How Travel May Change in 2020, Post The Pandemic

The world of travel has been impacted by the Covid19 pandemic. What lies ahead Ashish Kumar, the Co-Chairman of FICCI Travel and Technology committee, shares his insights.
Travel trends in 2020 will change due to the global pandemic
Travel trends in 2020 will change due to the global pandemic

The travel industry is constantly evolving. Whether domestic or international travel, each year the trends take a different course. And 2020 is no different. However, this year due to the global pandemic, the trends will shape up the industry differently. Ashish Kumar, Co-Chairman of FICCI Travel and Technology committee, gives us an insight into the travel industry post coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus will change the travelling word, permanently, socially.

A global novel virus that keeps us contained to our homes, maybe for months, is already re-orientating our relationship with each other and the outside world. Some changes might feel unfamiliar or unsettling. Will nations stay closed How will people choose their holidays their destinations their brands Will they shun group travel Will they use the Net and technology to aid virtualisation Will nations introduce visa norms for a compulsory virus-free certification (maybe on the lines of yellow fever decades ago) Will the demographic category of over 60-65 year-olds (with underlying medical conditions) feel insecure about going on holidays, thus changing the demographics and needs of a travelling community

However, a crisis can also present opportunities. Perhaps we will see more sophistication, and flexible use of technology, less polarisation, and a revival in appreciation of the outdoors and life's simple pleasures.

No one knows exactly what will come, but the economy, our lifestyle and demographics will impact the way we choose to travel, and decide on destinations, or review and consume holiday products.

And this may require vendors, suppliers, distributors and indeed the entire travel food chain to re-model and re-adapt to social changes. Our interactions with other people (even family members), how we study, eat, pray, shop, perceive health safety will all go through a transformation.

The current coronavirus pandemic has completely upended our lives, and one of the many questions for travel personnel is how, when humanity will get past this, will travel change. Is this a transformational moment in history that will fundamentally alter how we live Will history now be divided between life before corona (BC) and life after (LA) Or will it be merely a passing-though dramatic episode, like the 1918 Spanish Flu, the AIDS epidermic or 9/11 An event that changes certain patterns of our life in the short term, but eventually recedes into memory

My opinion (and it may be debatable) is that this would usher in long-term behavioural changes. Human contact options will be re-viewed, and it may take a few years to recover from the fear of being with others.

So what may be the possible impact of this on travel 

Some destinations may be perceived (with some logic) as being safer than others. India inbound destinations may be better placed than some of the European /US destinations. Websites may just start carrying a "Safety Meter" badge to help people in choosing destinations, just like a service rating meter on, say, Trip Advisor.

The demographics of world travellers may change, with older, health-challenged people being adverse to risks of travelling. This should foster changes in products, distribution and consumption to suit a younger, fitter audience, and the way they review, search and book.

India as a holiday destination, both incoming and outgoing, will need to adapt.

Travellers may consider avoiding group travel, resulting in the rise of independent travel customised towards not just a younger audience, but to suit individual needs /safety perceptions. Cosmopolitan group tours which have a global composition may be seen as 'risky'. A case in point some of the European coach tours.

Holidays which are based on long, confined space-sharing,&nbspbe it cruises or inclusive train journeys, may face review.

New safety certificate visa regimes may come up. Each country may choose to put in its own parameters. This would make travel between some destinations, say Europe (EU), that we take for granted, to be based on border controls /individual clearances. One Schengen Visa may still be the political norm, but not necessarily the border entry norm. I am not sure how the federal structure in the US will play out regarding travel between their states.

Corporate travelling may need modifications, perhaps aided by video conferencing using VR. The MICE (Meetings, Events, and Incentives travel market) activity may see changes in terms of FIT holidays / individual travel rather than the current mode where busloads of channel partners travel together. Therefore, travel could be part of corporate gifting, to be consumed as and when needed, and based on personal choice of destination rather than in a group.

Travel suppliers, companies, airlines, hotels, tour operators and the entire chain, would have to micro analyse their existing operating process, and adopt to a digital, web and technology-driven interfacing, both with customer and internal teams. This may be for both inbound or within /outside India

Costs need to be pruned down and rationalised for servicing, distribution of product as well as for consumer consumption. For instance, airlines have to go beyond inventory management (as would hotels and resorts) and add value in every step. And this end-to-end experience has to be available to intermediaries in a simplified API /technology protocol, so that the customer touch points are well managed. Emerging technologies would have to quickly be adopted and scaled up like AI, machine learning, virtualisation and augmentation, to support information and experience.

Change is the only constant at the moment.

Ashish Kumar, Co-Chairman of FICCI Travel and Technology committee, brings with him 40 years of experience in travel, transport and hospitality. He is also a visionary who stands behind the integration of Artificial Intelligence in the travel industry.

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