The Covid-19 pandemic arose suddenly and took the world by storm. There was hardly any place that didn’t experience severe disruptions, from store closures, cancellation of huge gatherings and concerts, and large infection and mortality rates in many areas.
The tourism industry was a major casualty of the pandemic. According to the World Tourism Organization, the tourism industry declined a staggering 80% and lost $1.2 trillion in revenues. In the summer, shops opened up and there was some limited travel activity, although much of it was local or within countries since international travel was still restricted in many areas. However, the U.K and other areas in Europe experienced renewed lockdowns in the fall as the number of infections soared. This second wave hit the tourism industry yet again just as it was beginning to emerge from the crisis.
When Will Things Get Back to Normal?
The question on the minds of many people is when will things return to normal. Given the lack of a vaccine, no cure, and the number of infections still rising, it is unclear what direction tourism will take. However, it is possible to speculate about tourism trends when the pandemic calms down.
The impact of COVID–19 is likely to be felt for a long time, even as regulations ease up. The following trends may be signs of what to expect.
The concept of Staycations pre-dated COVID and it was mainly for budget-conscious travelers or those who couldn’t travel far afield because of family or work obligations. Airbnbs and small hotels saw some activity in the summer of 2020, but it was mainly from local people or those who were within a state or a country.
There was renewed interest in sightseeing places close and locals getting to know their own area better.
The Great Outdoors
Since COVID spreads less readily in well-ventilated and outdoor areas, more people went fishing, hiking, and exploring monuments, and visiting outdoor heritage sights. This trend is likely to continue, although the winter may see a reduction in outdoor tourism. However, when the weather warms up again, outdoor tourism may see increased activity.
Also, more people are interested in getting away from it all. Secluded locations and renting small houses rather than multiple rooms in hotels is the choice for families who want to be together but stay away from other travelers.
Visiting Relatives and Friends
Since COVID meant social distancing and delayed visits to elderly family members, as the infection rates decrease, more people will visit relatives they did not see during the height of COVID. Instead of going off to an exotic location, they may decide to drop in on a relative in a city they have never visited and do some exploring.
What About Airlines?
Issues with ventilation and the lack of social distancing make many people uneasy about flying and this may continue for a while. When the airline industry returns, there is likely to be more automated checkout and self-service features in airports. Thermal imaging could detect fevers to ensure that no one who has COVID symptoms will fly and risk infecting others.
No Place to Go But Up
The tourism industry was shaken to its core by the pandemic, but the good news is that it has nowhere to go but up. However, the crisis will be resolved, by a vaccine or increased immunity, the travel industry will come back eventually, but the patterns and habits developed during the COVID crisis, such as hesitancy about flying, the preference of traveling locally and visiting outdoor sights may outlast the pandemic.