SINGAPORE – The world is still hungry for travel, says travel platform Tripadvisor, who has published a study analysing consumer travel sentiments, and tips from industry experts, in view of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
“History tells us that the travel industry is incredibly resilient… We are already seeing early signs of recovery in the travel-planning habits of millions of consumers all over the world who are actively researching and dreaming about their next big trip. Traveller demand will rebound, but in our eagerness to meet demand we must also ensure safety is given the highest priority,” said Kanika Soni, chief commercial officer for Tripadvisor.
Titled “Beyond COVID-19: The Road to Recovery for the Travel Industry”, the research piece outlined five-steps to a phased recovery for the travel-hospitality industry:
Decline: When travel takes a sharp dive as widespread restrictions are enforced
Plateau: Potential travellers choose to stay in to ensure safety and “flatten the curve”
Emerge: With easing of travel restrictions, early signs of recovery in dining sector and local businesses begin
Domestic travel: Confidence increases in travelling again, but people remain close to home
International travel: Border restrictions are lifted, and global travel rebounds
Interesting insights include 34% of consumers reporting, in late March, their preference to reschedule instead of a cancel a trip; over 68% showing interest in thinking of their next trip in April; and 41% feeling optimistic that they will be flying more this year.
In addition, TripAdvisor also noted an increase in travellers' search activities, which underscored a resilience in consumer attitudes towards the future of travel.
A common thread found across hotels, experiences and F&B sectors was the prioritising of cleanliness and safety, with nearly nine in 10 (86%) putting that as a key factor when selecting accommodation. Less than half (42%) indicated willingness to dine-in at restaurants like in the pre-pandemic days.
So how can travel industry stakeholders tap on these trends?
Tight partnerships between destination marketing organisations (DMOs), public health officials and local hospitality businesses are more critical than ever as destinations now have to take on "an added role as a beacon of truth, delivering timely information for inbound travellers looking for resources and answers," according to TripAdvisor's Christine Maguire, VP of advertising & partner solutions.
Ms Maguire recommends capturing pent-up consumer demand for domestic travel, primed as the first to rebound.
Attractions where consumers can practice social distancing should first be recommended, such as outdoor spots and cultural sites. Off-the-beaten-path destinations will also be favoured over urban destinations, according to 59% of those surveyed. Consumers are also seeking ways to relax, with 148% voting for beaches once travel is allowed again.
Accommodation providers should prioritise hygiene and sanitation protocols, followed by effective communication with guests to rebuild traveller confidence, suggested Tripadvisor's Martin Verdon-Roe, GM of hospitality solutions.
He added that flexibility in cancellation policies, and recent reviews should also be monitored.
Apart from easy improvements such as new social media photos and amenity upgrades, standing out is also key. Where it used to be pricing, post-Covid, travellers will instead be motivated by the desire to unwind, enjoy a new place and a special experience. This change of mindset must also be applied to using data from the market today, not from the past.
//TOURS, ACTIVITIES AND ATTRACTIONS
As described by Tripadvisor’s Kristin Dorsett, VP of supply, viator, COVID-19 days have seen creativity emerging as operators brought tours into homes via virtual platforms.
With physical interactions coming back to play, consumers will devote more time to trip planning – which is why detailed digital listings and product pages are vital.
Travel providers should also consider focusing more on offering private or small group tours – an option which 62% of those surveyed have found to be most appealing.
Cancelation and rebooking policies will also need to be more flexible than ever, since consumers are still concerned about safety and perceived risk factors as travel resumes.
“Our path to recovery will depend on the steps the industry takes to prepare for the road ahead - not just in terms of new standards and practices but also in how we collectively educate and engage consumers in a new, more thoughtful way of traveling," remarked Ms Dorsett.
For the full white paper, click here.