COVID-Era, the world and destinations are unlocking to open their economies, businesses, and borders. But the cases continue to rise (as a global tally), reports of second wave of infections, with ongoing appeals to learn to live with the virus and continue to take precautions.
The medical infrastructure remains a concern, but governments around the world are continuously trying to update and upgrade their facilities, not just for locals, but also in preparation to once again welcome foreign visitors including tourists.
The search for an internationally recognized cure for the virus, be it for mild or severe cases remains a challenge, and a continuing process. Right now it’s mostly managing symptoms using experimental medicine for a possible cure, with focus on reducing mortality rates.
The world’s best brains and research scientists supported and funded by private enterprises, and governments are trying to develop a vaccine in record time. As it stands, and with all the positivity, we are looking at Q2 2021 for a vaccine.
This period can include final clearance and approval for the vaccine, reaching the production stage. It can also include (if we get lucky) start of the process of vaccinating the world’s uninfected population. We are also talking herd immunity, but let’s not hope it reaches that level of world’s 70% population getting infected and developing antibodies against the virus.
Travel, Tourism, Aviation and Hospitality industry is taking all possible steps to restart their businesses and to assure their guests of health and safety measures. They cannot continue to remain in lockdown mode till the world gets a vaccine. They will not survive so long, and not much of travel and tourism industry will be left if no one travels by Q2 2021 (or till such time we have a vaccine or atleast a cure).
What is helping the Travel and tourism industry is the desire of humans to travel, which has over the years of evolution has become an essential need for us to survive, learn, heal and continue to connect with the world, it’s people and places.
But individual travelers have their own risk appetite, emotions and motivations which guide them to decide in favor or against travel in the COVID-Era.
Few have decided not to travel until their is a vaccine, but others are willing to take chances, and willing to travel provided they have health and safety assurances during their travels from all stake holders, be it airports, airlines, hotels, transport, local excursions or activities providers. They expect nothing less than creating a travel bubble or cocoon for them to help them feel safe. This is well understood by the industry, but it also remains a major challenge for them to overcome. No-one has the experience to handle and curate experiences in an ongoing Pandemic. They will learn and adapt to this new reality on the Job.
This is also because Travel cannot operate or thrive or even exist with principles of low touch economy. Travel is all about experiences, transformation, activating your senses and needs to have an element of touch and connect with people and places. But unfortunately and unwillingly we need to adapt to the forced new normal, wherein physical distancing is mandated as a savior against COVID-19.
It remains a challenge for the industry to create a balance between it’s legendary service, and experiences with the new health and safety measures. But the industry is doing it’s best, and adapting to guest needs, preferences and expectations, while also maintaining protocols as mandated by governments and health authorities. Kudos to them as they fight the pandemic, to protect their businesses, without compromising on guest safety and experiences.
The governments, airlines, local operators, all have started to offer insurance campaigns to win back travelers, their trust, and to launch a fight against their anxieties and perceived risks, by giving them assurances for their health and safety.
This includes to cover them even for their medical expenses, if they get infected with the virus on their travels while visiting the destination. Some have even got to the extend of offering a free funeral if infected with the virus (I say this is extreme, and definitely a negative on consumer sentiment scale).
But above are far and few, since not all can take burden of such heavy insurances, and will continue to rely on whatever best measures their respective destinations can offer to visiting tourists.
Further a major deterrent is also the choice of destination, since not all destinations are opening their borders to the entire mankind. They have been selective on basis of virus spread in respective countries, and rightfully they need to be vigilant since now the responsibility rests on them in case the virus surges again amongst it’s locals or the visiting foreigners, be it tourists or business men.
They have to decide in accordance with their respective medical infrastructure to be able to handle the second wave.
Lastly we still have connectivity issues, wherein not all destinations are connected by commercial flights. The airlines are restarting but with precautions and as per government guidelines. So we have a time gap before we see all flight schedules restored to Pre-Covid levels.
You can of course fly private on chartered jets, in utmost comfort, privacy and safety, reducing touch points and exposure during the journey to it’s minimum. But this is for a small percentage of privileged class of travelers at the very top of the spectrum.
As a reality of current circumstances, the Travelers need to adjust to the new normal, which will include hospital level sanitisation protocols, COVID testings at single or multiple stages of the journey, immunity passports, possible quarantine measures (if tested +ve), limited destination accessibility (due to reduced flights), extra entry controls and declarations for visas, and a controlled experience economy (environment) regulated by local authorities to implement physical distancing (masks, thermal screening, sanitisation tunnels, face shields, and gloves).
All this translates into a complete overall in the need, desire and motivation behind a travellers decision to travel in COVID-Era. This also leads to a valid justification by the segment that has decided to travel only Post-Covid, when we have a vaccine.
In such a scenario of uncertainty and divided decisions, we can only present facts, updated ground realities, restrictions, risks involved, and available options to our customers. Such factual information and empathy can possibly help us convince them and create a safety cocoon or travel bubble, without completely taking away the essence of travel, i.e. experiences and emotional connect.
Dream now Travel later, Book now Travel later, Don’t cancel Postpone, We will Travel Again: These are the buzzing phrases trying to keep the spirit of travel alive, save the industry and keep the travelers motivated.
Prediction: If we see a decline in no. of cases, mortalities by end of September. We can hope for a reboot period starting October, which translates into some hope for Q4 2020, with last minute rush to travel again (after the great pause) and end the year in positivity with an illusive dream to once again live and experience a back to normal world.
If this does not happen, then all our hopes rest with the new year in 2021, with great expectations of destinations and the industry at large including hotels, airlines evolving out of the crisis, better prepared to continue to welcome guests, easing restrictions, a possible cure, and definitely a vaccine.
– Amit Kalsi, Private Travel Designer