In a highly insightful webinar presented by the DTTT and the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), we analysed the post COVID-19 consumer and examined the probable changes in their behaviour towards post pandemic travel. Joining us in attendance were over 100 industry experts, who have all been impacted by the crisis and were keen to share their views and perspectives with the industry.
The Post COVID-19 Traveller: Key Takeaways
Travel will be different post COVID-19, Virtual is the new real
Global restrictions to travel have ensured that the only way for destinations to reach potential visitors, is to bring the destination to them. Virtual travel experiences are now becoming more commonplace as technology develops. What this means post COVID-19, is that virtual travel will influence travellers and their expectations. Virtual travel and live streams will be used by travellers to choose a destination and be part of the planning process. Live streaming will allow travellers to revive memories, share them with friends and interact with a destination in real-time. As a result of the economic consequences of the pandemic, there will possibly be a bigger demand for virtual experiences, as they offer a safe, low-cost alternative to a live visit.
The attitude to hygiene is non-negotiable
In order to build consumer trust and confidence, the industry must demonstrate that it takes hygiene seriously. Actions must be put in place to make destinations safe. Travellers have now seen all the worst case scenarios of COVID-19’s presence in the travel industry and will not want to experience it themselves. Post COVID-19, traveller’s expectations of hygiene will be higher than ever, non-negotiable in fact. There will be an expectation that all services, products and experiences will demonstrate hygienic best practice at the highest standard. Hygiene and protection may fuel the desire for protective travel accessories and for destinations, there may be a demand for official hygiene standards and certification.
As a result of social distancing and warnings from medical experts, contactless solutions will be in demand. Travellers will expect to be able to register, check-in and pay through mobile, virtual and contactless solutions. This desire for contactless will also bring with it a demand for new levels of security for digital services and identity protection.
Virtual humans as the new normal
Digital technology is now enhancing our world like never before, and in a post COVD-19 world, travellers will be more inclined to use this technology. Sophisticated solutions will be expected, such as digital assistance with a human-interface. All designed to install confidence and increased comfort in travellers. Digital technology also offers an opportunity to provide new solutions for independent travellers.
Social but without the crowding
Health and safety are the number one concerns for travellers right now and will be post COVID-19. Destinations must be aware of people’s fears, not just of travel, but also of crowds. This fear will impact behavioural patterns. It is likely that there will be a demand for small-group tours and self-guided experiences. There will be an expectation that destinations and operators will incorporate measures to avoid overcrowding at all costs. This may mean an increase in demand for more isolated, off-the-beaten path experiences and places. Travelling by plane is likely to be a barrier now for many travellers, who may prefer to drive instead.
This is an ideal time for destinations to rethink, rebrand and restart and to develop and deliver digital solutions to disperse the crowds. There is an opportunity for destinations to expand their offer beyond the city, to more natural, rural locations. As a result of COVID-19, there is likely to be more interest in nature, outdoor activities and regional tourism. It is a chance for destinations to think about where they send people and transfer the demand of travel and interest. Shifting the budget to the local market and shifting the focus from international to national tourism is also required now.
Care as the new service
A more caring world is developing and the industry needs to be tuned into this. This is an opportunity for the industry and businesses to step up and stand out. People’s fear must be acknowledged and understood, therefore companies need to shift their thinking. Transparency is vital, as is demonstrating care for customers. Many industry companies are now putting the customer first and offering refunds and relaxed cancellation policies, which is the right thing to do. Post COVID-19, expectations of a high level of care will remain a core characteristic of products, services and experiences. Companies and brands are expected to show a caring attitude and be proactive in issues that are important to society.
Value as the base currency
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world and the way we think. It has made everyone more careful in their actions and things are no longer taken for granted. Travel is no longer easily accessible, therefore when people do travel, they will value the experience more. Travellers will be more focused on the value travel experiences offer and will evaluate prices on that basis. Travellers may look to high end premium offers that provide them with more safety guarantees. There may be an increase in booking with travel advisors who can offer that extra level of service and security. Destinations need to be creative in their offerings and provide the guarantees of wellness, safety and highlight their benefits.
The key takeaways highlight that the industry must stay creative, agile, adaptable and work together. COVID-19 has changed the boundaries and will inevitably influence the way travellers will think about, plan and consume experiences. With the travel industry on indefinite pause due to the uncertainty, we are certain of one thing, when we do travel again, things will be different.
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