The World Health Organization reports that as of April 2020, 80% of the global population is observing some form of quarantine. Global markets are crashing. Businesses – local and multinational alike – are experiencing huge losses at the face of coronavirus, not to mention the innumerable rising cases that are coming to light every day. People are social-distancing, and it is understood that it will be a long time before the pace of the world returns to normal, and people are allowed to step out of their homes again. With all this, it seems like the concept of recreational travel is out of the picture for a while. To put that into perspective:
Daily trend of Novel Coronavirus cases (worldwide):
Global tourism is one of the biggest industries on the planet, generating 1.45 trillion U.S. dollars annually, thus boosting economies all across the globe. Hence International travel, which contributes the biggest slice to this golden pie, will be the worst affected in the times to come. Also, creating massive opportunities for revolutionizing the same.
The SARS epidemic compared concisely to the Novel Coronavirus:
As we saw in the Future of work post-COVID-19 article, how SARS had affected the work landscape, let’s draw a contrast w.r.t travel as well.
Tourism and recreational travel aren’t exactly sitting high on people’s list of priorities right now, given the dire state we are currently living in. Most business appointments that earlier required people to travel are being done over virtual platforms now. This goes further to highlight the inutility of the same and thereby impacting the future of work travel.
In 2003, the SARS epidemic ravaged major parts of Asia and subsequently caused a crisis in the tourism industry that year. According to The World Economic Forum, it accounted for a drop in international tourist arrivals into China alone by almost 9.4 million and a loss of between 30 billion to 50 billion. The economies of the most severely affected jurisdictions of China, Singapore, Vietnam – lost a total of 20 billion in GDP. Tourism arrivals also fell by 70% or more across the rest of Asia, even in countries that were largely or totally disease-free.
The Novel Coronavirus, on the other hand, can and is already having farther-reaching implications than the SARS. Much of which can be attributed to its area of effect, let alone the stigma created by the media. More so, SARS had just put an odd 5186 people under quarantine (0.23% of 2.24 million residents) of the Haidian Province in China, while COVID-19 has effectively put almost everyone in isolation.
What does it translate for the travel industry?
Simon Calder, a senior travel editor for The Independent newspaper and a member of the BBC Travel Show, presents his take on how the travel industry would recover:
- First, one would need individual regions, and subsequently, countries to end the mandatory lockdown. The government will have to start by allowing people to visit restaurants, public places and in effect the airport.
- Secondly, one would require the destination country to be prepared to accept visitors. This again would depend on the trends and the trajectory of the spread of COVID-19 in the said country. It is expected that for the economies having a high dependency on travel, it will be a bidding race to implement the aforementioned changes.
- In late June/Early July, we might see small-scale instances of recreational travel sprouting. However, it won’t be anything like the normal summer that we would be looking forward to.
As countries have chosen to deal with COVID-19 in different manners, therefore the nature of recovery is also going to differ across places. As I write this article, we currently have 45,921 active cases in India, and to know how Indian tourism Industry is dealing with the current crisis, I reached out to one of the celebrated Indian travel influencers – Ankita Kumar. With travel witnessing a complete standstill, travel influencers like most in the industry are experiencing trying times. Read the interview below for some interesting insights –
Q1. How are you finding motivation and inspiration to create content during these times?
Quarantine was very difficult for me initially because I travel for almost 8 months in a year. In fact most of the times when I am not travelling, its usually self-imposed. Therefore, when this whole thing happened I didn’t know what to do. Personally, I push content as soon as I am back, therefore most of my stuff was out already. Now if you ask me, I am literally creating content out of thin air!
I remember waking up a month ago feeling like I wasn’t able to breathe because I was so stressed out. At this point, I started experimenting with my content and came up with Tips for Indians traveling abroad video. But honestly, I wasn’t quite happy with it. I realised that this kind of content doesn’t make sense right now since people can’t travel. And that in fact took me into worse of a stage and I felt maybe for next couple of months I won’t be able to create anything. I was stressing out so much for being productive that it starting turning out to be counterproductive instead.
All of this happened and I was completely zapped. So I locked myself up in a room, and for a couple of hours I was just continuously writing. And that brought me a lot of relief. Once I had it all out there then I started re-thinking and came up with the idea of doing extra day before the lockdown video, and I am so glad for how it has been received. In fact, now I have a few similar ones lined up as well.
Honestly, it feels so good to be able to still create content because at some level I had doubts if I’ll be able to do so without a crew. But now I have faith that I can still deliver valuable content even if I don’t travel.
Q2. Do you feel that the current times are even more challenging for travel bloggers as compared to others in the blogging industry?
With me, it’s always been about creating something that I would want to consume. I know there are a lot of ways I can create content but I won’t do that because that’s just not me. In terms of being restrictive, yes it is especially during these times that we can’t travel. But I also feel that these are the time to be creative and kind of reinvent, and do it in a space where you are comfortable. I feel the strength of a content creator is consistently delivering content while at the same time maintaining a brand.
Q3. What are the steps that you think we can take to ensure that the travel industry recovers faster?
The most important thing I feel is to travel domestically until the end of the year or maybe a few months into the next year also. That is the only way we can help our domestic industry come up back on its feet. For places like Leh, they have lost out on one complete tourist season which is their major source of revenue. Most of these families are hand to mouth, whatever they make during the tourist season is what they survive on for the rest of the year which includes extreme-harsh winters.
Also, at a very personal level, I feel that people are now going to opt for more remote travel involving minimal interaction with the people for e.g: Airbnbs, camping, etc. This is also good in a way since by this we’ll be helping the smaller companies in sustaining themselves.
Q4. Many are saying that COVID might give the much-needed push to virtual travel. Personally, would you ever want to replace your travel, or just a part of it, with virtual travel?
Hahaha No! I won’t. It’s not my thing. It might be for some people. I would rather wait for another year but I’ll definitely choose to travel in person.
Q5. Keeping the current situation in mind what would you like to advise anyone who is planning to enter travel blogging as a full time or part time career option?
Personally speaking, a lot of my income doesn’t come from travel. It comes from other sources such as brand collaboration. Therefore travel industry being affected will impact me only in select cases. And that also I believe will get back to normal once all this is over. Tourism will be more actively promoted now, especially in places where the economy is largely dependent on it. And this is where travel influencers will be ones helping them in marketing so.
That being said yes there is going to be a lull for a while but after that, things will bounce back and they will bounce back twice as higher. So I believe it might not be a great time to expect a lot from this space right now because people are going to be looking out for influencers who already have some following or standing in the industry. But then it takes a while, for one to start making money out of it. Therefore, it’s okay even if you are starting now. Don’t get discouraged!
What can we expect now?
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, tourism has been one of the worst-hit industries of all. National Geographic reports that “taking a snapshot of tourism losses is difficult, as the data changes as quickly as the virus spread. If the pandemic continues to spread for a few more months, then there might be a global loss of 75 million jobs and 2.1 trillion in revenue worldwide.” To put that into perspective, it will be more than 500 times the impact on revenues that the SARS epidemic had on the economy of China.
With that being said let’s have a look at some major changes that will emerge out of the current crisis:
- There will be a significant reduction in business travel as organizations realize the potential of virtual offices. In fact, according to Economic times, more than 60% of businesses have already set targets to reduce travel
- People will prefer domestic travel over international travel for a while, mainly because of the risks involved with different infection rates abroad. This will also be attributed to the possibility of getting stranded overseas and the volatile geopolitical scenario
- Some geographies will remain out of bound for a while. Countries like Itlay, Germany, US, UK will suffer prolonged effects of the pandemic, despite being former popular tourist destinations. On the contrary, countries such as Africa are expected to attract more tourists for being barely affected. Maybe now we might see more proposals happening on wildlife safaris than Eifel tower!
- Airports and Hotels will look different now. One can expect to see practices such as e-passports, boarding passes, medical screenings, virtual queuing, robot cleaners being implemented at the airports. Needless to mention, your corona-free medical certificate will now be a mandate at the airport.
- Virtual travel may finally become a reality. The idea has been around for a while but could never get the much-needed push. However, many companies, big and small are realizing the potential in this space. And hence it wouldn’t be surprising if see this trend take off anytime soon.
Having said that, there will also be a slow yet fierce competition for foreign tourists to boost the ailing economy. This will be complemented by new schemes and ways to lure the customers. But till that happens, let’s pray more often, be more wise, choose social distancing and help some of these losses from happening.
Stay Safe! Stay home!