COVID-19: A Change in Landscape for Travel

While we’re all affected by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the travel and tourism industry is in the eye of the category-5 storm. The crisis has affected many countries globally and every facet of the industry. With stay at home orders and social distancing as our new normal, travel and tourism are not only last on the minds of many but also, an impossibility for most. Not an industry to be thwarted though, travel and tourism has shown resilience through past crises and this one is no different.

As the pandemic storm rages on, travel and tourism industry providers have adapted to providing a virtual product and are connecting you digitally with their destinations. While the message right now is one of being #AloneTogether, all storms eventually come to an end.  When this one does, the message will change back to “Come See Us!” but the way we travel is sure to be altered by our experiences during these trying times.

What are Travelers Thinking?

Travelers will be more likely to choose non-captive, local travel when restrictions are lifted. These destinations will become easy come, easy go scenarios where travelers can quickly pivot should an alert arise. As socially distanced travel and limiting exposure risk remains a focus, we’ll see a shift not only in how and where we travel, but also with whom we travel.

Pods; self-contained units composed of family and close friends, could possibly overtake individual and large group travel in the wake of the pandemic | WhereTraveler

Will Small Groups become the New Normal? Think Pods!

Pods, defined as self-contained units composed of family and close friends, could possibly overtake individual and large group travel in the wake of the pandemic. Pods are a sweet spot in terms of offering travelers both fun and safety as they allow for all the social benefits of travel without the expanded exposure risks. Furthermore,  as travel comes back, the initial landscape will be perfectly primed for pods:

  • The initial upswing in travels return is likely to be focused on domestic travel and drivable destinations.
  • Pods will also flourish as we’re likely to see limits on available time slots, reduced attendance capacities, and more from large scale events and attraction providers.
  • The CDC will continue to limit event capacity therefore, patrons will attend within their pods and each pod will maintain a safe distance from the others. This will allow positive interactions within social events while following relative safety guidelines of social distancing.

Caution Will be King

Once self-isolation requirements are lifted and we start to perceive that it's safe to travel again, the industry will start to bounce back and see an upturn. However, with the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic predicted to be far reaching even after these restrictions are removed, the new travel landscape will be one filled with precautions and safety measures.

The new travel landscape will be one filled with precautions and safety measures | WhereTraveler

Increased Focus on Safety Practices

Everything from basic sanitation procedures to technology within the travel landscape will be subject to new standards to meet the needs of safety minded travelers. Here are some of the changes you can expect:

  • The importance of hygiene and sanitation in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases is paramount. As such, there is likely to be demand for destinations and their venues to not only step up their basic standards for these processes but you can also expect more transparency into them. Hotel Housekeepers will be our new Travel Heroes.
  • Apple and Google recently announced their collaboration on a phone-based approach to tracking—and then interrupting—the spread of coronavirus. A focus on tracing and minimizing exposure through applications such as these and others will remain a hot point for travelers. And while self-isolation will not be a requirement, social distancing while traveling will remain a trend.
  • Following that same trend, shorter booking windows and shorter trips will reign supreme as the risks associated with extended travel remain at the forefront of travelers minds.
  • Flexibility and relaxed booking policies will also be paramount as, even for these shortened itineraries, travelers will look for assurance and peace of mind that should an alert be raised, their investment is protected should they need to cancel.

The Coming Group Boom

Following a long period of isolation there will be pent-up demand and people will be ready to travel (and already committed due to suppliers giving credits on deposits instead of refunds). It’s hard to miss how important social interaction is to our culture and the benefits it holds for each of us. Essential social events such as weddings, anniversaries, bar/bat mitzvahs, graduations, and sadly, funerals were postponed in this time of crisis. All these postponed events will begin to take place in rapid succession, making group based social interaction a main focus again and while these are predominantly private group events, they still require travel and hospitality services.

  • These essential private social events will be less regulated than the large concerts, festivals, and conventions making them more accessible options and reasons for travel.
  • According to research by Skift, 75% of travelers loved to talk about upcoming vacation plans with family and friends and 83% preferred to travel with others, making group based travel ideal.
  • Multigenerational travel will likely become a major segment of "leisure travel" as parents travel with their kids to visit parents and relatives, and traditional options such as summer camps or teen tours are no longer feasible.

The Importance of Group Booking

While the image may change to a pod based structure, group travel and events will account for a large percentage of the market and be the front runners in travel’s return. They will face unique challenges related to interactivity, response engagement, and payment collection.

  • While many of the large groups of the past were organized by professionals with the experience and resources to handle these logistical challenges, the pods of the future need resources to effectively organize and convert their plans.
  • With these small groups leading in the return of the travel and tourism industry, it’s paramount to the resurgence of the market that this need is met.

Group travel and events will account for a large percentage of the market and be the front runners in travel’s return | WhereTraveler

GroupTools Can Help the Travel Industry #GroupForward after COVID-19

GroupTools was built for anyone planning a group trip or event, but also to assist suppliers in converting more group bookings and increasing customer engagement. As the travel landscape has been fundamentally changed by the effects of COVID-19, GroupTools has re-imagined group planning for this new world:

  • Those leading the charge can start planning collaboratively now. The survey tool and built-in messaging allow planners to put feelers out to family and close friends before booking so pods can be organized in advance while self-isolating without risk.
  • Those in charge of planning can create fully custom trips and events with ease or customize trips and events created by their travel suppliers to meet their pods needs all from a distance.
  • Simplified Invitations, Social Sharing, and a streamlined RSVP process offer pod members easy methods for contactless engagement.
  • Planners can connect to trusted and secure 3rd party payment processors to collect and manage contact free payments from their group.

For more information about GroupTools, visit grouptools.com and register to start planning and be on the front line of travels return.