The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has unveiled a new report that explores the implications of the trends for each of four key travel and tourism stakeholders: travelers, businesses, the workforce and communities. WTTC worked closely with Oliver Wyman, a global management consulting firm, along with number of WTTC’s members from key areas of the travel and tourism sector, to create body of work.
The report emphasizes the importance of taking a global coordinated approach to recovery: enhancing the current seamless travel experience, embracing the integration of new technologies and enacting global protocols for health and hygiene to ultimately rebuild the confidence of travelers. Notably, it highlights the need for public and private sector to work together to recover the millions of jobs impacted, rebuild traveler confidence and build the sector’s resilience.
The report says that, as we reimagine the future of travel and tourism and explore policy recommendations, four macro-trends are expected to lead the way through recovery and beyond:
- Demand Evolution: Traveler preferences and behaviors have shifted toward the familiar, predictable and trusted. Domestic vacations, extensive planning and the outdoors will reign in the short-term, with tourism businesses and destinations already adapting.
- Health and Hygiene: Health, safety and trust are paramount in this new era. Personal experiences, the fear of being stuck in another country and concerns for distancing will guide consumer behavior in the short- to mid-term. Businesses will have to collaborate even more closely with their extended value chains to ensure readiness.
- Innovation and Digitization: COVID-19 is proving to be an unexpected catalyst in the travel and tourism sector’s quest for innovation and the integration of new technologies. Amid stay-at-home orders, digital adoption and consumption are on the rise, with consumers now expecting contactless technologies, among others, as a basic prerequisite for a safe and seamless travel experience.
- Sustainability: From widespread unemployment and anti-racism movements to the restoration of natural habitats, the world has been reinvigorated to tackle social, environmental, and institutional sustainability. In particular, heightened public awareness of wildlife markets and poaching has boosted advocacy for wildlife protection.
According to the report, 70 percent of North American leisure travelers say they would book during COVID-19 if changes were free. Additionally, more than nine out of 10 (92 percent) of consumers trust personal recommendations with regards to health and hygiene, and 69 percent of travelers cite cleanliness as a critical component of a travel brand’s crisis response, and it is expected that travelers will continue to pay heightened attention to health and hygiene, even after there is a COVID-19 vaccine. This signifies a need for destination readiness as consumers’ priorities evolve, along with the need to adopt new protocols for health and safety measures to keep up with the demand evolution.
Digitization has been paramount during the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the shift to remote working, as well as lockdowns around the world, there has been a rapid shift towards digitization, with people increasingly feeling comfortable with a touchless travel experience. The report reveals that it is here to stay with almost half (45 percent) of travelers saying they are ready to move from paper passports to a digital identity.
From widespread unemployment and anti-racism movements, to the restoration of natural habitats, the world has been reinvigorated to tackle social, environmental and institutional sustainability. Furthermore, almost three quarters (73 percent) of consumers state they are taking note of brands that are making a difference during COVID-19, showing that growing attention is being paid to sustainability.
The report also offers recommendations on how the travel and tourism sector can ensure a more seamless recovery. These include:
- Border openings and repatriation: A harmonized approach to remove travel restrictions, with a previous risk assessment in place, as well as standardized contact testing and tracing requirements at departure.
- Define common health and safety standards: The public and private sector should jointly agree on the implementation of health and safety standards across industries within travel and tourism.
- Strengthen worker support schemes: Provide payroll protection and wage subsidies as well as general consumer stimulus cheques and tax payment deferrals.
- Incentivize travel: Introduction of consumer incentives for travel spending, starting with domestic travelers and expanding to regional and international as quickly as possible and appropriate.
- Promote tourism, starting with domestic and regional travel: To capitalize on the initial recovery, governments, tourism boards and organizations should direct their early marketing and promotional efforts to incentivize domestic and regional travel. Importantly, they should also prepare and provide early marketing and promotional incentives to stimulate the earliest possible regrowth and recovery of internal travel and tourism.
- Extend digital infrastructure to rural destinations: Investment in digital infrastructure of emerging destinations and remote areas will be critical, as well as enhancing digital skills within local communities.
- Integrate digital identities: Accelerating the adoption of digital identities and solutions will be key to maximize accuracy for health and safety protections, while reducing bias in border control and expediting the movement of passengers.
- Rethink the workplace: The rapid shift to remote work will require the public and private sectors to come together to determine how to optimize the new working arrangements.
- Stimulate sustainability practices: Develop and provide incentives to encourage the implementation of sustainability measures within the private sector.