With social distancing becoming the “new normal” (ugh I hate that phrase) and the feeling of comfort that it appears to be bringing, it’s only safe to assume that everything we are used to will drastically change once the regulations are lifted. So what the hell does that mean exactly?
As I gaze into my magic eight ball of the future, here’s what I think will happen to hospitality, travel, and guest experiences post lockdown.
What's In Store For the Future of Travel?
Health fears initially made companies completely stop work trips; now it is an expense that struggling businesses will likely reconsider altogether. While some companies may have laid off employees, embraced videoconferencing, or have tightened up their budgets altogether, the real truth is that business travel will always be there….but what will travel 2.0 look like?
The days of short business travel trips will likely move to teleconferencing. (hint hint...so now is your time to start investing in conferencing technologies) However, business has and will always be a very human to human process built on lasting relationships. So good news, that face to face time with clients will remain a constant. In my opinion, business travel will gravitate to longer term stays. Why may you ask? Well the coronavirus lockdown did a few things:
When cities started shutting down, flights were cancelled and the harsh reality of the unknowns hit hard. Most people who were in the midst of traveling were now stuck in a 400 square foot hotel that would soon be their temporary home. Then, when everything started to completely unravel, and people started working from home, it was clear that space (and square footage) were the new hot commodity. Travel will accommodate this new luxury of space and comfort by gravitating to more of an apartment, localized style of living, creating a comfortable home to work and live in for long periods of time.
(and different forms of transport will emerge)
HELLO, Welcome back leg room, we missed you. Much like hotels, large commercial airlines will move back to the days where space reigns supreme, which will lower occupancy overall, but elevate the customer experience and mitigate exposure. High speed trains will be welcomed with open arms, and smaller shuttle planes will be more accessible to the 99% of the world.
The check in process will be more automated than it is now. Get ready for temperature checks in tandem to showing your ID, and more computers and robots during the process, think big brother facial pattern recognition systems. As humans we love human interaction, but sometimes that can be too close for comfort. This wave of automation will make travel smoother, and lessen unnecessary exposure.
Overseas trips will have less of a demand, but domestic travel and staycations will once again have their hay day. It’s no surprise that we all have cabin fever right now, and are dreaming of what vacations we will “reward” ourselves with once we are able to go out and about. However, will consumers feel confident to do so? I would imagine that pricing for domestic travel will be reduced in cost. As the data nerd I am, based on patterns after previous crises, we can expect a 35% fare fall through 2021, followed by a huge swing pricing surge in 2020. Pricing aside, we will see smaller planes, a larger demand in non stop flights, and that travel duration will be at least a week long all to reduce unnecessary risk.
Like any good crisis, the new and strong emerge, especially since consumer expectations have changed. To reduce all the headaches of cancellations, the unknowns, and having to be agile in the future at a seconds notice, companies need to step up. I think it's safe to say that businesses that continue to maintain strict cancellation policies, are unwilling to change reservations (dates, names, etc), and have the WORST customer service experiences will quickly see themselves become extinct. I mean I think I speak for the rest of us when saying no one wants to spend their time on hold for 2 hours to modify their booking dates. #justsaying
Have there always been regulations on cleaning, absolutely. Will they get stricter? 100%. Hoteliers will have a standard set amount of downtime between bookings to clean and disinfect, and booking sites like Airbnb, Booking.com, etc will have stricter rules in order for housing providers to be considered on their sites.
With carbon emissions on an immediate nose dive, we are seeing more stars surrounding our city skylines, the space shuttle is taking breathtaking photos of our earth’s atmosphere, and apparently there are dolphins swimming in the Venice canals again (or so that’s what I read from a great Aunt’s post on facebook). Now that we are allowing so much time for our Earth to heal, it seems bonkers to think that things would just go back to the way they were with a flick of a light switch. Many people will start demanding that these larger polluters (cough cough airlines) have environmental conditions attached to being able to run back at 100%.
Virtual reality is going to play a huge part into the future of travel. This lockdown has shown a peek into experiencing everything from visiting national parks, riding amusement park rides, to embracing the famous artisans in museums - virtually. With VR getting more and more accessible to the everyday person, we will see couch surfers “traveling” in new and unique ways, and companies building up their digital experiences to support that appetite.
Employees spoke up, and what they really want is convenient and accessible tools, and timely support when all hell breaks loose. Companies will be looking for new vendors, platforms, and tools that aid in their employee booking, communications and reporting. On top of that, I can 100% be certain that all companies' duty of care policies will have a major overhaul before the end of the year.
Travel 2.0 In a Nutshell
So let’s tie this all up in a nice little bow. Call me Nostradamus if you will, but here is what I see happening in the next 6 months to a year.
1. Longer term stays
2. Space, space and more space, boutique and bespoke stays.
3. Hello old friend - legroom we missed you
4. irobot - automation
5. Budget friendly travel (for now)
6. Frictionless and self service travel planning
7. So fresh and so clean, improving standards
8. Save the earth by improving climate change in travel
9. Virtual reality travel
10. Improving your employee travel programs
Bonus: You will, without a doubt, be receiving face masks in all of your welcome bags, swag bags, and seeing them in travel kiosk stores EVERYWHERE.
Continue the convo...