The travel industry has changed. for better or for worse, the public still expects a getaway, but in what form will it take?
By Michaela Hall: Culture Columnist
With Covid-19 puncturing the joy and hopes of the usually bustling travel industry, the media is flooded by headlines estimating and analysing every last detail of government advice to try and confirm when some sort of leisurely travel will be on the cards again.
It is glaringly obvious that things will be different for a while and that the ‘new normal’ must be taken into account.
Statista.com (Global tourism industry – statistics & facts | Statista) highlights that pre-pandemic in 2019, ‘Globally, travel and tourism’s direct contribution to GDP was approximately 2.9 trillion U.S. dollars’. Indeed, the travel industry was on the rise, expanding with more people than ever before travelling for adventure, mental wellbeing, culture, relaxation, and sightseeing. With the decline of the travel and tourism industry through the ongoing global pandemic, this now seems an alien concept and there are now various factors that would suggest that even when travel resumes, we will approach it in a different way.
One contributing factor to this is the rise of the ‘staycation’ getaway. Those who have tried desperately to find availability for dates of log cabins, glamping sites and caravans in their own countries will perhaps understand the popularity of these breaks. They offer social distancing and safe boundaries from other holidaymakers and the guarantee of a break actually going ahead without the risk of crossing borders and international travel.
These breaks also tend to be a lot cheaper than international travel and many people, after realising the multiple benefits of holidaying on home turf are now turning to this as a favoured way of travel when faced with the prospect of international travel again being an option. This revival of the staycation has encouraged nations to see parts of their own countries that have been right under their noses the whole time but that perhaps they haven’t paid attention to before because of the previously easily accessible cheap flights abroad.
These breaks also offer a more sustainable approach to repeated habitual trips, they are more reliable, financially viable in most circumstances and also take into consideration factors such as travelling with pets. In fact, as Schofields Ltd (Report: The Rise of Staycations – UK Travel in 2020/21 (schofields.ltd.uk)) reports, ‘Consumers are worried about the financial futures of travel companies, but are also concerned about their own bank balances. Redundancies and reduced pay packages mean that people will not be looking for long or expensive holidays’ and a holiday on home turf combats this issue more than an international one.
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In addition, the necessity of travel is now a factor under scrutiny with the focus on more eco-friendly ways of travelling.
You.Gov agrees that (for those in the UK) ‘people are concerned about low impact travel now more than ever. In the 25-49 age group, 30% say they would consider swapping a holiday abroad for one in the UK to reduce the impact of travel on the environment. So, perhaps the mini-break weekend style of travel that was highly popular before the Covid-19 pandemic forced us globally to reign in our air miles, is actually now out of favour. Perhaps these small trips that easily multiply air miles are now the unattractive option in comparison to less frequent long haul flights that offer the same escapism with less frequency.
Travel companies are worried. The Office for National Statistics (Coronavirus and the impact on the UK travel and tourism industry – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)) reports that ‘Turnover in travel and tourism businesses fell to its lowest level in 2020 in May, at just 26.0% of February levels, compared with 73.6% in all other industries’. However, things are starting to look up and of course, there will undeniably be a large percentage of nations globally who can’t wait to make the most of international travel as soon as possible, making up for lost time with the pandemic offering space to review how this freedom may have been taken for granted before.
But one thing that is clear is that this period of a lack of travel has provided us with a more analytical viewpoint of travel and its purpose and impact, whether that is for those who feel travel is essential for their mental wellbeing and enrichment or at the other end of the spectrum, those who feel travel is an unnecessary harm to the environment. The gap between these opinions seems to be widening progressively- and in this time in which there is a spotlight on why and how we travel- we need to ask ourselves will we ever be able to think of travel in the same way?