I took part in a travel conference called the American Travel Trends Forum where top travel experts and statisticians discussed how the travel industry will be bringing back tourism after the pandemic.
Panelists included Peter Greenberg, Emmy Award-Winning Investigative Reporter, and Producer and CBS Travel Editor, Samantha Brown, host of PBS’s Samantha Brown’s Places to Love, Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, Andrew McCarthy, Actor, Director, and Travel Writer, and other top experts.
As we all know, the tourism industry has suffered immensely while we are shuttered up at home. Many people are terrified at the thought of traveling in an airplane or cruise ship. But others, who are die-hard world travelers, are chomping at the bit and ready with their suitcases as soon as they get the go-ahead and borders open up.
The tourism industry affects a huge portion of the economy
According to Roger Dow, there are over 8 million travel industry workers who have been furloughed. But over 100 million jobs connected to ancillary businesses like hotels, restaurants, and local businesses have been impacted.
Bringing back tourism is the link to restarting the economy. Dow says we need to learn from the past and can’t wait for a vaccine.
The fear factor
Remember how terrified people were to travel after 911? After the World Trade Center collapsed, many predicted that travel would never return to normal, but it did. It came back in full force after a few years and will again after the pandemic. Recovery is already underway, and flights are beginning to pick up.
That doesn’t mean Baby Boomers and seniors are going to be jumping on long-haul flights anytime soon. Younger people who are adventurous and not afraid of getting the virus will be first to venture out. Even Samantha Brown says she’s going to be holding back because she has kids and wants to stay safe.
How can we bring back tourism effectively and safely?
Greenberg says we are lacking a coordinated process. “We’re not the ‘United States.’ We’re individual states.”
Travel will mostly be regional and domestic at first with California and New York being the slowest to start up. Most people will limit travel to a 300-mile radius from their home.
International travel will have to wait until next year because most countries and even Hawaii are still imposing a 14-day quarantine that the average person can’t afford.
Right now, the CDC has imposed a no sale for cruise ships through July, but it will probably be extended.
Although airports are requiring masks and doing temperature checks, they are only doing sporadic virus testing. But testing is not a silver bullet to make travelers feel safe.
Gloria Guevara who is the President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council says, “you can get the virus at the grocery store. There is no guarantee that safety measures will work.” Instead, airlines need to build trust.
Greenberg remarked, “don’t shouldn’t expect airlines to yank out the middle seat. It isn’t going to happen.“
International travel will mostly be available for people who can afford first-class or business-class seats.
What travelers will be looking for before they leave on a trip
Hotels and attractions are going to have to step up to the plate to bring back tourism. Travelers will want to know how their room is being prepared to gain trust. To do that The WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council) alongside governments, health organizations, and industry associations are instituting safe travel action plans and protocols. #safetravels
Lysol will be the new luxury.Peter Greenberg
Safety will trump luxury when it comes to enticing travelers. Rather than search for deep discounts, look for incentives that guarantee your destination will be clean and safe. Baby Boomers and seniors will be more inclined to stay at large chain hotels rather than AirBnbs or vacation rentals because of the guidelines hotel chains and resorts must adhere to.
Greenberg says that companies should lose the message “We’re all in this together” because people are wondering “What happened to my refund.”
The cruise industry
Before the pandemic, cruises were one of the top ways older people traveled. Experienced cruisers will probably go back to cruising right away because they know what they’re like. Cruise ships offer a luxurious and convenient way to travel to a number of destinations without having to schlep your luggage around.
If a traveler had a good experience on a cruise line in the past, they are more likely to go back to that line rather than one they are unfamiliar with.
What can you do in the meantime before the tourism industry opens again?
Many tour companies are offering virtual tours of various destinations. I recently did Zoom tours of the Venice Canals in Los Angeles and Los Angeles Historic Theatres. Online tours give you insight into planning what to see when you can go there in person.
Some tours are free or ask for a donation to support the organization conducting the tours. It’s a fun and informative way to get away from the news.
Are you ready to travel again? Bringing back tourism will help the economy if it’s done safely and sanely. Where do you want to go next? Please leave a comment below.