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,"
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."