The Effects of Coronavirus on Travel and Tourism: How Will We Recover?
Written by: Stephanie Bariatti, SMB Media Marketing Consultant
The travel, tourism and hospitality industries have taken a massive blow due to the coronavirus outbreak. Will it be possible for these businesses to ever recover? How long will it take? Moreover, will we even want to travel, even when the threat of COVID-19 is low? There are more questions than answers at this point.
The airlines, cruise lines, hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, ride share services, etc. are hurting, with some companies hanging on by a thread. People are simply not going anywhere; partly by choice, but mostly by the federal and local travel restrictions that have been put in place to stop the spread of the virus. The population has been directed to “shelter in place” and told to practice all the social distancing guidelines with which we have all become so familiar.
But, we have to believe that this too shall pass. It is going to be a long road with profound losses, but at some point, we will be ready to leave our homes and get back out into the world. Perhaps we will feel the need more so than ever, since we will have been pent up for so long.
Global Web Index released research results that shed some encouraging light on US and UK’s travelers’ plans. Keep in mind, the data was collected March 13-16, which is an eon ago in terms of the way perspectives have been changing. Yet, as of this study, people who had travel plans cancelled or delayed due to the virus are still looking forward to resume their plans in the future. Many said they would like to book again within the year.
This is an optimistic sign for the months to come after the spread of COVID slows. Unfortunately, marketing budgets are often the first expenses to be cut during a financial crisis, especially with smaller travel and tourism businesses. But, considering there is hope for the future of the industry, it may be worthwhile for a travel-related business to use this time to focus on marketing messages that will resonate with consumers on a meaningful level.
Based on what is happening now, there are some factors that we think will be of the utmost importance to travelers planning trips:
-Sensitivity. As I mentioned in previous articles, no one wants to see the hard sell right now. This virus is very real and people will have lost loved ones when all is said and done. So avoid the gimmicks and be responsible with what you’re promoting. Be mindful of times when we should be practicing social distancing. Some airlines are not selling middle seats and suspending food and beverage service in order to cut down on contact.
-Cleanliness. There will obviously be a huge focus on cleanliness. Travel-related businesses will need to make this a priority and make their sanitary measures visible to their guests. This may mean more hand sanitizer dispensers, more frequent wiping of surfaces and even robotic cleaners that use germ-zapping UV lights.
-Starting Small. Business and domestic travel may be first to bounce back, so focus on ways to cater to those demographics. While it may take a little longer for people to feel comfortable travelling overseas, people may be willing to travel domestically or just take local staycations.
-Flexibility. We don’t know how long travel plans will be affected by the uncertainty surrounding the virus. Customers will value flexibility in cancellation policies, insurance policies and maybe even payment forgiveness in some circumstances.
For more insight, the Global Web Index also offered information about the type of circumstances that would persuade them to book a vacation. While 36% said nothing would persuade them at this time, we can only expect to see that number go down as we get past the peak of the outbreak.
We are all desperate for real human interaction. I strongly believe that there will come a time when we are able to resume regular travel, though it may look a little different. Until then, stay safe, stay healthy and stay home!
Stephanie Bariatti works as a Consultant and Project Manager for SMB Media Consulting. She has had extensive experience with many facets of advertising and media, having worked for and with creative agencies, production companies and research departments. She lives in New York with her wonderful husband, three lovable little boys and a snuggly Golden Retriever.
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