Travel Trends70% of audience polled during the recent WiT Virtual Summit predict that the pandemic will force dramatic changes in travel

Covid-19 will change travel as we know it, or does it?

A majority of industry members believe Covid-19 will dramatically alter travel. Credit: piyaphat50/Getty Images
A majority of industry members believe Covid-19 will dramatically alter travel. Credit: piyaphat50/Getty Images

A majority of travel industry members expects travel to be irrevocably changed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, if going by the sentiments of the speakers and online audience polled during the recent WiT Virtual Summit.

The WIT Great Debate, which took place at the end of the six-hour summit, ignited a passionate exchange between the proposition and opposition speakers on whether travel would return to its pre-pandemic days when the crisis is over.

Of those watching the debate online, 70% of respondents polled afterwards said that the ongoing outbreak will force dramatic changes to the way people travel and make their travel buying decisions.

Timothy O’Neil‐Dunne, principal at 777 Partners, said that after 100 days of not stepping foot in an airport he was convinced things would never be the same, mentioning that there will be no standardised method to ensure traveller safety while a deepening economic recession means a decline in discretionary income to purchase travel.

"This is a pandemic of biblical proportion with a possible second wave coming at the end of the year, so many people are out of work they could not pay for holidays even if they wanted to," he said. "In conclusion we must welcome the winter of our travel discontent."

Accor vice president, digital marketing APAC, Emilie Couton, shared similar views. "We are fooling ourselves if we believe it will be the same as before. In six to 12 months from now it could be much worse," she expressed.

When travel does return, Ms Couton predicted dramatic changes ranging from the loss of privacy and end of overtourism. "We will change because we have too, and because no one wants to go back to where we were before," she added.

But positive changes could arise from the crisis too. “For F&B hotel guests can expect less variety but better quality. Just by eliminating the all‐you‐can‐buffet served in hotels over 1.3 tonnes of food that goes wasted annually might not be wasted,” Ms Couton stated.

For those who predicted that nothing would change, Paulina Klotzbucher, group chief commercial officer at Travelstart, said she has grown weary of the endless media reports detailing how bad air travel will be for an exceptionally long time.

“The human race is a resilient bunch and we are born explorers by nature. We will wait and watch the first brave souls take the first trips, and when it is all over and done with we will be travelling just the way we used to.

"There will exceptions, however," she remarked, "like vaccine stamps in our passports and nasal probes for Covid-19 tests at airports."

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