According to a survey by travel tech company Impala of consumers across the U.K., U.S., European Union, Switzerland and the UAE who regularly traveled before COVID-19 hit, only 42% are planning to travel in 2021. A third (34%) attributed it to concerns about their health, while 27% said they want to wait until they’ve been vaccinated.
This is likely to deal a blow to travel sellers, hotels, resorts and attractions who would have been hoping to see customer numbers start to return to normal after more than a year of lockdowns. According to the Mobility Market Outlook on COVID-19, global revenue for the travel and tourism industry is said to have been half of what had been originally forecasted for 2020 ($396 billion vs. $712 billion), and 42% lower than the revenue made in 2019.
It was thought that, as vaccination programs ramp up and restrictions ease, customers would start travelling again, but Impala’s figures suggest there has been a shift in priorities.
A shift in priorities
Among those surveyed, the overriding reason people said they would travel in 2021 was to see family and friends (38%). Of those planning to go further afield, 32% said they want their destination to be less crowded, and a quarter said they now consider it important to travel to a destination with a good healthcare system. Meanwhile, 22% said they will pick destinations with the highest vaccination rates.
When booking accommodations, respondents said they are concerned about three things: regular mask-wearing among staff, regular room disinfection and flexible cancellation and rebooking options.
Holiday, travel and accommodation providers who reassure customers the most with information about healthcare systems, vaccinations and COVID-secure processes will ultimately be the ones who win back the most customers.
Types of bookings
In terms of the types of bookings, there was little change in the choice of accommodation people will opt for in 2021. Participants who previously preferred a hotel over a rental apartment or Airbnb, for instance, will be sticking with these choices when they start traveling again. In fact, 70% of people surveyed said they would prefer to stay in a hotel on their next trip.
Conversely, the length of time people are likely to be away has changed. Many are considering taking longer trips. Of those looking to be away for 14 days or longer, a fifth of respondents said they wanted to combine remote work with their stay, preferably at a destination that allows for productive work.
Personal touch and improved tech
Beyond COVID, a corresponding survey commissioned by Impala found that travelers want a more personal touch when they stay in hotels. Whether that’s attention paid to ensuring accessible guests’ needs are met, or recogniZing a special occasion like a honeymoon or anniversary. Respondents said they want to feel valued during their stay.
This personal touch extends to the room they stay in. The participants said that they would actively be put off booking a stay at a hotel that uses generic room photos on its website. Customers want to know what their exact room will look like, what facilities it has and its layout. Virtual tours were quoted as a feature that would help seal the deal, as were decent coffee making facilities like a Nespresso machine.
Good connectivity and tech were also highlighted by discerning consumers and respondents said they want to be able to check-in, leave their room on the final day and control the tech and lights in their room all from a central app.
“While COVID-19 has been devastating for the travel industry, it’s also an opportunity to reflect and revamp some of the old ways of doing things,” said Ben Stephenson, founder/CEO, Impala, “Hoteliers and travel providers that offer the best experience possible to their customers will be the ones that people will return to, time and again. People are keen to travel again but they want to feel safe and cared for when they do. From clear safety priorities to improved tech features and personal touches, there’s a lot to consider when welcoming people back but these investments will pay off in the long run.”