While many industries were severely impacted by COVID-19, the travel industry has been practically laid in ruin. As the pandemic began its unstoppable spread with no cure to rein it in, borders were closed, travel plans were shelved and people sheltered in their homes.
Overnight the travel industry saw thousands and thousands of cancellations, leading to an unprecedented economic devastation. Now, with over 8 million confirmed cases of the corona virus across the globe, the mere thought of travel leaves one feeling anxious and hesitant.
Yet, travel is starting to open up little by little. There are essential trips to be made. People need to reach family. Those stranded away from their homes need to return. Business trips need to be made. In May 2020, 24% Americans travelled, up from 19% in April 2020.
As people resume travel, a host of fears play on traveller’s minds. An interesting study conducted by Phocuswright, a leading travel industry research authority on traveller sentiments during COVID-19 reveals that the top concern among U.S. and U.K travellers is the fear of getting ill at their destination of arrival. German travellers most fear quarantine at their destination or upon their return home. The French, meanwhile, are particularly worried about becoming ill during transit. The common sentiment is fear and concern for one’s health.
Keeping in mind that the biggest concern on traveller’s minds today is safety, comfort and flexibility, airlines and travel operators have repositioned their advertising to address these apprehensions. Messaging across travel websites is now focused on what is being done to ensure travellers’ health and wellbeing.
Southwest Airlines in the USA, for example, is making a Southwest Promise that middle seats will remain unoccupied until 30 Sept 2020 at the very least to ensure physical distancing on flights. Another big airline, American Airlines is promoting ‘Travel with Peace of Mind’. Their motto, “How we are committed to clean at every step” is aimed at reassuring voyagers that their health and safety is a priority.
Another significant demand among travellers is that of accurate and updated information. They want to know the situation in different parts of the world, local travel regulations and quarantine requirements at their travel destinations. Thomas Cook has redesigned their homepage to read a simple, but powerful message, “Stay in the know! Sign up for email”. Travel website, Skift, is offering updated and detailed information about Coronavirus and travel across the world.
While the pandemic has been on a downward decline in many countries that were severely impacted earlier this year, other countries have seen a second wave and some new parts of the world are now finding themselves in the clutches of the virus. With such a dynamic, constantly changing atmosphere, travellers seek reassurance that they can make cancellations easily if required. Online travel agency, Expedia sums it up in the words, “Flexibility matters more than ever”.
As people venture out of their homes and learn to live in the new normal, they will remain wary and cautious. Having been through uncertainty, death and devastation, what they need is reassurance that their travel partners care for them.