Holy Pandemic Batman! Thanks to the Coronavirus, the entire world has come to a total economic stop. Literally!
The first obvious casualty has been the travel industry. Airlines have grounded the majority of their fleets. Many airports now resemble congested car parks. Cruise ships aren’t allowed to dock, leaving them at sea for an indefinite period. Travel bans are in effect, preventing people from travelling overseas. Social distancing measures means that no one can crowd popular tourist attractions to take plentiful cliche shots or selfies.
Before the s#$t hit the fan, this is what the international travel industry looked like in terms on who was dependent on the tourism economy:
By the way, in an ironic twist, one of my favourite scenes of the travel disaster movie, Flying High (otherwise known as Airplane) is a literal scene of s$%t hitting the fan!
Anyway, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has estimated that the global tourism and travel industry will take a $USD2.1 TRILLION hit in 2020. Travel is one of those industries that inherently requires the movement of masses of people around the world for it to be viable. When everything suddenly comes to a crashing halt, there is going to be large and far reaching consequences.
It almost feels like every government in the world has become a socialist state with all of the bailouts and stimulus being churned out faster than lightning through a wet dog (yes, that’s Australian slang for ‘very fast’).
The massive surge in Coronavirus jokes, Lockdown larks and Social Distancing Memes has been caused well, from people working from home a lot, or they’ve just lost their job and they’ve got nothing better to do.
For people who love travel, if you’re lucky enough not to be stranded in a foreign country, you’re holed up in your home waiting for all of this to pass, wondering when your next trip is going to happen.
You know what? No one is going anywhere for a long time. Not unless an eradication treatment or a vaccine for COVID-19 is found.
We will get through this. But at the other end, things are going to be very different.
Here are my predictions for travel in a post coronavirus world.
Airlines and Flights
I was planning a trip to Japan in December this year or January 2021, but with airlines cutting back their international services or stopping them completely, I can’t see that happening for ages. As an example, Qantas has stood down two thirds of it’s staff – 20,000 people – in the meantime and I’m sure other airlines will do the same. People will need some level of certainty before even thinking of booking a trip of any kind.
Everyone has become used to things working like clockwork such as flight timetables. When that goes astray, people then lose control over the things they can control and people won’t even think of travel if there is a risk of being stranded overseas, or worse, taken out by the virus.
I think that flight volumes will take some time to recover to the levels they were before COVID-19 came along. That’s assuming there are the same airlines still around as I’m sure many will collapse when there’s no cash flow happening. Otherwise, there will probably be a large proportion of airlines that may be nationalised and be government owned and funded.
We will all need the airlines to come back as they’re an important part of the economy, not just for leisure travel.
Holy floating petri dish Batman! I bet not even The Love Boat Crew would have an answer on what to do if there was a COVID-19 breakout on the Pacific Princess.
I’ve always jokingly thought that based on the amount of lovin’ happening onboard with Captain Stubing in charge, that the Pacific Princess should have been renamed the HMAS Herpes.
If there’s one travel industry that’s really been slammed, it’s the cruise industry. When you’re crowding thousands of people in a confined space, it’s easy for any disease to spread fast. Anyone who has scored Norovirus from a cruise ship would completely understand!
And with the negative press associated with a number of cruise ships with COVID-19 cases, I think this would put off even the most ardent cruise advocate.
I’ve never been on a cruise – the only one I’ve really wanted to go on is one to Antarctica so I can tick off the seven continents for my bucket list, but who knows when any cruise is allowed to happen for a while?
I can’t see any bailouts for the cruise industry happening either.
Hotels, Hostels and Other Accommodation
The flow on effect then reaches accommodation. Many accommodation providers rely on high turnover and thin margins to turn a profit. So when you take away all of the turnover (except for government paid for rooms for people needing to be quarantined), then your cash flow comes to a complete stop.
No business can survive without cash flow. I suspect that many accommodation providers will shut down and not bother opening again. This in turn will affect supply and demand, but then again, travel is a discretionary purchase so the demand may not be there for a long time.
Activity and Tour Operators
Like above, many tourism industry operators – which are often small to medium businesses – will probably shut down as well. They often employ many people in regional areas (I know, I grew up in Cairns which is heavily reliant on tourism) so it depends on whether they can hold out for as long as they can.
Who knows if any bailouts that the world governments have dished out already to keep people employed are going to work, or even last for the duration of the pandemic?
One aspect of the travel industry that might actually thrive once we reach our new normal will be domestic travel.
If there is local eradication due to social distancing and isolation, internal borders within countries might open up. People are going to be so over being cooped up in their rooms for months that they’ll look for any excuse to go somewhere different, even if that’s just within their local area or state.
Also, it may be cheaper to travel domestically if your country has eradicated the virus (somehow!), plus travelling domestically eliminates the risk of being stranded in another country if further waves of infection occur.
Countries are going to be very hesitant to open up their borders to international travellers if no effective treatment or a vaccine is found in quick time. No way Jose!
Which leads me to this – who the hell is going to open up their borders when there are other countries going through COVID-19 peaks? I wouldn’t want my government to do that. No one wants to go through another lockdown all over again by re-importing new cases!
And if by some miracle you’re allowed to travel overseas, you’ll have to put your trust in the health systems of other countries – some of which aren’t that great.
Once again, there will be no confidence with international travel until a vaccine is found. And considering that many countries have imposed travel bans on their citizens leaving the country, you can’t go travelling anyway until it’s lifted.
Guess how much money travel insurance companies are making right now? Zilcho. Most have suspended travel insurance sales because of worldwide travel bans that forbid citizens from leaving the country.
What this means is that travel insurers have suspended sales so they’re not generating any revenue at the moment – at all. This is really going to hurt them, especially companies who only sell travel insurance.
Before all of this happened, most travel insurers didn’t cover claims relating to pandemics. Whenever it’s safe to travel internationally after this coronavirus madness ends, make sure you check every line and requirement of your travel insurance policy to find out what’s covered and what’s not.
There’s no way in the world that claims related to a ‘pandemic’ won’t be one of them! Plus expect more stringent conditions as travel insurers try to reduce their risk profile even further. There’s no such thing as no risk, but try telling lawyers that!
I guess I won’t be selling any backpacker travel insurance soon!
One massive bonus of the travel bans means that ‘influencers’ aren’t being sent on lavish trips to take a million selfies for Instagram. So I won’t become the best fashion blogger in the world either!
So What Does The Future Hold For Travel After The Coronavirus?
I think it’s way too early to predict when anyone would be able to plan a trip of any kind – whether that be flights, cruising, or any form of travel taking into account that many countries have closed their borders with a travel ban, or have implemented very strict entry requirements.
No one wants to spend the first 14 days of their trip in quarantine!
That means, this virus has to be under control or eliminated before domestic and international travel gets back to normal. And considering that some airlines may fold, who knows if that’s going to happen?
The virus is a bit like cancer – to be cancer free, every single cancer cell has to be killed off. The same with the virus, otherwise it will just come back again if there is no vaccine or treatment developed for it.
For the near future, travel is going to be a luxury item. At the moment, people have lost their jobs, there’s much less (or no) disposable income, which means people are just focused on survival by having a roof over their head and putting food on the table. Hard times ahead for the travel industry me thinks.
Watch this space!