Although the Covid-19 pandemic has been highly destructive, Emma Powell, founder of travel PR and communications consultancy Scout, predicts that the future of travel could be rosier than we think.
Now that global lockdowns are beginning to lift, we’re tentatively thinking of future adventures, where we’ll go, and how we’ll get there.
Although the urge to travel will endure, have our priorities shifted? What is really important to us now? Fundamental changes in consumer behaviour are essential considerations – some that have never been discussed until now, are shaping the way we live, and the way we’ll travel, probably for good.
Add to this the many emerging trends and pre-pandemic shifts that have been accelerated and we have a landscape much changed from before.
However, I believe that the way we will travel will change for the better, in the long-term. Already people have become more conscious of their impact on the world around them, as nature has flourished during lockdown, and we’ve had more time to appreciate the sanctity of our natural world and our previous freedom to explore.
After a time of reframing and reflection, could we be heading towards a better, more responsible way of travelling, and as such, hold the travel industry to higher standards than ever before?
Over recent months, I’ve been working closely with clients and media to navigate the storm stirred up in our industry by Covid-19 and the necessary lockdown measures put in place by governments around the world.
It’s now clear that rather than awaiting a return to how things were “before”, the travel and hospitality industry must prepare for a future in which businesses must be nimble and forward-thinking.
The way business owners communicate and promote their offering will become even more important as customers become more selective with their travel purchases. For this reason, I’m currently offering mini comms consultancy clinics to small travel businesses and independent hotels to support them in these uncharted times.
Here are five ways I believe travel will be better in future, as well as some insights from other industry experts I work with…
1. SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL AS STANDARD
Sustainable travel will no longer be a buzzword or a niche type of travel, but a key consideration of the consumer. We’ll fly less, but make each trip count more, and put greater importance on travel brands and hotels that place the protection of our environment and local communities front and centre of their operations.
Following the almost overnight disappearance of tourism in many countries, we have an increased awareness of how much local spending helps communities reliant on tourism – perhaps we’ll think more about how we spend our money on holiday and how we can have a positive effect for the local small business owner – the family-run hotel, the local mountain guide, the independent restaurant owners and craftspeople.
2. RECOGNITION THAT TRAVEL IS A PRIVILEGE
We’ve been struck by the realisation of what a privilege the ability to travel and explore the world really is. The freedom to roam is something many took for granted but what greater luxury is there after being in lockdown?
Consumers will now place greater importance on their travels, becoming more selective when researching and booking their trips. There will be a focus on quality over quantity, we’ll travel less but better, and in-the-know travel curators who can lead us to the most amazing one-of-a-kind places to stay, or help create the most memorable authentic experience, stand to be in greater demand to help us make our travels the best they can be.
3. GREATER CONNECTION TO NATURE
Hiking, camping, remote rural retreats, woodland cabins, cycling and trail-running holidays all look set to grow in popularity as outdoor adventures beckon following months of staying at home, particularly among city dwellers seeking time in green space.
Rewilding projects, rural hotels and home rentals offering the chance to enjoy and reconnect with the natural world will blossom.
4. DISCOVERING THE WORLD ON OUR DOORSTEP
Domestic travel and an interest in exploring our home countries looks set to be the first area for tourism growth this summer but what if this is more than a temporary shift? Our leisure time could involve more home-turf travel as we begin to discover the beauty of our own national parks, our coastlines and towns in between fewer, longer international trips.
5. SLOWER TRAVEL
That idea of travelling less but better will mean a shift to longer, more immersive trips, more time spent in a destination and exploring your immediate surroundings slowly, by foot, bicycle or by car.
House and villa rentals, as well as small hotels offering property buy-outs and self-contained, serviced properties, will see greater demand as typical length of stay grows and we look for self-contained places to stay and destinations to discover for weeks, rather than for days.
I’m not alone in looking at the positives. Here are some viewpoints from other industry leaders I have spoken to…
With the borders within Europe being closed for such a long time, I very much hope that people will realise how valuable a Europe with open borders is
The curator of beautiful places to stay: Chris Laugsch, co-founder, Welcome Beyond
“After being confined to our own homes, I believe people have now developed a much greater appreciation of their freedom to travel. It is only after something has been taken away that people start to realise its value and that something valuable needs to be protected.
“I very much hope that we will all be more mindful of the way we travel, be more respectful of the places we visit and be more appreciative of the great gift that being able to travel and stay in places away from home is. And with the borders within Europe being closed for such a long time, I also very much hope that people will realise how valuable a Europe with open borders is.”
The island hotelier: Yannis Bellonias, owner, Vora Santorini
“Since the virus has caused a lot of damage to our industry, it will take a few years to totally recover. There will be a ‘clearing of the deck’ in the travel industry. What does that mean? In recent years with tourism booming, so many have invested in the market, not because they were particularly passionate about the industry, but because it looked like easy money.
“We’ll now see some selling or renting their businesses, and the established hoteliers and family-owned businesses will have a chance to shine. Hotels will no longer expect full occupancy as standard – they’ll have to work harder for it. This will mean better value for money, better facilities and better service for guests.
“Even the very best will have to strive to be even better, so quality will be higher still. Overall, in the long term, I think that the travel industry will only get better after all this. The industry has the chance to re-build its brand name from scratch.”
The hotel interior designer: Hannah Lohan, interior designer, Hannah Lohan Interiors
“The ripple effect of Covid could have many positive outcomes. As there will be fewer flights and, therefore, flying will be more expensive, people will go away for longer periods. This is obviously better for the environment but it’s also better for our mental health to be away for longer, so we can switch off more, rather than taking the more hectic, fast-paced city breaks with the cheap flight offers we had before.
“This more leisurely approach will mean travellers will start to explore further afield too, so rather than focusing on cities they’ll go out to the countryside and explore off the beaten track as they’ll have more time to do so – this in turn will open up new areas of tourism. Hopefully, it will inspire hoteliers to invest in properties and places that aren’t on the map yet too.”