If we can travel safely again, will we want to?
Of course we do. Many of us will want to travel more. As composer Joni Mitchell said, “You don’t always feel like you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.
According to a new report from the Travel Tech Association (Travel Tech), after a year of travel bans or severe restrictions due to the global pandemic, people are eager to revisit their decision.
We can go to different places, at least in the beginning. We will probably take more precautions, because that is how we survived this tumultuous period. But will we stay home longer than we need to? No, we won’t.
Post-pandemic: 65% of respondents say they will travel more
According to a survey commissioned by Vrbo, Expedia, a short-term vacation rental provider, 65% of respondents said they would like to travel more after a pandemic than before. A majority – 54% – stated that they would be more likely to create a travel task list. And 33% said they would be willing to spend more than usual on their vacation.
This is music to the ears of the travel and tourism industry, one of the largest industries in the world, which has experienced tremendous and unprecedented growth in recent decades. And this at a time when airlines, cruise ships, hotels, tour operators and millions of related businesses are focusing on the high cost of living.
They are depleting their cash reserves, laying off employees, creatively cutting costs and borrowing capital just to keep the lights on. But with the spread of vaccines – though not as fast as some had hoped – there is certainly a light at the end of the tunnel. And when the time comes, there will be a fire ready to be lit.
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“This report shows unprecedented demand for travel services and gives us a unique perspective on the industry,” said Steve Shur, president of the Travel Technology Association.
“During the pandemic, the travel industry worked diligently to meet the needs of the traveling public and enable a process where the safety of the traveling public, workers and communities was paramount,” Mr. Schur added.
“As more people get vaccinated and restrictions are lifted, people across the country will be able to travel safely, and our industry is poised to meet this growing demand by giving consumers access to all the options available and the information they need to plan and book their next trip.
(Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)
Health and safety will come first for travelers and suppliers
Other studies show that when people are excited to travel again, they want to do so by putting health and safety at the top of their priority list. A study by Booking.com found that because of COVID-19, 80% of American travelers will take more precautions and turn to the travel industry to help them deal with this “new normal.” And a study by Skyscanner UK found that 85% of those surveyed would be more likely to travel abroad if a test was conducted at the airport – a clear sign of adaptability.
The cruise industry is one of the most affected industries, even in the broader travel context. But since many cruises are booked a year or more in advance, it is easy for cruise lines to estimate demand. Richard Fain, CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, said of future demand, looking at planned bookings :
“I remember that after September 11, the question was not when we would start again, but when we would demand to come back. We really doubted that travel and tourism had taken a fatal hit. Even after the great recession of 2009, the question was how long it would take for demand to pick up again. Again, the question was whether the cruise market would ever recover.
Fine says there is little doubt today that there will be demand when the ships return to sea.
READ MORE: “We can’t wait to catch up”.
“The question is, how long will it be before this demand can be met? Today the situation is very different. The economy as a whole is liquid and strong. Governments are injecting unimaginable amounts of money into the economy to support it. And the public is clamoring for the chance to relive things outside their own walls. People clearly have pent-up demand, and we are eager to meet it.
(Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)
According to Peter Ricci, director of the hospitality and tourism management program at the University of Florida Atlantic, demand for cruises has not declined, even though no cruise ships have left U.S. ports for nearly a year.
“The cruise industry has the highest customer satisfaction rate of any industry in hospitality and tourism, and the highest repeat rate of any industry,” he said. “Risk-takers are ready to go out and are just waiting for approval.”
Royal Caribbean showed the scale of demand in December when it issued a call for applications for test cruises required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 250,000 online applications were received.
Arnold Donald, who heads Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise line, told Bloomberg last August that cruise vacation demand is the least of his worries when the weather is safe to travel.
“There are a lot of people who want to go on a cruise now,” he said. “There is a lot of pent-up demand for travel in general and cruises in particular.”
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