International borders closed, lockdowns exyended, and domestic travel restricted. All these measures and precautions to contain the spread of COVID-19 have impacted the travel and hospitality sector in a big way. But now, as the world is opening up with a gradual relaxation of restrictions, are travellers willing to venture forth? And even if they are, is there any significant change in choice of destinations and allied services? These are a few of the things that the research paper, titled “Beyond COVID-19: The Road to Recovery for the Travel Industry,” tried to find out.
This multi-month study by the world’s largest travel platform analysed consumer travel sentiment and first party behavioural data related to the ongoing pandemic.
According to the report, shorter trips to destinations closer to home are at the top of the list. Nearly half (44%) of consumers said they were more likely to take a road trip, and two-thirds (61%) said they were most comfortable taking a road trip for around 3-5 days.
Tripadvisor said from as early as April, its platform had begun to see steady week-on-week increase in traveller search activity. In particular, searches for domestic travel more than 90 days away began to noticeably increase in markets like the US, Germany, Australia and Japan. Restaurants searched on the platform saw a significant increase in countries such as New Zealand, Germany and Switzerland. A number of key markets (the United States, Germany, Taiwan, and Japan) showed more interest in travel in May 2020 than at this point in 2019, indicating pent up demand.
Kanika Soni, Chief Commercial Officer for Tripadvisor, Inc. said that the path to recovery will depend on the steps the industry takes to prepare for the road ahead. “Not just in terms of new standards and practices but also in how we collectively educate and engage consumers in a new, more thoughtful way of traveling,” she added.
The research found that global consumers are 218% more likely to want to take a trip where they can relax compared to before the pandemic, and nearly two-thirds (59%) reported they prefer to go somewhere off the beaten path versus a popular destination.
Destinations conducive to social distancing, such as those surrounded by nature or a beach, are surging in popularity. Travellers are ready to opt for outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and skiing.
Apart from distancing norms, cleanliness appears to be a key determining factor in the choice of destinations. Nearly 9 out of 10 (86%) consumers said cleanliness will be very important when selecting an accommodation after COVID-19, with the provision of hand sanitisers and sealed amenities, the frequency with which rooms are disinfected, and the use of temperature checks for employees and guests cited as top considerations.
The report holds out a ray of hope for the beleaguered travel and hospitality sectors by revealing that though many vacations have been cancelled or postponed, consumers remain hopeful about traveling with 41% optimistic that they will take the same or more trips than last year.
“There are clear signs that many consumers have a strong desire to dine out and travel again when they are allowed to do so. But when they do, they will bring a new set of expectations with them,” said Martin Verdon-Roe, general manager of hospitality solutions, Tripadvisor. “Businesses that adapt quickly to embrace safety, flexibility and transparency will have a clear competitive advantage to communicate to consumers, and that could prove crucial in hastening their recovery.”
The report has also outlined a five-stage recovery plan for the travel and hospitality industry, inclusive of the period of decline created by the pandemic, through anticipated market recovery, and the return of international travel.