Plans for the reopening of global tourism vary as to timelines and strategies due to the many different scenarios, level of and control of the virus and options on what are safe and feasible global tourism reopening strategies. This blog reviews informed views and thinking across a wide spectrum of professions and the media. We look at real-life strategies that are both being put in place and currently active, as well as known data on timelines and opinions and experiences from industry leaders. It analyzes and summarizes information from sources like Skift, PhocusWire, The New York Times, CBC and leading authorities in travel.
Skift Global Tourism Reopening Strategies – Destination Timelines
Skift shares a detailed infographic for each of the major travel and tourism sections. Below is the hotel and tourism section. It covers May to July with the planned opening of TUI Southern European Resorts.
June 4 is a big day for the Caribbean as Sandals All-Inclusive Resorts plans to open most of its resorts starting June 4 to July 1. The Destinations Infographic details known and announced plans and includes the June 4 deadline for St. Lucia’s planned opening with conditions, which is noted in the Barbados Caribbean outline at barbados.org.
Of course Caribbean tourism all depends on the airlines and cruise ships. Many airlines are expected to start international flights by July. Ryanair expects that 40% of seats will be open by July and Finnair will open flights to 40 destinations by July 1.
PhocusWire Global Tourism Travel Scenarios
Naturally this is all, to a large extent, conjecture and we know that even the best laid plans can get disrupted. PhocusWire looks at it more pragmatically, suggesting several possible scenarios.
They take the shape of the 3 graphs depicting a sharp recovery (V), a slow recovery (U) and a dramatic shift with no going back to the old norm (L). Not noted is the W graph that indicates a fast rebound and another pandemic.
Scenario 1 (V) – Return to Normal by 2021
In this scenario a second wave of infection is avoided as the lessons learned in healthcare and containment will ward off further spread.
Global lockdowns and curfews have created a need for people to feel liberated once again. There will be a demand for safe travel. Destinations that are considered to be the most safe will do well. This includes many of the Caribbean islands which, by their very nature, have to a large extent been able to isolate themselves far more than cities like New York or countries with massive land borders.
An island is by nature cut off from entry by the sea. St. Lucia and Dominica both reported no deaths and marginal numbers of persons who tested positive. In Barbados the virus appears to be under control. Still the government is moving cautiously with regards reopening.
Scenario 2 (L) – Traveler vs Mass Tourism
The early years of travel were a period of discovery. Travelers escaped to destinations off the beaten track to explore the world and experience a different heritage and culture in a measured and low-key way. Today’s tourism is all about making travel available to everyone. Many destinations are eager to expand tourism at almost any cost to society and the environment.
In scenario 2, the social impact of the pandemic will dramatically change this mindset and the current normal of mass tourism will no longer be what people want.
Change of Mindset
In this scenario, off-season travel will increase. The long curfews and social distancing will have conditioned travelers to seek holidays without crowds. This is expected to be a permanent shift in attitude that will cause dramatic changes in the travel industry.
Vacations to crowded tourism destinations at peak periods are already seeing some decline and this will continue at an accelerated rate. Travelers will choose to avoid crowds and many will favor outdoor and nature holidays over cities and popular resort destinations.
In a related survey, PhocusWire noted that off-season is the new in-season. “We may see large numbers of travelers who would prefer to avoid high-density seasons (even in high-density destinations).” Source >>
In the same study, health and safety were a top priority. “Travelers will be holding hotels and other accommodation providers to a much higher standard than usual. They will do more research before booking and will become more proactive in the information-gathering process.”
Health & Safety Paramount
Travelers will demand top security, privacy and safety. In many cases travelers may perceive alternative accommodation like private homes and vacation rentals as being less crowded and safer, so long as they are confident that health and safety certifications are in place and can be trusted.
Governments and international agencies are already scrambling to coordinate policies on health and safety for travelers, hospitality staff and the local population. At the moment efforts are uncoordinated and confusing.
A coordinated effort will be needed to establish consistent health certifications for airlines and hospitality globally.
More about health standards, distribution, digitization, business travel, alternative accommodation and travel’s soul-searching moment.
Source: PhocusWire Pandemic 2 >>>
Scenario 3 – The Knock-Out Punch
Is this the worst case scenario? I hope so because here the virus brings the world economy to its knees.
On the brighter side of life, a vaccine will be available around 2023 and then the miracle will happen: travel will ignite as people once again reach out for new experiences after the devastation of the previous years.
Hotels & Distribution Global Senarios
Large chains will come out on top and many small independent hotels may well be acquired by the larger players in the industry.
In a related study, Max Starkov, Hospitality & Online Travel Tech Strategist, shows how hospitality is already dominated by chains. Currently 70% of hotel rooms in the U.S. and 50% in the U.K. belong to branded properties. He explains: “Post-crisis developers, owners and managers will flock to the major chains, attracted by their deep pockets, ability to implement safety and cleanliness protocols, huge loyalty programs… unparalleled direct channel distribution, 2x lower OTA commissions and 3x-4x lower dependency on the OTAs.” See Max Starkov – Hospitality Post-Crisis
Amazon may well become a dominant player and Google may well give up its dream of travel after the many past years of benefiting from profitable ads. Social media giants like Facebook will see revenue slashed but will hold onto a role in the travel sales funnel.
Truly global Online Travel Agents (OTAs) like Booking.com or Airbnb, which do not have a high dependency on any single geography, can quickly and opportunistically redirect business to the most promising geographies.
In another PhocusWire interview with Expedia, CEO Peter Kern was very bullish on the prospects that lie ahead for Expedia and OTAs in general. Among other things, he sees it as an opportunity to lessen reliance on Google!
Whatever happens it seems that this scenario will witness many mergers, acquisitions and affiliate deals that will forever change the distribution channels.
The tourism boom that took 1.3 billion travelers around the world in 2019 will slow to a trickle. Governments will try to support major airlines domestically and destinations will want to help fund attempts to bring tourism back to their shores. The smaller low-cost carriers will not do so well with government support leading to many failures and “a wave of consolidation”.
Global network carriers and international hubs of airline alliances will be been mostly replaced by loosely tied flight combinations connected through the NDC technology standard.
Airline traffic will take as much as 6 years to recover. 2025 will see a few mega-carriers. State-subsidized low-cost carriers will operate mainly money-losing domestic routes.
See Example of how airlines are addressing virus safety concerns on Barbados News Blog
Scenario 4 – Virtuality
The pandemic lead to a mass swing to virtual services from online shopping to fundamental change in entertainment, which for the first time, saw online screening become the preferred distribution method. Theater goers are staying home to avoid the crowds and so it will be for many parts of life we took for granted.
Media streaming platforms, online gaming, e-sports and technologies emerged in response to the change in society. travel virtualization began with the first virus spread. Viator, Airbnb and tour operators will have to create virtual experiences like virtual walks, yoga courses and meditation with the top gurus. Destination will create their own virtual tours and experiences like & OurBarbados.online aimed and sharing an inside view of the people and culture of a “destination just out of reach!”.
Luxury Travel Gets More Personal
Travel for the elite does not change much as the luxury travel will continue to jet around the world and enjoy its wonders in-person and in relative privacy in the post pandemic socially re-aligned world.
They will enjoy travel without the crowds as the masses are curtailed. In this scenario the worlds top tourist destination will become exclusive lounges offering health and wellness services and trendy cocktail bars for the very wealthy.
New Tech Giants Take Over
In this environment OTAs will have embraced the technology and the new virtual worlds which will become the new shopping malls for travellers and tourism. Travel consumers may hang out in virtual islands and indulge in digitally experience with online gamers that offer special deals. All will be driven by new tech giants entertaining the masses on their virtual platforms. “Google platforms such as Maps, YouTube and Google Arts&Culture, may become major platforms for travel brands, streamlining interactive content and channeling users to the bookings funnel.”
Summary of the Scenarios
The scenarios are a guiding light of directions we might expect. We should consider strategies for each possibility. We must create new travel related products and new technology to carve out competitive niches in this brave new world. Interestingly Expedia has just announced Free Marketing for its partners.
New York Times – Accommodation Winners & Losers
This is a well-reasoned out debate on the merits of Airbnb vs Hotels. It looks at which is most likely to succeed in the rebound. Traditional hotels have a slight edge in this regard but that is highly debatable. Many feel that the private residences, rather than condos, give a far greater feeling of security as one is not as likely to share spaces with strangers as in a hotel. That seems logical as vacation rental via sites like Arbnb are certainly more private.
The author, Elaine Glusac, suggests that hotels may have an edge in health and virus control. They are typically under strict government guidelines and have well-formulated international standards on health and cleanliness in place. See Barbados – https://barbados.org/blog/?p=4450
On the other hand, vacation rentals also are putting into place international standards. See Premiere Suites‘ example.
Many Airbnb properties are now reverting to professional managers who take care of the full, up-to-standard disinfection of facilities between guests. Travelers communicate with the property managers who advise them on the standards adhered to. Check-in is also hands-free. Guests arrive to ready-to-occupy homes with no meet and greet. They enter using a code that opens the lock or a case for the key – all of which have been disinfected between guests.
Travel Bubbles – Global Tourism Reopening Strategy #1
Areas of the world that have recovered from covid19 may well find themselves ready and able to allow travel between similarly virus free destinations. See more on this on the Barbados Blog