March 24, 2020

What Will Travel Be Like After the Coronavirus?

Bill Patton wants to know what travel will be like after coronavirus. He and his family of 10 are headed to Antibes, France, in late May to celebrate their 50th anniversary. They've tried to cancel because of the coronavirus, but so far neither their airline or their vacation rental company will offer a refund.

"Our doctor advises we do not travel under the coronavirus conditions," says Patton, who is 76 and has a history of diabetes, allergies and asthma.

So what will France be like in May? What will travel be like after the coronavirus peaks? Will anyone be traveling at all?

A new survey suggests travel is alive and well. More than half of Americans (58%) are planning to travel between May and September 2020, as long as their destinations aren't in quarantine. But they're being careful. A quarter of participants will try to avoid big cities and public transportation, and 21% will choose domestic travel, according to the survey conducted by LuggageHero.

"Demand will come back stronger than ever once the situation is over," says Jannik Lawaetz, LuggageHero's CEO.

How will people travel after the coronavirus?

Here's how people will travel after the coronavirus:

  1. They'll stay in the country. International travel will fall out of favor as people stay closer to the safety of home.
  2. They won't travel far from home. "Staycations" and road trips will be favored over flying or cruising.
  3. They'll make it quick. A softer economy will mean the traditional two-week summer vacation could turn into a long weekend.
What will my destination be like this spring?

I know what Southern France is like now because I'm there.

I detoured to Nice, France, on my way to Italy and found an apartment on Vrbo to wait out the virus. It was a little scary at first. All the cafés and restaurants closed. There are police checkpoints in the streets.

But there's also a sense of normalcy and perspective that seems to be lacking in the United States. After all, France has survived its fair share of pandemics and world wars. People here are taking this crisis in stride and are confident it will be over soon — certainly by the time Patton and his family arrive here.

The borders to Europe are closed for the next 30 days in an effort to contain the coronavirus. After that, things will probably return to normal quickly. By May, Patton and his family might really need that vacation in southern France.

For anyone else with spring travel plans, experts say the outlook is pretty decent. If the borders open up, your destination will happily welcome you.

But that's a big "if."

Will the travel industry come back from coronavirus?

Ask experts and they'll tell you that travel will come back quickly. Probably faster than anyone expects.

"Despite the challenges, it won’t be this way forever," says John Lovell, president of leisure travel and supplier relations and networks at Travel Leaders Group. "Travel and tourism is a highly resilient industry that has come back again and again from diseases and natural disasters."

Industry watchers like Lovell predict a quick bounce back for tourism, despite the current doom-and-gloom headlines. They point out that travel rebounded quickly after other pandemics and disasters, including 9/11.

"You have to assess your own risk tolerance, take reasonable and prudent precautions, and make smart decisions about your travel," he adds. "Right now, there are amazing travel deals to destinations all over the world."

What will travel be like after coronavirus?

Chances are, your destination will immediately begin an aggressive coronavirus recovery program the moment the "all clear" signal is given. That's the prediction of Wayne Smith, chairman of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the College of Charleston.

"Most destinations will institute a recovery strategy in which discounts may be a part of the overall enticement to return to travel," he says.

But don't look for deep discounts. Smith says the best strategies may not necessarily have cheaper prices but to offer more value.

"Examples I have seen in the past would be a hotel offering free meals with room purchase and maybe even packaging in attraction tickets," he says. "Instead of looking for the cheapest price, I would be looking for the best value. There are going to be plenty of high-value travel packages available."

Some parts of the travel industry might not survive

But it'll be a difficult, and maybe impossible, recovery for parts of the travel industry.

"It's going to be a long recovery," says Sophie Anderson, a marketing manager at Cruise Agency Australia, an Australian travel agency that specializes in cruises. "There are going to be collapses and bankruptcies when it's all over. At least one or two cruise lines might finally sink."

Anderson says for consumers there will be a silver lining — cruises will be a bargain for the foreseeable future. Of course, if airlines, hotels and cruise lines start to go under, the lower prices will be irrelevant.

That's the most long-lasting — and potentially disruptive — effect on travel. Coronavirus will almost certainly claim several well-known travel brands, according to experts.

Yes, even with government bailouts. It's inevitable.

"History tells us that there will be fewer players in the wake of this event," says Paul Metselaar, chairman of Ovation Travel Group. "In the United Kingdom, we have already seen the demise of Flybe, and other carriers are at risk. It is entirely plausible that there will be other casualties in other segments as well.

Here are a few tips for traveling after the coronavirus outbreak

No question about it, people will travel after the coronavirus. But how?

Look for deals but focus on value. Assuming the coronavirus crisis is over, don't hesitate to book if you find a bargain for late spring or summer. But don't focus exclusively on price. Instead, look at the overall value of the deal. Are they throwing in attraction tickets or including meals?

Focus on longevity. Stay away from too-good-to-be-true offers from unknown operators. Chances are, these are fire sales from desperate companies on the verge of bankruptcy. Focus on well-known brands that are financially stable.

Consider travel insurance. A reputable insurance policy will protect you if an operator goes out of business. If you can't find a good policy, use a credit card to make your purchase. It can also offer protections from financial insolvency.

Bottom line: Travel will continue after the coronavirus outbreak. The industry will return sooner than you think, and with some great deals.

Copyright 2020 Forbes Media LLC. All rights reserved. From https://www.forbes.com. By Christopher Elliott.

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