It’s hard to have a conversation, tune into the news, or scroll our feeds without being inundated with information about COVID-19, or coronavirus. The virus sweeping across the globe is having huge economic implications across almost every industry from finance to entertainment, but especially travel.
As Associate Director of Strategy at Beautiful Destinations, a strategic and creative agency specializing in travel, this new normal got me wondering: how are other travelers thinking and feeling about travel in these very uncertain and precarious times?
To find out, we tapped into our travel community of 23M+ Gen Z & Millennial global travelers to understand how COVID-19 is affecting their mindsets and travel outlook. Through a social survey consisting of one multiple choice and five open-ended questions on Instagram, we elicited 98,286 responses from travelers eager to share their thoughts and experiences, these are some of the directional themes that emerged.
COVID-19 has massively disrupted the plans of travelers across the world, with 84% of global travelers having had their travel plans impacted by COVID-19. The most common disruption has been cancellations, with 58% of global travelers having to outright cancel travel plans, of which 17% were to Europe specifically.
Beyond cancellations, 11% of travelers have had to postpone travel until later in the year and 6% have had their plans disrupted by quarantine, whether voluntary or not. One of our community members told us, “I can not come back to Germany right now, I’m forced to stay in the Philippines.”
While another relayed, “I’m in total lockdown in Italy.” Whether stuck in their home or foreign country, a majority of our community has had their life disrupted in a major way, including many brides who have had to postpone their long-awaited weddings.
This may be one of the biggest crises our industry ever faces, but willingness to travel will recover. As humans, travel is how we build cultural empathy, learn about the world, and even ourselves - it’s a force for good and one of the most positive ways to have an impact on the world. While we may not be certain when the pandemic will ease off, we can be certain that travelers will be looking to travel as soon as it does, in potentially record-breaking numbers.
While COVID-19 has certainly disheartened travelers, their global appetite for travel will likely recover mid-Summer and they’ll be more eager than ever to get out of their homes and back into the world to make up for lost time.
45% of global travelers plan to resume travel in 3-6 months, citing the reasons they are currently not as being hesitant about; getting stuck in a country and not being able to return home (14%), being infected (9%), and going to airports or getting on airplanes (6%).
One of our members explained, “I can’t travel to see my husband because governments are closing borders,” while another mentioned that she wouldn’t be able to go study in the country where she had been admitted to university as a result of the virus.
While not the majority, 34% of travelers haven’t completely taken current travel off the books, perceiving Africa, Antarctica, and Turkey as the safest places to travel right now.
But most believe it’s best to just stay home, take advantage of the quality time that can be spent with family, and contain the virus as much as possible. One traveler expressed - “I think it would be so selfish and reckless to travel just for pleasure,” while another echoed her thoughts saying “COVID-19 is a pandemic and you should be responsible and not travel right now.”
It may be of some relief to airlines that the top concern is not airports/planes, but nonetheless, they should craft transparent communications, continue to implement stringent cleaning processes, and offer almost unheard-of flexibility in plans to allow for travelers to feel confident and empowered to begin planning and booking travel for the future. For the industry at large, it’s important to consider that many plan travel 3-5 months ahead of time, so this surprisingly may be the perfect time to start planning a recovery marketing strategy and making sure you’re top of mind after the pandemic has subsided.
As our lives are being turned upside down and we’re trying to hold on to any sense of normalcy, it’s comforting that travelers are deeply empathetic and conscious of how their behavior could affect others.
47% of global travelers feel that it is not safe to travel or feel it is best to stay home right now. Instead of fear or getting infected themselves, the primary concern for travelers is infecting other people, especially loved ones, who may be more susceptible with 16.5% stating this as their primary reason for not traveling.
One of our community members responded, “My daughter has muscular dystrophy so I'm worried that she'll catch it, she's only 6." while another stressed how she couldn’t risk getting quarantined and being away from her children.
When it comes to information, travelers aren’t necessarily looking for more. Our feeds have been flooded with endless opinions and advice, the last thing they need is another source telling them what they already know. However, 28% would like to know when the pandemic will end, and 23% when there will be a vaccine. As all of us in the travel industry anxiously await those same answers, we can only do our best to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on our businesses and reassure our audiences that we are there for them.
Yes, we may be seeing significant disruption to the travel industry, but it’s important to stay positive and remember that the world will recover and the industry along with it. As they say, invention is the mother of necessity and our actions now will determine our success in the future. So right now, we need to be there for travelers by being as transparent, supportive, and comforting as possible in order to be able to effectively inspire future travel once the world resumes as normal again.
For more information on how COVID-19 is impacting global travelers and how you can best develop a tourism recovery marketing strategy, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.