What can we do to revive the travel industry?

What can we do to revive the travel industry?

The travel industry has been hugely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s thought that it will take a minimum of three years for the industry to recover. As travel restrictions slowly begin to be lifted, and traveller’s confidence rebuilds, there’s one question that needs to be answered: what can we do to revive the travel industry?

We have asked many of the travel industry’s thought leaders this exact question over the past month. You can find their answers below. We hope these answers will provide some insight into what needs to be done to aid travel’s recovery in 2021 and beyond.

Simon Press, Senior Director at WTM London

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented an unprecedented challenge to the entire business-travel sector. At WTM London, our number one priority is the success of the travel industry and to ensure we do everything within our control to help the industry recover, rebuild and innovate.

“Since the beginning of the lockdown, we have been working on the WTM Global Hub, the online portal which aims to connect and support travel industry professionals around the world. Companies are now in survival mode and shifting priorities to protecting revenue, reducing costs and maintaining existing customers. Transparency and Trust are key.

“Companies that are agile and keep a pulse on customer needs will emerge as leaders in the post crisis recovery. The crisis is devastating, but the forced pause of the industry does provide an important chance to rethink tourism, and hopefully rebuild in a better way.

“Over-tourism was a buzzword of 2019.  But will we use it again? Perhaps this might be a perfect chance to support destinations that had previously suffered from under-tourism. A future-fit tourism will be more strongly regulated – in particular on carbon reduction – more democratic and transparent. And we’ll be developing a more conscious generation of travel industry leaders for tomorrow’s world.”

Martinique Lewis, President at Black Travel Alliance

“As a Diversity in Travel consultant the only way I think we can move forward together is by ensuring our internal teams and marketing strategies are inclusive of all communities to help people feel wanted and safe in your destinations, on your airplanes and while taking your tours.

“It took a global pandemic for the travel industry to finally face the truth about diversity and inclusion, a topic we often run from or show less priority towards. But now that we are forced to look in the mirror, we all have an opportunity to move forward with a clean slate. Those brands who reflect this will be the ones who recover strong and build loyalty and trust amongst a community that isn’t 100% sure about travel.

“Seeing themselves reflected in new campaigns will help to influence where and how they will travel once they decide to. Diversity and Inclusion are key factors in the growth of every company. It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic and equality movement to spark this change, but I’m glad it did, because we all are watching. There are no more excuses, only time to take action. The time is now.”

Harold Goodwin, Managing Director of the Responsible Tourism Partnership

“Trust is the new currency of travel. But in a fragmented industry – with any trip involving multiple businesses and fellow consumers from multiple places – delivering a safe environment is very challenging. The pandemic has revealed the contribution which travel for leisure, business and work make to the spread of viruses and demonstrated the danger of dependency on tourism.

“Governments around the world have sought to protect their citizens and health services by closing borders and imposing quarantines on those arriving from areas with higher rates of COVID-19 infections. While there is optimism that vaccines will be found to contain the virus and more effective treatments to reduce the impact of further waves of infection will be developed, it is not yet possible to determine what the new normal will be.

“The growing acceptance of the importance of Responsible Tourism has been accelerated and deepened by the experience of COVID-19. Destinations have had a holiday from tourism. Over-tourism crept up on destinations and it was accepted. COVID-19 reminded residents of what their place was like before tourism and raised awareness of both the negative and positive impacts. While most destinations are in the survival phase, some are already looking to build back better and to use tourism, rather than to be used by it.”

John Strickland, Director at JLS Consulting

“The airline industry has been left reeling by the COVID-19 crisis. Demand has, in many cases, reduced almost to zero since April and airlines have seen most or all of their fleets grounded for much of this period.

“Countries with large domestic markets have seen a modest recovery, and in Europe there has been a small boost for airlines serving summer holiday destinations. Even this has been hit and miss, with flying only beginning in mid-June and subject to erratic changes in border closures and quarantine requirements.

“Long haul passenger flights are to all intents and purposes off. In particular, the North Atlantic market, which would normally be at its peak over the summer months. 2020 is essentially a write off. Jobs are being lost and aircraft grounded. Winter is coming, and the trajectory of the virus remains uncertain. In this extremely challenging set of circumstances airlines need to build passenger confidence. They, along with airports, are doing this through their own efforts. For example, in attention to deep aircraft cleaning and the implementation of requirements to wear masks on board.

“However, they cannot offer flights for sale on a consistent basis and which customers can book with certainty, given they face such a myriad of different Government approaches to border restrictions and quarantine. Airlines are a key catalyst for tourism to flourish and the millions of jobs it supports. They need a more collaborative and consistent approach by the world’s governments.

“There is an urgent need for discussion, dialogue, and the sharing of ideas.  This year’s WTM is a great place to do so.”

Alessandra Alonso, Founder of Women in Travel CIC

“The way we travel is changing and as a travel industry we must change the way we operate as a result. 

“To Women in Travel CIC this means primarily looking at recovery through a gender and diversity lens. The voices of women, BAME women and other minorities have for a long time been neglected and overlooked. Still today, for every dollar earned by a man, only 80 cents are earned by a woman, even less by a BAME woman. At this very moment, women are excluded from promotions, boardrooms and from investment decisions, yet as upwards of 60% of the global travel and tourism workforce is female, they are catastrophically affected by unemployment. Equally, the pandemic has seen domestic abuse skyrocketing for women worldwide and access to education being denied especially to young women and girls in poor rural areas. 

“Travel can be a huge source of empowerment for women of any background and race globally, but at the same time, we need to ensure women are central cogs in its decision-making system. A good place to start is by supporting host-communities in which women operate and that will play a huge role in the rebirth of travel, by providing consumers with the type of local, authentic experience they so desperately seek.”

Lyn Hughes, Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Wanderlust Travel Media

“The pandemic has rocked the world. As we take the first tentative steps to travel again there are a number of conflicting emotions and opinions. Many people won’t have the confidence to travel in the next few months and will be adopting a wait and see approach. They worry about what will happen if they get ill in a destination, or if they find themselves trapped overseas as quarantine rules or Foreign Office advisories change. 

“Others do want to travel but worry about whether they will be welcomed in the destination or considered a burden. Others still are questioning whether travel really is sustainable or whether they should stick to their own backyard. However, what is clear is that a majority do want to travel when they can. Wanderlust’s most recent reader survey, with over 2,000 responses, showed that 64% were in active planning mode, and 75% expect to book their 2021 travels either this year or in January. It’s no surprise that the biggest things they were looking for when selecting and booking a trip were safety and flexibility. But what also came through in their free text comments was that many are seeking reassurance they are doing the right thing by travelling at all. 

“The past few months has also potentially brought people around the world together even if we don’t realise it yet. The world has shared a common enemy; we all faced and continue to face the same challenges. The travel industry is reeling and tourism – the right kind of tourism –  is needed as never before. So many communities, conservation projects and wild places need it. This isn’t a time to be pious or to guilt-trip travellers. Instead it’s a time to first and foremost instil confidence, to find and promote the right products for the COVID-age traveller.

“WTM London should be the platform and opportunity to bring those to the fore, to highlight all the ingredients which will make consumers feel safe and inspired to travel. But, as part of that, an underlying message should be that they are welcome and indeed that the world needs them. This is an opportunity as never before to align the mood of the moment with sustainable travel. Of making consumers feel confident in their travels but also confident that they are wanted and it is them who can make a difference.”

Lee Hayhurst, Travolution Editor

“There’s no point downplaying the extent to which the travel industry finds itself in the most challenging of circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments around the world are trying to balance the great economic and social value of people traveling around the globe with measures to keep their citizens safe.

“Some have decided they must close their borders entirely, others are taking a more nuanced approach, although few are doing enough for those demanding support for travel. It feels like the travel sector’s destiny is not in its own hands, but using this time to invest in technology is an important way for firms and destinations to take back the initiative.

“With budgets and workforces likely to be reduced, companies should focus on technology that enhances their core strengths. Travel agents should use it to enhance customer service, operators access to unique product and the best prices, hotels and airlines, to provide safe, hospitable environments for travellers.

“At the moment it feels like travel is an industry waiting for the safety car to be brought in so the race can resume. Until that time it must prime itself to offer travellers the reassurance they are looking for so that once travel resumes the sector is ready for what will be a strong rebound.”

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