The rapid rebound of the economy and from the virus has the entire population quickly returning to their lives — and in a hurry to resume their pastimes and hobbies (and just get out of the house!). The affluent, who have been dealing with pent-up demand to return to their wanderlust for months, are the first to commence travel planning and reschedule their cancelled trips.
Many start traveling almost immediately, both for business and personally, and at the levels they were before the virus (as they’ve been telling us they planned to in recent studies). While hotels and rentals have established cleanliness and safety standards, the wide availability of testing and the promise of a vaccine gives all consumers greater confidence to resume their normal ways. Affluent consumers take this as a cue to take not just domestic trips but to consider international ones, as well — although initially to developed regions with strong infrastructure and healthcare.
While most consumers (affluent and non-affluent) choose first to visit friends and family they’ve missed during the lockdown, the ultra-affluent are also interested in visiting special locations they’ve been researching and thinking about for awhile. And while trips to far-flung or off-the-grid global locations aren’t on the agenda at first, affluent consumers feel safe enough to resume their focus on travel being an experience — and after a short while begin again to choose destinations, activities and resorts that fulfil their desires to learn, experience and transform.
Senior vice president, team lead, Ipsos Affluent Intelligence
Re-imagined travel and hospitality experiences will include new brand standards along the customer’s journey, making it safer for everyone. Brands will institute and communicate clear, credible, complete and consistent brand standards relating to measures they are taking to keep passengers and crew safe. Inventory allocation systems (seats, rooms, cabins, restaurant seats) will be adjusted to “sell” only every other unit, and occupancy will be spaced with gaps in between. Reservation requests will include screening questions about recent travel and compromised health conditions. Guests will be required to arrive earlier than check-in time to repeat screening questions. Guests that test positive will be quarantined.
Gloves and masks will be handed out on arrival and we will be required to use them. Check-in and check-out will be distanced, masked, and low contact. All tickets, room keys and documentation will be digital. Every hotel room and airline seat will be stocked with hand sanitizers, masks and gloves. Low-touch spaces will be accessed via motion-activated doors, and voice-activated elevator call buttons, overhead bins, floor selections, and room doors.
A biodegradable “sanitized for your protection” note will be affixed to every airline seat and hotel room after an “operating room” cleaning protocol is performed before it can be reused. Social distancing protocols for guests will be required with masks on in all public areas, 6 feet/2 meters apart, one guest per elevator ride. Restaurant tables will be at least 6 feet apart and dining hours will be lengthened to de-densify dining rooms. Strict limits on occupancy and spacing will be placed on guests in spas and fitness centers. All food delivery will be no-contact, using all single-use, biodegradable equipment. Cleaning services will only be available on demand, with all employees mandated to use masks and gloves. Guests will be continuously informed about local safety ordinances at every destination that inhibit or enable a visit.
Professor, School of Hotel Administration, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business
For many Americans, the need to travel for emotional and physical wellbeing has never been more essential. As travelers decide on their summer plans, many will be hesitant to return to large-scale operations like hotels and resorts and will instead turn their eyes on smaller, individual experiences: Short-term vacation rentals, although not destinations, will be in similar demand. Those short-term vacation rentals that offer rural recreation and safe seclusion—all within driving distance from metro areas— will boom, creating new travel trends likely to last for years to come.
Vice president, team lead, Ipsos design studio; and co-founder, chief brand architect of the Wildwood Collective short-term rental company
The COVID-19 crisis showed how critical the hospitality industry is to the world’s economy and how fragile the industry can be when stressed with external forces. It’s the canary in the coal mine to measure larger socioeconomic well-being. In this hopeful future, we see local and national leaders acknowledge the vital role hospitality plays in the economy. They extend and increase funding to help thousands of hospitality-related businesses — restaurants, retail, cultural attractions, destination marketing organizations, hotels — come back to full health. Communities on the verge of decline find themselves rising as the thousands of people who are the backbone of local hospitality return to the workforce. Small businesses that define a community’s vibe and culture are rescued and renewed. This focus on hospitality draws particular attention to businesses owned by people of color and immigrants, boosting them to new levels of market share and stability. Destinations will commit to safety standards that make residents feel confident in receiving outsiders and make visitors feel secure in their decision to experience a community.
Destinations can still thrive in this new travel reality by adjusting their strengths to meet visitor expectations of safety and social distancing. In Madison, we flipped our destination conversation from being an urban hub with excellent outdoor access, to be an outdoor mecca of bike trails, lakes and parks with easy access to urban amenities. Mid-size and small communities reach new economic heights following the resurrection of travel.
Director, PR & Communications, Destination Madison
As the fear of the virus dissipates and the country returns to work, business travelers will lead the way and drive the new hotel and airline safety policies. However, even under the most optimistic circumstances, over half of frequent business travelers expect to travel less than previous levels. This is driven by safety concerns, budget cuts and clients/customers not accepting in-person meetings. Despite these barriers, air carriers and hotel companies will need to find new ways to incent business travelers to get back on airplanes and in hotels. Prior to COVID-19, incentives such as upgrades and bonus points were of high priority, but these take a back seat to safety and health concerns. For a return to airline travel, frequent business travelers will demand/expect the blocking or removal of middle seats, and face masks for crew and passengers. As long as airlines fail to make these and other accommodations now, fears and concerns will remain, even under the most positive situations.
Senior vice president, U.S. Senior Client Officer, Ipsos