Updated: Aug 21, 2020
No industry has felt the full weight of Covid-19 like the travel industry. We went from over-tourism to no tourism in a matter of weeks. Hotels, restaurants, and car rental agencies have gone bankrupt; closing their doors indefinitely. Airports are virtually empty and fares are at all-time lows. There are worldwide travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines. The travel industry was ill-prepared for this once in a century event.
As bad as things are, I think it’s inevitable that travel will return. People are creatures of habit and we have a strong urge for exploration. How it returns is to be seen and full of speculation, but I have some ideas that I will explore further.
For one I think business travel will never return to pre-Covid-19 levels. Businesses were forced into the future and now having experienced video conferences has found them to be a great alternative to in-person meetings requiring travel. The immediacy and cost savings of video conferences will reduce business travel to levels we have not seen in a very long time. This will have lasting effects on airlines and hotels for years to come.
Next, I see people's desire for controlling their personal space increasing greatly when considering travel. The means of travel, accommodation types and travel destinations will all be measured with personal space in mind. Road trips with personal vehicles or RVs will become preferred to a crowded flight with mask requirements and temperature checks. Private accommodations of Airbnbs will feel much safer than hotels designed for the masses that increase the chance of bumping into an invected person at the turn of every corner or opening of the elevator door. Outdoor destinations and national parks will be more appealing than a trip to a vast city with tickets to a sporting or concert event. All of these things may lead to increased local travel.
If you can work from home then you can work from any home. An Airbnb just a short drive away may be very attractive to someone looking for variety in their workspace and the desire to mix business with pleasure. Airbnb is already reporting a surge in demand for local stays. according to Airbnb’s CEO, the number of nights booked at US listings between May 17th and June 3rd was greater than the same weeks from the previous year.
Lastly, there will likely be fewer vacation travelers. The International Labour Organization’s(ILO) latest estimate calculates a loss of 400 million full-time jobs globally. The numbers are uncertain and the areas affected will vary, but people facing a loss of income around the world is unquestionable. This will lessen vacation travel as people must prioritize their expenses. How bad is anyone's guess and will be tied to how quickly we can recover.
Tom is Founder and CEO of Rent Sherpa, a short-term rental company partnering with real estate investors across the nation to maximize cash flow with a lucrative and technology-driven rental strategy.