//Insights: travel in the age of Covid-19
travel trends

Insights: travel in the age of Covid-19

A look at how the tourism industry will get back to business – and what will be the new normal – in a post-coronavirus world. Jenny Southan, founder of Globetrender, shares four key travel trends.

After months of lockdown, during which half the world’s population has been ordered to stay at home, some governments are opening borders and allowing airlines to start flying again. But moving from a “collective pause” to getting back to business will be challenging.

Since the beginning, Globetrender’s defining remit has been the future of travel. Now, the entire industry is looking for answers as to what lies ahead. As trend forecasters, we aim to provide a reliable degree of illumination.

In our most recent report on Travel in the Age of Covid-19 (free to download at globetrender.com/downloads), we have identified ten travel trends that we think are most relevant for the short- to mid-term (summer 2020 to early 2021), as well as stories of innovation, new ideas, expert predictions and sector deep dives. 

Here is a precis of four of the travel trends that we examine…

Germaphobia
Most airlines will be taking extreme measures to increase hygiene on board by using electrostatic spraying to kill germs and viruses in the cabin, for example, as well as handing out sanitising kits and boarding via the back of the plane (from row one onwards) to minimise passengers coming in contact with one another.

Etihad is trialling Elenium contactless kiosks that measure passengers’ temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate, and airports in both Hong Kong and Tokyo are giving rapid Covid-19 tests to passengers arriving home from high-risk areas.

Hotels will also be working hard to eliminate contagion. Four Seasons has partnered with Johns Hopkins Medicine International to roll out a new health and safety programme that includes contactless check-in, blacklight room inspections, air purifying technology and room service that arrives in sustainable, single-use packaging.

Airline hunger games
Airlines are fighting for survival in a way they’ve never had to before. For the past few months, fleets have been almost entirely grounded around the world. British Airways is in redundancy consultations with 12,000 staff and exiting Gatwick; Virgin Atlantic is cutting a third of its workforce, while owner Richard Branson is selling stakes in Virgin Galactic to bail it out.

This summer, travel bans will start to be lifted, but reviving route networks and reassuring passengers that it is safe to fly will be a major challenge. Boeing CEO David Calhoun has said that air traffic won’t even be back to 25 per cent by September and a major US airline will “most likely” go out of business.

Pent-up demand will no doubt be something all airlines want to capitalise on, allowing them to inflate prices and start recouping some of their losses. Seat sales to stimulate bookings will always be a useful tactic though.

Anti-viral arrivals
This year, 1.1 billion fewer trips are expected to be made globally (the global travel and tourism industry was predicted to rake in US$700 billion but is on track for US$447 billion). Tourism revenue in Europe will likely drop from US$200 billion in 2019 to US$124 billion in 2020.

The European Commission has issued guidelines on how countries might reopen their borders, suggesting “a phased and coordinated approach that starts by lifting restrictions between areas or member states with sufficiently similar epidemiological situations”. These so-called “air bridges” could be an alternative to quarantining.

An IATA survey found that 69 per cent of people “would not consider travelling if it involved a 14-day quarantine period”. Another deterrent might be heightened racial intolerance, with reports of coronavirus-related attacks and Africans in China being turned away from hotels and restaurants, blamed for carrying the so-called “second wave” of coronavirus.

Sustainability paradoxes
One of the few benefits of the pandemic has been the environmental bounceback we have witnessed, with daily emissions in the EU down 58 per cent since the outbreak and global levels of nitrogen dioxide at record lows.

The silver lining is temporary and, as soon as governments tussle to revive ailing industries, environmental initiatives may well take a back seat.

Colossal revenue losses may well leave airlines with little option but to discard offset plans. “Any sound business will prioritise their existing liabilities and payroll over voluntary investments in future sustainable aviation fuel volume,” says Adam Klauber, a technical advisor at the Rocky Mountain Institute.

The question now up for debate is whether travel brands will scramble to return to normalcy or be galvanised to maintain and go further in their environmental and social commitments.


The July 2020 issue of ABTA Magazine is out now. In this issue, we consider the impact of two recent government announcements: the reopening of the hospitality sector and the proposed formation of ‘air bridges’. With these policies likely to encourage Britons to travel domestically and to select European countries, can we finally see the green shoots of recovery? Nathaniel Cramp explores Cornwall’s lesser-known beauty spots; Jenny Southan of Globetrender shares her insights into travel in the age of Covid-19 with four travel trends; while, the Jamaican tourism board tell us the story of the country’s reopening. Click on the cover to read the magazine in full.