at staycations. Even if they decide to venture outside of their countries, they may pick destinations that are not too far away from home.
In a post Covid-19 travel survey conducted among 1,280 U.S.-based frequent travelers, 83 per cent of those surveyed look forward to staying within the country for their first trip after the pandemic.
A recent survey in China also showed that more than 90 per cent of respondents would choose domestic tours in their immediate travel plans.
Instead of the usual big annual trip, they will probably be replaced by multiple short-haul trips that are closer to home throughout the year.
7. Road Trips Instead Of Air Travel
The concept of a road trip will become more common.
Regardless if it’s a trip by car, motorcycle, or other land transport means, discovering the country with total autonomy and flexibility may be a growing option after the restrictions are lifted.
Travelling in our own vehicles or with private-hire transport would be more attractive over air travel, which poses risk when we are exposed to travellers from around the world.
Increased air fares may also see more road trips. Airfares are also set to soar by 54 per cent for travellers in Asia Pacific, so this may back the trend of road trips.
Travellers will be looking at land travel as a cheaper alternative, whilst still staying safe in vehicles that accommodate less people.
8. A Shift Towards Private Rental Properties
With outbreaks of the virus concentrated in cities and on cruise ships, it is likely that the types of accommodation people seek will also change.
Think more private villa rentals and countryside getaways over crowded hotels or hostels.
Destination travel company Club Med expects to see an increase in their family-oriented holiday packages as travellers seek more premium, exclusive and private experiences.
In hostels and co-living spaces where communal living was once highly sought after, the “culture of sharing” and community will no longer be an attraction as people would prefer private use of amenities and facilities that do not require sharing with strangers.
Travellers could also be looking at beach houses, apartments, cabins and ‘glamping’ post-Covid-19 as they seek to maintain social distancing from other people.
9. Cashless Spending
Post-pandemic, travellers would be going with contactless processes as much as possible, including flight check-ins and boarding.
The most immediate and perhaps most visible change will be a transition from physical cash to cards and contactless payment methods. This is because people do not want to handle and exchange banknotes and coins, which carries some risk of infection.
10. Dining In Will Focus More On Hygiene
Dining-in at eateries has proven to be a highly infectious activity as there has been instances in Singapore where several people got infected because they came together for meals.
With the heightened awareness of health and wellness and also the requirement for social distancing, the demand for more hygiene and sanitation in tourist destinations will grow.
Restaurants in hotels may start presenting personal serving spoons when delivering a shared dish, promoting contactless delivery for in-room dining, and designing menus in single portions rather than a sharing size.
In a bid to reduce cross-contamination, food may also come with covers or lids or be separated into portions before they arrive at the dining table.
Also, expect to sit apart from your loved ones at restaurants, nightclubs, and other entertainment venues as part of the new rules at public places.
The Travel Landscape Will Look Different For At Least A Year
While many economic sectors are expected to recover once restrictive measures are lifted, the pandemic will probably have a longer lasting effect on international tourism.
This is largely due to reduced consumer confidence and the likelihood of longer restrictions on the international movement of people.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), previous viral epidemics recorded 19 months as the average recovery time for travel visitors. However, with the right response and management, recovery could speed to 10 months.
This means that recovery for tourism will be different for different countries. Some countries such as U.S. are still battling Covid-19 while Greece and Italy are reopening its borders to tourists next month. UK also has plans to reopen hotels, holiday parks and tourist attractions in July.
Therefore, the future of travel is dependent on when countries are declared free of Covid-19, so people will feel safe enough to travel again.
Featured Image Credit: TTG Asia