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Although travel and tourism came to a near-total standstill due to COVID-19, tourism leaders have remained strong and steadfast in the face of adversity, according to a report conducted by World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) in collaboration with Oliver Wyman, a global management consulting firm.

The report explores the impact and implications of COVID-19 on the travel and tourism sector through a data-driven examination of four interlinked trends: demand evolution, health and hygiene, innovation and digitization, and sustainability. The report stresses that, as we re-imagine the future of travel and tourism and explore policy recommendations, four macro-trends are expected to lead the way through recovery and beyond: demand evolution, health & hygiene, innovation & digitization, and sustainability.

Seventy percent of North American leisure travelers say they would book during COVID-19 if changes were free, according to the report.

Demand evolution deals with traveler preferences and behaviors that have shifted toward the familiar, predictable, and trusted. Domestic vacations, extensive planning, and the outdoors will reign in the short-term, with tourism businesses and destinations already adapting.

Health and hygiene focuses on health, safety and trust being paramount in this new era. Personal experiences, the fear of being stuck in another country, and concerns for distancing will guide consumer behavior in the short- to mid-term. Businesses will have to collaborate even more closely with their extended value chains to ensure readiness.

Innovation & Digitization: COVID-19 is proving to be an unexpected catalyst in the travel and  tourism sector’s quest for innovation and the integration of new technologies. Amid stay-at-home orders, digital adoption and consumption are on the rise, with consumers now expecting contactless technologies, among others, as a basic prerequisite for a safe and seamless travel experience.

Sustainability: From widespread unemployment and anti-racism movements to the restoration of natural habitats, the world has been reinvigorated to tackle social, environmental, and institutional sustainability. In particular, heightened public awareness of wildlife markets and poaching has boosted advocacy for wildlife protection.

According to the report, 58 percent of travelers plan to take domestic trips for the rest of the year. Eighty percent of travelers fear potential quarantine as much as contracting the virus. Forty five percent of air travel passengers are ready to shed their paper passports for digital identities. Fifty eight percent of consumers say they are thinking more about the environment since COVID-19. Sixty nine percent of travelers cite cleanliness and health measures as a critical component of travel brands crisis response.

“This comprehensive research paves the road to recovery for the travel and tourism sector. While there is still work to be done, this gives us insight into how we can best approach recovery and offers a vision and hope to the sector,” says Gloria Guevara, President & CEO, WTTC, in a statement. “It is crucial that we continue to learn from previous crises and come together in a coordinated way to make a real difference in reducing both the economic and human impact. The economic pain and suffering caused to millions of households around the world, who are dependent upon travel and tourism for their livelihoods, is evident. We strongly believe that by working as and by taking a coordinated approach, we can beat COVID-19 and return to safe travels with world class standards of hygiene to travelers and regenerate the jobs and livelihoods of the 330 million people who worked in the sector before COVID-19.”

The report offers recommendations on how the travel and tourism sector can ensure a more seamless recovery. These include:

  • Border openings and repatriation: A harmonized approach to remove travel restrictions, with a previous risk assessment in place, as well as standardized contact testing and tracing requirements at departure
  • Define common health and safety standards: The public and private sector should jointly agree on the implementation of health and safety standards across industries within travel and tourism.
  • Strengthen worker support schemes: Provide payroll protection and wage subsidies as well as general consumer stimulus cheques and tax payment deferrals
  • Incentivize travel: Introduction of consumer incentives for travel spending, starting with domestic travelers and expanding to regional and international as quickly as possible and appropriate
  • Promote tourism starting with domestic and regional travel: To capitalize on the initial recovery, governments, tourism boards and organizations should direct their early marketing and promotional efforts to incentivize domestic and regional travel. Importantly, they should also prepare and provide early marketing and promotional incentives to stimulate the earliest possible regrowth and recovery of internal travel and tourism
  • Extend digital infrastructure to rural destinations: Investment in digital infrastructure of emerging destinations and remote areas will be critical, as well as enhancing digital skills within local communities
  • Integrate digital identities: Accelerating the adoption of digital identities and solutions will be key to maximize accuracy for health and safety protections, while reducing bias in border control and expediting the movement of passengers
  • Rethink the workplace:The rapid shift to remote work will require the public and private sectors to come together to determine how to optimize the new working arrangements
  • Stimulate sustainability practices: Develop and provide incentives to encourage the implementation of sustainability measures within the private sector.

The report concludes that the sector will pivot, stretch, and adapt and ultimately return stronger. For a copy of the report, click here.

For information on WTTC’s Dashboard, click here. For more inspirational stories about future travel, go to #AmazingDaysAhead.