40% of our survey respondents said they are not likely to travel in the next 3 months. This pandemic has been devastating to the travel industry— with plummeting demand, the introduction of strict sanitation protocols, and passengers restrictions, traveling may never go back to normal.
It’s been over three months since the nightmare that goes by the name of COVID-19 has taken over our lives. Some of us have been working from home, blurring the line between working hours and family time. Some were forced to continue essential work as usual, while others were sent home from their schools and universities. All of us have experienced some sort of shift in our plans for 2020.
Back in March when quarantine officially started, we were unsure of how long our isolation would last. We were hopeful that it would be over by the time summer came in full swing. After all, if we had to endure cancelled graduation ceremonies, birthdays, conferences, and reunions, then we have to get some reprieve during our summer vacation, right?
Unfortunately, this pandemic is here for the long run. With a potential second wave approaching, we are swapping airplanes for RVs, beaches for backyards and vacations for “staycations”. This begs the question: what happens to the travel industry that depends on holiday travel? What does its future look like in the age of coronavirus?
With the help of our intelligent platform, we have gathered thoughts from over 300 U.S. travelers on their needs, attitudes, and what they believe will happen to this industry.
To travel or not to travel…
Back in March, I was forced to vacate my university apartment and fly back to my hometown. I remember walking around the airport and seeing the shocking number of people wearing masks and gloves. In every corner, there were posters reminding us to cover our cough, to stay six feet away from other people, and to wash our hands for at least 20 seconds. The plane itself was perfumed with Clorox and hand sanitizer as many, including myself, were frantically disinfecting their seats and hands. The passenger next to me who was anxiously wiping down his seat turned to me and said: “you can never be too sure.”
From that day in March, I knew that I didn’t want to travel any time soon, especially by plane. Just the thought of walking through an airport stressed me out. I imagine that most people felt the same, which explains the major revenue hit that the industry has experienced. That said, staying home 24/7 is not fun, and we are starting to worry less about the threat the virus is posing. The net effect is that most travelers are willing to travel again within the next 3 months.
We are willing to travel, but we prefer to stay with family or friends.
COVID-19 is impacting more than just airports and airlines. A major part of our travel plans includes accommodations like hotels, resorts, short-term private rentals, which are now struggling. Among those accommodations, it looks like we are most at ease staying at hotels, with 29% of respondents feeling comfortable staying there. Yet, most U.S. travelers prefer to stay at a friend or family’s house (44% very comfortable). It may just be a matter of trust and whose cleaning habits you can rely on more – your family or strangers cleaning up an anonymous room in a large hotel?
Question: What is your level of comfort when staying overnight at the following accommodations during the COVID-19 pandemic?
So, although many are stating that they are likely to travel within the next 3 months, that doesn’t necessarily translate into revenue for hotels. This even goes for popular tourist sites. When traveling, destinations such as restaurants, retail stores, and museums suffer too. Just like we asked consumers’ level of comfort in different accommodations, we wanted to know how respondents felt about visiting these other places. It appears to be that we are still weary of going out and about to public places, which unfortunately affects the travel industry.
Question: What is your level of comfort visiting the following places during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Not all is lost – hotels and other accommodations can still convince their guests.
We wanted to know what these accommodations could do to make guests feel more comfortable. After all, life will eventually catch up with us and at some point, many will find themselves having to travel for work or for emergencies.
What we heard from survey respondents is the need to see measures being taken in order to believe them. I know that for me, it’s not enough for establishments to just claim that they are sanitizing everything. Hotels and other accommodations must visibly step-up their game when it comes to their cleaning standards. People like me want to clearly see sanitation in action to feel safe. This could be in forms of guidelines or steps that can be shared with guests. It’s like a security blanket—something that assures us that these accommodations are listening to our needs and are truly taking action.
Question: What could these accommodations do to make you feel more comfortable? Please be very specific.
The good news and the bad news.
A positive revelation that came out of this study is that by the end of this year, most people believe they will travel more. But as mentioned, while it is comforting to know that people are planning to travel again, that does not mean that the entire industry as a whole will recover quickly.
The initial negative hit to the travel industry is already in the books, but the question about what the long-term impact will look like still remains unknown. Consumers say that sanitation and precautionary measures will need to be implemented permanently. This outcome could lead to more limited capacity to accommodate travelers in order to avoid large crowds. Finally, it is evident that travelers will continue to have heightened anxiety when traveling, keeping the demand for travel depressed possibly for long periods of time. It will take a long, long time before going back to normal…if we could ever get there.
Question: What long-lasting impacts do you think COVID-19 will have on the future of the travel industry?
Do you have a customer insight question you would like solved? #FridayInSight has your answer! We’ll design a study, collect data on the GroupSolver® platform, and share with you a free report with our findings. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.