We yearn for positive travel news these days. And in a day and age when headlines dominate, who has time to read the fine print?
Here are four popular travel stories from the past two months where details were later clarified that made the original headlines substantially less impressive than they originally seemed.
1. Japan may cover half your expenses if you visit
If reports that Japan would pay a good portion of your travel expenses sounded too good to be true, it’s because they were. After international headlines pounced on reports that Japan was launching a new campaign to pay up to half of travelers’ costs, Japanese authorities quickly reined in expectations.
In a series of tweets on May 27, Japan Tourism Agency clarified that its new “Go to Travel” campaign is aimed at stimulating domestic travelers, not international ones. The campaign, which the agency noted is still “under consideration,” would begin after the Covid-19 pandemic ends.
The following day, the agency also placed a notice on the homepage of its website about the “misinformation … being reported by some media outlets.”
Even if the plan is approved, the implication that Japan is covering “half” of travelers’ expenses is a stretch too, especially for a country as expensive as Japan. Budget documents excerpted from the campaign show travelers would be eligible for lodging and dining vouchers for up to 20,000 yen (US$186) per person per day.
Currently, most foreigners, including those from China, Australia, the United States and most of Europe, are not allowed to enter Japan. Those who are allowed due to “exceptional circumstances” are requested to quarantine for 14 days.
2. Passengers get Covid-19 blood tests before flying
What better way to quell fears of contracting the coronavirus while flying than to test passengers before they board the plane? That’s what many thought when they read headlines that Emirates was the first airline to conduct rapid Covid-19 tests for departing passengers.
Unfortunately, what wasn’t made clear at the time was that the tests were serology tests for antibodies (which shows evidence of past infections), not active Covid-19 infections. While antibody tests are helpful to track the pandemic (and to detect some level of immunity), they won’t prevent flyers from infecting one another during air travel.
Reporting questioned whether travelers would be denied boarding based on results, which is hard to square given that they tested for the presence of antibodies only.
The finger-prick blood tests were administered as part of “additional precautions” being introduced by Emirates, and were initially given to passengers flying from Dubai to Tunisia. After the Dubai Health Authority, who administered the tests, discovered efficacy rates were only around 30%, it banned the testing.
3. You can get tested at Vienna Airport, avoid quarantine
At a time when Europe’s most popular travel destinations were closed to foreigners, international travelers saw a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel when headlines about Vienna’s coronavirus testing at the airport dominated the news pages.
It’s true that those who pay 190 euros (US$210) for a coronavirus test upon landing at Vienna International Airport can skip the country’s mandatory 14-day quarantine if the test is negative.
It’s also true that this is available to “all passengers arriving* or departing from Vienna Airport.”
But that asterisk is important: It indicates that testing on arrival is available only for those who have both a residence in Austria and a valid residence permit. This information is now conspicuously boxed at the top of Vienna International Airport’s coronavirus testing webpage with a large exclamation point and the word “ATTENTION” in all capital letters.
Furthermore, the airport’s on-site coronavirus testing must be construed in conjunction with Austria’s travel regulations, which states that through May 31:
“Entry by air is prohibited to third country nationals from states outside the Schengen area. Third country nationals travelling from inside the Schengen area by air, have to carry a medical certificate proving a negative Covid-19 test result or are obligated to commit to a 14-day quarantine.”
The Schengen Area is a group of 26 European countries that have done away border controls between one another.
4. Countries will pay you to visit
While tourism boards around the world are planning strategies to entice travelers once it is safe to do so, a number of media outlets are reporting on countries that will “pay you” to visit.
Sicily’s 75 million euros (US$83 million) tourism initiative which may pay for one night of a three-night trip along with vouchers for museum fees is one thing (assuming you’re eligible, of course); coverage regarding free sun loungers and tables on the beaches of Bulgaria is hazier. It’s also been reported that Cancun, Mexico, is preparing a campaign that includes two-for-one hotel stays and companion air ticket refunds, and that Cyprus will cover lodging, food and medication for Covid-19 patients and their families should they become ill while they are there.
Hotels, cruises, tour companies and those involved with the travel industry are expected to offer generous incentives to lure travelers from their homes when the time is right. Airplane ticket refunds and free hotel rooms aren’t inconsequential. But whether travel deals and free medicine amount to “paying you” is subject to your own interpretation.
The attached document is a very useful, comprehensive 19 page document which provides checklists for all areas a hotel should address before re-opening.
The following report is a 42 page document outlining the UNWTO's recommendations regarding the Covid19 pandemic together with recommendations to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. The report has the following sections
With tourism halted by the need for people to stay home and not travel unless necessary, Carolyn Corda, chief marketing officer for data intelligence business Adara, shares findings on the consumer behavior patterns being displayed around the travel sector in recent months.
Demand for travel in the US fell more than 85% for leisure and more than 95% for business in the second half of April compared to volume at the beginning of the years. But, since 1 May, there are small increases for travel booked more than 91 days out as well as more immediate trips taking place within two weeks. Global and local travel and tourism across the globe faces a complex set of variables that will determine what the future really looks like.
Very few people are traveling now, but the $2.9trn question is: when will people start booking travel again? The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) notes that 1 million travel and tourism jobs are lost every day that the pandemic continues, and so every day counts. In anticipation of increasing demand, different travel companies are positioning as best they can to capture it. Carnival Cruise Lines recently announced that it plans to resume cruises from Texas and Florida starting in August.
The signals of a rebound are likely to be market-specific and subtle. Countries in Northern Europe are slowly opening, but most international travel is still restricted, and so a hotel rebound will be slight, at first, while air travel could lag further. Singapore and Japan, which stayed open in March, are now adding restrictions, forcing recent bookings to be rescheduled or cancelled.
Elements such as trip purpose, advance booking window, length of stay, class of service can all be examined to understand which types of travelers will bounce back first, and when. But, these signs must be read cautiously. There are also major health and economic forces at work, and outcomes across regions and countries will vary widely. For example, a recent uptick in air travel to Hawaii was met with a mandate that out-of-state arrivals self-quarantine for 14 days. The future will be subject to structural changes that could alter travel for some time in addition to normal traveler demographic differences and individual traveler emotions.
Don’t expect a single curve
Travel, perhaps more than any other industry, will suffer long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic. With past travel downturns, there were smoother patterns that could be seen across the industry. Structural changes like limits on capacity, sanitation regulations, testing requirements, and border closures, could all come and go as the virus comes and goes.
There is a danger that travel marketers try to create a single timeline of the future, with a unifying outcome. Looking at travel booking data through Adara, there are small signs of increases, such as US leisure travelers booking 90 days out, and travelers in South Korea continuing to travel more than their neighbors. But, these small inflection points will not add up to a single bottoming out of the curve that will then smoothly bounce back up. There will be fits and starts and small spikes that then turn back down, where each slice tells its own story.
Plan for several scenarios
Major gating events such as infection rates and shelter-in-place orders are the tip of the iceberg of the factors different travel brands need to understand. Tourism locations must know how many people can gather in one place, and if major sports teams will be able to play. Airlines will need to understand border crossing regulations, and the emotional willingness of people to travel while sitting next to strangers, not only on the plane itself but also across hundreds of airport lounges. Hotels will need to understand how to entice visitors when large gatherings like conferences and concerts are dramatically reduced, and how to manage elevators and other public spaces.
Each industry must create scenarios that examine each layer of gating events across different timelines. Companies are putting a lot of analytic resources and executive attention into laying out potential futures, whether it is an "U" or an “L,” and creating action plans for marketing, staffing, and capacity management based on the timing and strength of the rebound. One key unknown is whether the virus returns in the fall, which could dampen longer-term travel. For example, a recent survey shows that 40% of university students are considering changing their study abroad plans for next year. Each scenario requires different actions by the travel marketer. Travel brands will be well served to play these scenarios through.
Information is power
Widely-held assumptions about how travel is likely to rebound over the course of the next 12 months are emerging. For example, international travel is expected to lag behind domestic travel and outdoor destinations such as national parks are expected to be more popular than other attractions that tend to draw dense crowds. Further, the bet is that unmanaged corporate travel will come back before managed corporate travel, and that senior leaders will likely travel sooner than their junior counterparts. All of these forecasts seem logical and align with early indications of consumer sentiment. And, many of these trends may indeed prove to be true.
However, it’s particularly important to challenge logic when we lack historical precedent. We're seeing some actual consumer behavior that defies some seemingly logical assumptions - the notion that people will avoid destinations that cater to crowds is also proving to be a false one. A contrary indicator is Las Vegas which is seeing a nearly 200% uptick in bookings for late summer.
Travel marketers can use data from many companies that are making data publicly available to help with scenario planning including Smith Travel Research that tracks hotel performance, International Air Transport Association which provides scenario forecasts and BCG's Travel Recovery Dashboard that provides a snapshot of key indicators. Other leading indicators, such as an increasing radius in the distance people are booking travel from a specific city, or the increase in originating locations to a destination, are good signs of a trend. It’s important to have a shared cross-functional plan for the company to coordinate go-forward messaging, media buying, pricing and service as micro-trends arise.
Creating light at the end of the tunnel
When new positive trends do arise, the goal is to encourage travel by building trust and increasing willingness. A logical framework that uses data to analyze micro-trends can prepare travel marketers for a personalized approach. Individualized messaging, pricing and services will be more relevant to travelers than a blanket campaign that could come across as tone-deaf at best and irresponsible at worst.
It is important for travel brands to get the inflection point just right - to open the marketing machine - from pushing inventory availability across the distribution network, to optimizing ad spending and pricing, as well as timing messaging and communication directly to travelers. Restart too soon, and money is wasted. Spend too late and competitors take the early, intrepid, customers.
Similarly with ad messaging, each traveler will respond to different messaging depending on a complex interaction of past booking behavior, demographics, and emotions. Older people are more anxious to travel, because of personal risk of being harmed by the virus, compared to younger people, notes Lori Pennington-Gray of the University of Florida. Similarly, people in the Northeast of the United States are showing higher travel anxiety that people in more rural parts of the country.
Having a sensible approach to data analysis and a coordinated marketing effort sets the stage for success. Having a compassionate approach to the individual needs of each traveler ensures it.
In April 2020, Hawai‘i hotels statewide reported dramatic declines in revenue per available room (RevPAR), average daily rate (ADR), and occupancy compared to April 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Hawai‘i Hotel Performance Report published by the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority’s (HTA) Tourism Research Division, statewide RevPAR decreased to $12 (-94.5%), ADR fell to $131 (-51.8%), and occupancy declined to 8.9 percent (-69.0 percentage points) in April.
The report’s findings utilized data compiled by STR, Inc., which conducts the largest and most comprehensive survey of hotel properties in the Hawaiian Islands.
In April, Hawai‘i hotel room revenues statewide fell by 97.0 percent to $10.4 million. Room supply was 45.4 percent lower year-over-year (887,200 room nights) and room demand dwindled to 79,100 room nights (-93.7%).
Many properties closed or reduced operations in April.
Since March 26, all passengers arriving from out-of-state were required to abide by a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine. The quarantine order was expanded on April 1 to include inter-island travelers.
All classes of Hawai‘i hotel properties statewide reported lower RevPAR, ADR and occupancy in April compared to a year ago. Performance data for Luxury Class properties were not available for April due to property closures.
Maui County hotels reported RevPAR at $13 (-95.6%), with declines in both ADR to $121 (-68.8%) and occupancy of 11.0 percent (-67.9 percentage points) in April.
Data for the month of April was not available for Maui’s luxury resort region of Wailea.
The Lahaina/Kā‘anapali/Kapalua region had RevPAR of $4 (-98.3%), ADR of $90 (-71.9%), and occupancy at 4.6 percent (-73.6 percentage points).
O‘ahu hotels reported a 93.8 percent drop in RevPAR to $11 in April. ADR decreased to $142 (-37.9%) and occupancy declined to 8.0 percent (-71.9 percentage points).
Waikīkī hotels earned $8 (-95.7%) in RevPAR with ADR at $141 (-36.7%) and occupancy of 5.4 percent (-74.5 percentage points).
otels on the island of Hawai‘i earned RevPAR of $13 (-93.1%) in April, with declines in both occupancy (12.4 percent, -62.3 percentage points) and ADR ($107, -58.8%). Properties on the Kohala Coast reported declines in RevPAR, ADR and occupancy in April. Kaua‘i hotels’ RevPAR fell to $9 (-94.8%) in April, with lower ADR ($131, -50.9%) and occupancy (7.0 percent, -59.6 percentage points). Tables of hotel performance statistics, including data presented in the report are available for viewing online at:
About the Hawai‘i Hotel Performance Report
The Hawai‘i Hotel Performance Report is produced using hotel survey data compiled by STR, Inc., the largest survey of its kind in Hawai‘i. The survey generally excludes properties with under 20 lodging units, such as small bed and breakfasts, youth hostels, single-family vacation rentals, cottages, individually rented vacation condominiums and sold timeshare units no longer available for hotel use. The data has been weighted both geographically and by class of property to compensate for any over and/or under representation of hotel survey participants by location and type. For April, the survey included 87 properties representing 22,929 rooms, or 42.7 percent of all lodging properties and 77.5 percent of operating lodging properties with 20 rooms or more in the Hawaiian Islands, including full service, limited service, and condominium hotels.
Accurate and timely economic data are crucial for informing policy decisions, especially during a crisis. But the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the production of many key statistics. Without reliable data, policymakers cannot assess how badly the pandemic is hurting people and the economy, nor can they properly monitor the recovery.
We are working with member countries and other international agencies to address these data disruptions and keep economic data flowing.
The significant data disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic require innovative data collection methods and data sources. More accurate and real-time information will help countries continue to respond more effectively to the crisis and start planning for the recovery.
Three key statistical challenges
First, many staff in national statistical offices are now working from home due to lockdowns, often with limited access to the tools and data they need to produce and disseminate economic indicators. For example, the calculation of retail prices often requires physical visits to stores but this is currently not possible in many countries. Similarly, surveying businesses about their production and investment plans is difficult as many have temporarily shut down or simply do not have the resources to respond to statistical questionnaires. These disruptions mean that data on prices and production—critical for calibrating monetary policy and fiscal stimulus measures—may either be delayed or have to be estimated based on partial information.
Second, inconsistent approaches to recording government support to people and businesses may complicate the assessment of their impact on public finances. How best to reflect some of these measures is not so straightforward. For example, when a government provides financial support to companies affected by COVID-19, is it making a financial investment or is it providing subsidies with no return expected? Depending on the answer, policymakers will get a different picture of the fiscal deficit and public debt.
Third, to make the best-informed decisions, policymakers need a real-time readout of the economy. Many traditional official statistics—even those with monthly frequency—are just not sufficiently up to date to be useful at this time. Higher-frequency alternative data are needed to complement official statistics. While the important role of alternative indicators was already recognized before the pandemic, the disruptions of traditional statistics caused by the current crisis have made it more urgent.
Tackling data disruptions
Countries can benefit from guidance on how to fill these data gaps during the pandemic. Our recent guidance notes offer recommendations and best practices to ensure continuity of key statistics for prices, growth, and trade.
Key recommendations include:
Today, with the urgent need for new data sources to support real-time monitoring of economic activity, countries have been stepping up efforts to find higher frequency and more granular information to identify and quantify the impact of the virus faster. For example, the United Kingdom started to release weekly bulletins with new and experimental indicators, including online price indices and daily shipping data to measure the economic impact of COVID-19 on inflation and trade. South Africa, using online prices from retail stores, has compiled an Essential Products Consumer Price Index. The IMF is incorporating these and other new data sources to analyze the economic and financial impact of COVID-19, including, for example, by tracking activity in specific sectors and mobility through high-frequency energy consumption and flight data.
Every week since March 15th, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviors surrounding travel in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The findings presented below represent data collected May 22nd-24th.
Key Findings to Know:
However, these improvements remain gradual and incremental, and the travel industry still shows a long journey back to where it was. In addition to the significant drops in expected trip volume and spending on travel, this week the percent saying they will take a staycation rather than a vacation this summer (57.6%) and the percent saying they are going to wait until 2021 to travel again (32.6%) both reached a high.
Health and safety remain central to this measured outlook and behaviors toward travel, and this is profoundly seen in current perceptions of air travel. Over one-third of airline travelers still characterize traveling onboard an airplane as “very unsafe” (and another quarter say it is “somewhat unsafe”). While they show lesser concerns about the boarding gate/waiting areas and TSA security checkpoints, many Americans are looking to put off their next air trip until 2021 or later.
It’s imperative to the industry’s recovery that travelers feel they will be safe in every aspect of their journey, and certainly travel industry related businesses are working hard to ensure this is a reality. To examine where the strongest points of resistance may be and/or which experiences may need more safety guidelines communicated, we asked travelers to rate what they feel are the TOP THREE most unsafe components of a common travel experience. Right now, taking public transportation, traveling onboard the airplane, visiting indoor attractions in their trip destination, and traveling in taxis/Ubers/Lyfts are most agreed upon as the least safe aspects of a potential trip.
Although lodging was not as commonly chosen as the least safe aspect of a typical trip, it is important to understand the degree to which travelers are feeling they will be safe at Airbnbs/vacation home rentals (often perceived as easier to socially distance but without the formalized levels of housekeeping/sanitation) and hotels (often perceived as being more difficult to avoid other travelers but with the ability to enact strict sanitation protocols). Staying in a hotel is currently perceived as safe by 27.6% of American travelers and staying in an Airbnb/vacation home rental by 21.3%. Note that younger travelers are much more trusting of Airbnb/vacation home rental safety compared to older travelers.
With Memorial Day weekend traditionally considered the (un)official start of the summer travel season–and now the first national holiday celebrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, but with all 50 states under loosened restrictions, this made for an interesting study. Did Americans, in fact, travel? As of the morning of May 24th—the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend 2020—just 5.9% of American travelers reported they were taking a trip this holiday. Of those that went on a trip, 42.7% made the decision to take it within the last week. Similarly, a recent Harris Poll conducted about Memorial Day travel plans found that 95% of the American population believed it was too soon to travel. In addition, AAA declined to put out its annual Memorial Day travel estimate citing COVID-19’s impact on the accuracy of their data, but expected it to be a record low in their two decades of this forecast.
Younger travelers will very likely be key to many destinations’ and travel providers’ recovery. Last week we reported that Millennial travelers will be at the forefront of the industry’s recovery, due to their relatively higher sense of safety for themselves and travel activities, combined with the ability to motivate them to travel with discounts —things that we continue to see this week. Nearly 40 percent of Millennial travelers report they will make travel at least a somewhat high priority in their lifestyle—double the number of Baby Boomers who said the same—and plan to spend $3,000 on leisure travel in the next three months–$1,000 more than Baby Boomers report. They also plan to visit a more diverse set of destinations in the next year.
With the entire travel industry essentially on pause and no clear answer about when things will return to normal, one thing is certain: Traveling in a post-coronavirus world will not be the same as before. Traveling provides us an opportunity to connect with others, find inspiration in foreign ways of life, and support local economies. But it also has negative impacts on the environment, with carbon emissions speeding up the process of global warming and can be damaging to destinations and communities if not done sustainably. Now that the coronavirus has forced millions of people to stay home, we’ve seen the earth enjoying a much-needed respite. The canals of Venice are crystal clear, air pollution in cities like Milan is reduced, and wildlife is returning to places formerly overrun by humans. So, what does this mean for the future of travel? We surveyed leaders within the tourism industry to find out their predictions for how travel will change.
A Slow Return
All of the experts we spoke with agreed that travel will return gradually over the course of months, if not years, and people will probably stick to local destinations for a while. “Initially people won’t want to venture far from home, preferring long weekend stays to drive-to destinations and the corona-cation will be born,” Misty Belles, the managing director of global public relations for worldwide travel network Virtuoso, told AD. “This is an important first step because with 20% of people expressing concerns over air travel, restoring consumer confidence will be a key part of recovery.”
Gregory Miller, the executive director of the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), agreed. “We certainly recommend as part of a responsible recovery for travelers to reduce the amount of air flights and look for more sustainable, lower footprint ways to travel,” he said, adding that he expects the road trip to make a tremendous resurgence. While train travel may be the most sustainable option, road tripping allows people to have more control of their environment and avoid contact with strangers.
New Standards for Hotels
When people do start traveling again, they’re going to be cautious at first. Many brands, like Marriott and Hilton, have announced heightened standards for hygiene and cleanliness—an important step, according to Miller, who believes that in order to be successful, hotels need to clearly communicate what they’re doing to keep travelers safe. Big brands may be better at getting that messaging out, but independent properties and small hotel groups might have more leeway to adapt their policies.
“We will need to approach a new way of check-in and check-out procedures, applying new sanitary protocols, mandatory for all public activities, and we are going to be very strict on that in order to [best] follow all the indications given by the Sanitary Institution,” Giorgia Tozzi, general manager of Rome’s intimate Hotel Vilòn, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, told AD. “Nevertheless, I am working on new ways and little tricks that will smoothen up these procedures and transform the new rules in a less traumatic [way] and hopefully [create] pleasant experience still in line with the elegance and style of the hotel.”
Similarly, Borgo Egnazia—a chic member of Leading Hotels of the World in Puglia—will implement new hygiene and safety guidelines, including digitizing check-in, reducing paper material, and reducing occupancy to give guests more space for social distancing. Adriatic Luxury Hotels, which runs 12 hotels in Croatia, is rolling out enhanced sanitation measures, including placing hand sanitizers at entrances to the restaurants, elevators, spa, and in restrooms, frequent disinfection of the elevator control panel and staircase handrails, deep cleaning of kitchen areas and buffet tables, and the provision of masks and gloves upon request.
The Rise of Villa Stays
Even with enhanced cleaning practices, people may be wary of interacting with staff as they did before. For this reason, Belles reports that demand for villa rentals is increasing among Virtuoso’s network of travel advisors. “While people are eager to get back to traveling, they also still want to socially distance,” she says. “Villas are the perfect solution, though guests are foregoing things like housecleaning and personal chefs, which are typically part of a villa rental.”
Elena Fotiadi, marketing director for the Greek luxury villa rental company White Key Villas, couldn’t confirm that they’ve had an increase in bookings for this summer, but affirmed that some guests have said the only vacation they want to take this year will be in a secluded villa and not a hotel. “Facts permitting, summer will be on in Greece later this June; our team, as always, will be on-site to control and oversee the work done prior to their arrival and during their stay,” she said. “We strongly believe that these are important actions that need to be highlighted now more than ever, and that once we have returned to our new normality, professionally managed private villas will be among the safest accommodation options globally.”
Big Changes for Aviation
After 9/11, security screening at airports around the world were dramatically enhanced, and according to experts, we can expect airports to ramp up health screenings in a bid to fight the coronavirus. In airports such as Rome’s Fiumicino, no-contact temperature scanners have already been in use since February. Emirates recently became the first airline to administer rapid COVID-19 tests using finger pricks. JetBlue, American, Delta, and United have announced that passengers and flight attendants will be required to wear face masks on flights. Miller and Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder of Indagare, which partners with AD on design-focused trips, both mentioned the possibility of immunity passports, though medical experts are still unsure if people who recovered from COVID-19 are actually immune.
“Airports will need to rethink everything from security lines to baggage carousels as they assess spacing for traveler safety. Zone boarding will be more strictly enforced, rather than serving as a guideline that is inconsistently followed,” according to Belles. With planes nearly empty, some airlines have blocked off middle seats and are putting passengers in every other row, but they’ll have to find other solutions when demand starts to pick up again. According to Travel + Leisure, Italian manufacturing company Aviointeriors released a set of designs that would put transparent barriers between passengers in economy seats.
“Many airlines have already gone out of business; many others are cutting back their routes. They’re going to have to run many fewer flights and the access that we’ve all taken for granted in terms of affordability and frequency of travel has absolutely changed and will not come back for many years,” Biggs Bradley said. As demand has dropped to a fraction of what it was, many airlines have retired older aircraft before they otherwise might have. Hopefully they’ll use this as an opportunity to update their fleet. “What we want to see is that air travel becomes more sustainable and the airlines that continue to survive are using newer aircraft, with more attention to sustainable biofuels,” Miller said.
Trouble for the Cruise Industry
“The cruise industry is going to have the greatest challenge. They’re gonna need to really make a very deep commitment to rethinking the business model of high-volume cruising,” Miller explained. After reports surfaced of cruise ships being blocked from entering ports and sick passengers getting stranded at sea, the $50-billion-a-year industry lost the confidence of the public. Not to mention, a large swath of the cruise companies’ target audience is in the high-risk category.
Miller sees this as an opportunity for port destinations to put safeguards against overtourism in place. “Historically the cruise destinations have been at a great disadvantage. The cruise industry has pitted destinations against one another,” he said. Now, destinations have the opportunity to create limits on the number of passengers that can disembark and start levying the kinds of tariffs that Venice plans to implement. Cruise companies might have to alter itineraries and retool the embarkation and disembarkation process to avoid herding passengers cheek to cheek.
Overtourism and Sustainability
In addition to limits on the numbers of cruise passengers disembarking, we might see limits on the number of visitors allowed to access historic sites and how long they’re allowed to stay. Some museums, like Rome’s Galleria Borghese, already require timed tickets to reduce crowding, and others may follow suit.
“I think to some degree the end of overtourism and the end of fast travel is going to happen because of economic realities,” Biggs Bradley said. The economic fallout of COVID-19 is not only affecting the travel industry, but also travelers, many of whom have lost their jobs. “In any difficult situation, people have to be more thoughtful about what they’re doing and how they’re spending their time and money,” she added, speculating that people might take fewer trips and save up more in order to take more meaningful trips.
All the experts we talked to agreed that travel will come back, but for now, we need to listen to health officials and continue to shelter in place. “People need to be patient. Travel is a privilege. It’s not an entitlement,” Miller said. “As global citizens, we can make a difference. We have to look at when we travel, how we travel.”
As airlines return to Europe skies for summer, the cost of air travel looks set to double on some carriers. A U.S.-Europe economy return in early June cost from $2,126 with Delta. A first class ticket for the same Atlanta-Paris flight costs from $7,085.
Mind, Europe’s borders are shut to most foreign travelers until at least June 15. Travel bans at both ends mean only those with essential reasons to travel can.
That has not stopped several airlines ramping up summer flight schedules for Europe. Delta, Emirates and Qatar are taking off again on many European routes from as early as today. As the EU’s internal borders start to tumble, Lufthansa together with its subsidiaries SWISS and Eurowings are launching a major comeback on Europe-wide destinations across June. Also on international routes.
Is Delta inflating those prices a little? A Lufthansa Paris Los Angeles return from May 28 costs less than half that: From $970 for a basic economy return fare, $1,330 in the case of premium economy.
Post Covid-19 Air Travel Freedom At A Price?
There has been huge speculation as to whether post Covid-19 air travel will be cheaper or more expensive. The variation in prices between Delta and Lufthansa suggests it depends in part which airline you choose.
Flights in and out of London from the U.S. are often cheaper, I find, than into Paris. Yet Delta’s Atlanta-London offerings for May-June sport a similar price tag: $2,235 return. BA meantime is selling Heathrow-JFK roundtrips economy in June for around $650.
Many travelers take $700-900 as a ballpark economy return fare on transatlantic flights. Early on in Europe’s corona crisis, in March, Delta and others were selling them for $285. Today Delta’s tickets cost over 600% more.
Paying For The Middle Seat?
Are passengers being handed on the cost of social distancing measures on some airlines? Delta is blocking middle seats until July. This means a maximum of around 60% of seats are booked. Is the carrier building in that fee to the ticket price, and making consumers pay for low flight loads?
That’s highly possible, according to global airline trade association, IATA. Forcing airlines to block middle seats will lead to dramatic price hikes worldwide, and pretty much double fares, it says: “With fewer seats to sell, unit costs would rise sharply. Compared to 2019, airfares would need to go up dramatically—between 43% and 54% depending on the region—just to break even.”
Social distancing measures, slashing the maximum load factor to 62% will impact consumers, IATA adds: “That is well below the average industry breakeven load factor of 77%.”
Irish businessman and regional airline founder, Pádraig Ó Céidigh, tips airfares will double, even triple. And it’s not just the “extra burden” of social distancing costs on planes that will be relayed to passengers he feels—but the additional running fees for airports due to Covid-19 protocols.
“The cost of running the airport is very significant, and obviously that cost is passed on to the airline which is passed on to the passenger,” he told Ireland’s Newstalk radio.
According to Zach Honig, editor-at-large at The Points Guy, Alaska and Delta are the only U.S. airlines for now blocking middle seats.
Others global carriers, including Emirates, are doing the same as part of their safety measures, and to restore consumer confidence about flying. Lufthansa is not among them. After introducing compulsory masks, it will “ease its in-flight social distancing protocols,” says Honig.
So no need to have customers pay for that extra seat. Due to low demand, Lufthansa still says passengers will “be spaced apart as much as possible throughout the cabin.”
Some U.S. airlines have done a u-turn on moves to charge passengers for the social distancing upfront. After federal government criticism, low-cost Frontier Airlines, ditched plans for a “More Room” fee of $39 each way, guaranteeing the middle seat stayed empty.
The Good News Is: Competition’s On Its Way
Higher prices could change as competition stiffens says travel industry analyst, Henry Harteveldt. "If demand remains low, and airlines have to compete for a limited number of travelers, airfares will likely use low fares to attract as many travelers as they're able," he told CNN.
Are consumers turned off by the double average prices being asked by some airlines? “With those inflated fares, each passenger is paying for themselves but also for that empty social distancing seat!” notes Susan, one American in Paris.
Some are just happy to get home: “We flew Atlanta to CDG last week,” says native Californian, Dennis Brounstein, now living in Montpellier France. “At least every other seat was empty. Prices are high but they are a commodity. They charge what the market will bear. We are just glad to be back.”
Hotels in the Mexican tourism hotspots of Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and Isla Mujeres will not reopen June 1st as planned.
The government of Quintana Roo has quashed the hopes of optimistic Quintana Roo hotels that expected to reopen on June 1.
Tourism Minister Marisol Vanegas Pérez burst a few bubbles when she said that “it’s not true that they’ll be able to reopen, since the companies themselves don’t determine that, nor the market. It will be the federal and state governments,” reported Mexico News Daily.
She added that the only hotels that should be open for the foreseeable future are those providing service for people carrying out activities deemed essential during the coronavirus pandemic.
Swimming pools, gyms, spas and other tourist services will remain closed until conditions allow, as reopening early could lead to “disastrous [public health] situations,” Vanegas said.
Although she could not give a specific date, Vanegas did say that they can expect to begin to return to something resembling normal sometime in June.
“Yes, they’ll be able to open in a preparatory fashion by means of a health certification issued by the Quintana Roo government, which will be voluntary and not obligatory. The main objective is for businesses to be prepared to return to activities on a still unspecified date in June,” she said.
The certification will be a means by which hotels and other businesses can assure customers that they have minimized the risks of coronavirus transmission as much as possible within their facilities.
So far companies like Xcaret, AM Resorts, Hard Rock, Mayakoba, Royalton, Temptation, Coral Princess and Fiesta Americana Cozumel, among others, have announced June 1 reopenings.
Governor Carlos Joaquín González also said the state is not ready to reinitiate tourism activities due to the high number of Covid-19 cases.
“We’re still not ready. We must follow the guidelines for having a gradual return. The recommendation continues to be: remain at home,” he said.
Mexico Reopening To Tourists
There has been plenty confusion on Mexico reopening to tourism.
Over the coming weeks there are sure to be more announcements made by tourism councils regarding reopenings but until state and federal officials give the go ahead, nothing is written in stone.
Puerto Vallarta could become the first official tourist destination in Mexico to reopen their doors including hotels and motels opening on June 1st.
In another announcement, Aeromexico confirmed that it would be relaunching flights to and from Canada and the United States starting June 1st.
Southwest Airlines will be returning to the Mexico tourism destinations of Cabo and Cancun as of June 7th.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.