Traveling post-covid will be full of surprises. People expect safety, comfort, and flexibility, and this time, providers will have to comply.
In ‘Pretend It’s a City‘, the reliably cranky Fran Lebowitz talks to Alec Baldwin about travel. At one point, she hilariously rants about flying, and you can hear the audience laugh with sympathy. Everyone sitting there feels her pain. Everyone can envision those tired people in tight seats eating unappetizing food served in boxes.
Ironically, back when flying was still a luxury, a plane was a five-star hotel in the sky. As Lebowitz reminisced, air travel used to be regulated. Since all tickets were the same price, airlines had to compete on service.
“There were advertisements that said: we have steak, lobster, piano bar. We have a stripper. We have a lounge,” she joked, adding that only people her age still remember when it was great to fly. “People who are 20, they’ve always known it to be a sordid experience,” she added, wondering why anyone would crave the stress of going for a vacation.
Perhaps this pandemic will be a catalyst for another new beginning. After the majority of the population is vaccinated, customers flying and booking hotels won’t be the same. Think back to 9/11 – some of those consequences have stayed forever. The same goes for travel after covid.
The surveys show people can’t wait to get back on the road. But this pandemic taught us that there’s more to travel than flying and that low profile, remote places are worthy of our attention just as much as tourist landmarks. Reports by McKinsey and Booking.com demonstrate how much priorities have shifted, and everyone from airlines to hotels and Airbnb needs to get ready for post-covid travel.
Safety is just the beginning
In the past, you’ve probably never researched the hygiene standards of the airline taking you to your next destination. Now it’s the bare minimum, and strict(er) safety measures are here to stay, in some form. However, McKinsey notes that constantly competing on cleanliness would be doing more harm than good. It’s impossible to maintain, especially when not all those measures even help. Plus, if airlines and hotels keep claiming one is safer than the other, it only makes travelers anxious. If they can’t decide whom to believe, the confidence in the whole system will never be rebuilt.
Simply put, fear won’t sell those tickets. A pleasant, personalized, comfortable experience will. Customers expect to be welcomed back warmly and feel excited about their trips, not scared.
Finally, power to the people
Could our needs finally be heard? Since uncertainty will linger for years to come, the travel industry will need to eliminate friction. That means making sure that customers feel safe purchasing expensive trips.
Travelers will be more price-conscious and will expect more value for their money. More than 70% of travelers want travel booking platforms to increase their transparency after covid. They expect customer-friendly cancellation policies, refund processes, and trip insurance options. They would also appreciate smarter digital tools to modify or cancel plans. This is where the opportunity lies for those within the travel industry eager to get back on their feet quickly.
Post-covid conscious travel
When the world slowed down, people realized how much damage excessive traveling has done. As a result, they expect that more sustainable travel options will be available. So, when people start exploring the world again, they will – hopefully – do it differently.
As McKinsey notes, this is a wake-up call for the providers. For example, hotels should finally reduce their environmental impact. Who needs their sheets washed every day? Limiting unnecessary waste is also a great way to save money for the industry that needs to tighten its belt.
Sustainability brings us to another trend: post-covid travel is getting more personal, slower, calmer, and less “mainstream”.
The forgotten corners of the world
Hotel chains, big cities, and overcrowded tourist attractions won’t be the preferred option for many eager travelers. Travelers will stay away from tourist attractions and seek other experiences. Boutique hotels and Airbnbs in smaller cities, non-urban areas, and off-the-beaten-track destinations already welcomed more local travelers. International tourists will follow as the situation gets better. Many have big plans – 21% of Booking.com respondents intend to travel to the other side of the world by the end of 2021, compared to only 6% by the end of 2020.
“Travel is never going back to the way it was, but it doesn’t mean that the travel industry is doomed. I think what’s going to happen – the genie’s out of the bottle a little bit on small communities and destinations,” Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO at Airbnb, said for The Atlantic, adding that this democratization of travel is in the best interest of all communities.
Blurred lines of traveling and living after covid
Business trips followed by a short city break may fade out. Instead, people will prefer to stay in one place longer. In some cases, workers might temporarily relocate for weeks or even months.
With remote work widely possible, all those Airbnbs will become long-term solutions, since people can simply relocate their whole life. “Traveling and living are starting to blur together. Millions of people are leaving their area and they want to get a house somewhere else. The length of stays is increasing to a week, a month, or even a couple of months at a time. That’s a whole new use case that didn’t exist in a big way before the pandemic,” said Chesky.