NICE 31 December, 2020
The travel and tourism sector was rip-roaring with advancements and opportunities but then came 2020. The world shut down in the blink of an eye and everything came to a standstill. With everyone locked up in their homes and no travels happening at all, it was swept by the lowest phase ever. Now that things have started gaining perspective and with borders opening up, I want to believe that the worst is over and things will get better from here. There is no denying the fact that Covid-19 has led to a paradigm shift in our ways of working, partying, traveling, planning holidays, etc. There is disruption all around and the fear of the virus has given birth to a number of challenges. One really doesn’t know what lies ahead. But as they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining, maybe this is the time for creating that lining. We must approach the next phase of travel differently – with whole new strategies and safety solutions. To begin with, we must acknowledge and be ready to adapt to the change.
So, before the pandemic, what did people who loved traveling and making money out of it, do? Well, they traveled, explored, researched, networked and found their calling. From being a writer, blogger, tour operator, photographer, travel expert, travel provider to entrepreneur, there were many sunny sides to this ever-evolving sector. But what now?
Well, we will have to restart by accepting the fact that change is part of our lives, and traveling will not be the same for a few years in the future. One will have to adapt, evolve and offer what the need of the hour is. We need to foresee and find out once again what the customers are looking for. Amidst the chaos, one thing is certain – safe health practices and demand for cleanliness will rule the charts. Nobody would not like to compromise on hygiene. Travelers will opt to stay in places that meet certain standards. There will be a new-found curiosity for cities and countries that have handled the pandemic effectively.
Secondly, people will be constantly looking for new information, government-issued travel guidelines, visa information, quarantine instructions, airline arrangements, health policies, social distanced destinations and more. The face of consumer traveling will change. As we can already see, some of the non-essential things have become essential. Nobody wore masks or carried sanitizers (everywhere) till last year. But now, you wouldn’t want to risk forgetting them! Sanitization products are already big in the market.
A lot has already changed about how we travel. When borders opened up, destinations differed. The first trips were mostly road trips and the chosen places were closer to the cities. Nearby sanitized vacation rental properties were selectively picked as staycations. By the time flights resumed, the inflight experience was nothing like before. Personal hygiene and safety protocols had become hugely important. Going forth, the criteria for selecting hotels will also change. There is already more demand for privacy, social distancing and adherence to hygiene protocols. Typically, travelers loved visiting crowded restaurants, hot attractions of the city and amusement parks. Not anymore. Now, they are preferring wildlife, nature spots, spaced-out outdoor locations and secluded destinations. Slow travel is making an entry into our lives and we must embrace it.
Currently, people want to travel but they also want to be in full control of the situation. There is a heightened interest in revisiting the hidden gems of their own and neighboring cities. They want to know more about domestic and drive-to destinations that are comfortably reachable by car. Travelers also want their family and friends to be around and are not keen on strangers. It may be a good thing for now because that’s how we can keep the spread of the virus under control. Eventually, remote and not-so-popular countries may pick up a craze for this very reason. And there is definitely going to be an increase in the use of travel insurance.
Last but not the least, it’s time for personal travel advisors to rise and shine. People may be hesitant to travel and not be aware of many issues – they will need the right guidance. Automated booking platforms will be useful but only to a certain extent. Until efficient systems fall in place, travelers will still continue looking for authentic information sources. This is a very dynamic phase. A lot will change.
This is definitely one of the riskiest times to wear an entrepreneurial hat in the travel sector. Entrepreneurs have been marred by the economic consequences of the pandemic. Amidst the uncertainties, those who will find gaps in the marketplace and bridge them immediately will come out winners. This is going to be an interesting phase too because terms like digital health passports, air bubbles, travel corridors, vaccine tourism will enter our lives.
There will be a higher demand for responsible travel, eco-friendly surroundings, locally sourced food, longer stays, workcations, etc.
People would want to reconnect, go back on vacations, enjoy themselves with families but in a safe and controlled environment. The changing travel needs of consumers will need smart and prompt solutions. Proactive tourism business ideas will seize the moment.
This is also the time to work on things we have lacked for long. It’s indeed the best time to promote our domestic destinations. Let us think of ways to show the best of India. Also, we can pull up our socks when it comes to virtual tourism. A lot can be done with respect to our indigenous arts, craft, culture and more.
It takes just one idea to make a big difference. Let us keep racking our brains till we innovate something new.
In my capacity as a travel writer and influencer, I can already see people seeking information more than ever. They are constantly asking for updated information on the travel policies, procedures and more. They want to begin with neighborhood attractions. There is a boom in road trips. Backyard tourism is flourishing like never before. The onus lies on us to keep reminding people to be safe while providing them with reliable and authentic travel stories because storytelling must continue.
To end on a positive note, I would like to believe that the travel industry will bounce back – Stronger. Louder. Better prepared!
Author: NICE Friend, Manjulika Pramod is an author, telecom engineer, travel writer and hobby artist. ‘PENDOWN’ is her travel blog where she has been chronicling her experiential travel tales of India and abroad for nearly a decade. Her travel articles have been published in several newspapers, inflight and travel magazines.
Image credits: Manjulika Pramod
Published by Chitra Aiyer, NICE