As governments move towards the partial re-opening of their economies, many are looking forward to traveling and dining out again. However, these industries will look significantly different from what we were once familiar with in the post-coronavirus reality. Here are some potential trends in the travel and hospitality space we’re hearing buzz about globally. Domestic...
As governments move towards the partial re-opening of their economies, many are looking forward to traveling and dining out again. However, these industries will look significantly different from what we were once familiar with in the post-coronavirus reality. Here are some potential trends in the travel and hospitality space we’re hearing buzz about globally.
Domestic travel and travel bubbles
Different infection rates between countries means governments are most likely to open their borders cautiously and progressively. Arriving passengers also must be subjected to health declarations, tests and even mandatory stay-home notices, posing obstacles for tourists worldwide. The easier, less risky choice would be to explore within your country’s own borders.
For example, residents in China largely travelled inter-city during the Labor Day holiday in May 2020. More than 50 million trips were recorded, with most choosing to travel by train or car. Most notably, Shanghai’s Disneyland reopened for business, albeit at 20% capacity, signaling a positive trend. Tourism Australia has also started a domestic travel campaign, which included an hour-long live TV special encouraging Australians to start making domestic travel plans.
Another interesting development is the formation of travel bubbles. Similar to a free trade agreement, these bubbles will allow travelers to move freely between established borders. The agreements may be formed between countries with similar infection rates and have safeguards to keep infections under control. The Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have opened their borders to one another, creating the first coronavirus travel bubble; Australia and New Zealand also recently committed to a travel corridor. If implemented successfully, they may look towards partnering with other Asian countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. More of such corridors will likely be established in the coming months as countries seek to jumpstart tourism while controlling the number of infections.
Flying will be different – at airports and on airplanes
Like scenes out of futuristic movies, traveling aims to use technology that is safe, contactless and seamless. Besides security checks, passengers will be subjected to stricter temperature and health checks. Passengers will be encouraged to load boarding passes on their phones and go through biometric and facial recognition systems. London Heathrow (LHR), for example, pioneered the use of biometric check-in systems for domestic travelers nine years ago and expect such systems to be more widely used globally. A full-body disinfection facility is also being trialed at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) allowing passengers and airport staff to undergo temperature checks before entering an enclosed channel for a 40-second sanitizing procedure.
Dubai-based airline Emirates announced it has been the first airline to conduct rapid “10-min” blood tests at departure gates, though organizations agree this may be difficult to implement at an international level. Some airlines may even require immunity passports, official documents to certify that the passenger is safe to fly – either with an immunity to the virus via its own antibody or through a vaccine, when it becomes available.
After passing these checks, passengers will then be greeted by airline crew donning face masks and shields, some even with PPE gowns. Seats will ideally be spaced out between passengers and fewer in-inflight services will be available, with airlines such as Cathay Pacific Airways simplifying meal services and halting duty-free shopping altogether to keep contact to a minimum.
Tech and space driven hotels will thrive
Gone are the days where guests want to congregate at hotels with the coolest rooftop bar, the most luxurious pool or the best restaurant. Safety, hygiene and cleanliness are now top priority for travelers, and only hotels who can afford to adhere to strict standards and assure guests of their safety will succeed. This means check-ins, similar to airports, will harness technology to minimize contact. Across 3,200 Marriott hotels worldwide, guests can now use their phones to check-in, access their rooms and order specially packaged room service to their door. Their properties will also use electrostatic sprayers to clean guest rooms and public areas. Smaller boutique brands such as Yotel in New York City also allow guests to receive check-in cards from dispensers in the lobby.
Beyond cleanliness, space and social distancing will be key to luring guests back to hotels. For example, Hilton has removed furniture and configured areas to facilitate social distancing. More isolated, self-contained resorts such as Thanyapura Sports and Health Resorts in Phuket will also prove to be attractive destinations; Thanyapura boasts more than 100 rooms surrounded by lush forest, offering guests space and fresh air away from crowds they would normally encounter in major cities.
Dining out at a distance
After being cooped up at home for several weeks, people are looking forward to catching up with friends and family over a meal. Some restaurants have come up with innovative, sometimes hilarious ways to maintain social distancing and keep staff and customers safe.
A restaurant in Amsterdam introduced ‘quarantined greenhouses’ allowing diners to enjoy a meal while social distancing. Guests are seated in a fully enclosed, private greenhouse, ensuring tables do not come in contact with one another while having a nice view of the canal and sky. Only waiters wearing masks and face shields enter their ‘tents’ while serving food.
In neighboring Germany, a dining outlet asked customers to wear straw hats with two swimming noodles attached to the top. The rule is to encourage customers to stay six feet away from each other while they dined. Photos showed that it worked, but what was more entertaining were the guests wearing colorful headpieces basking in the sunshine.
2020: A new norm?
It’s hard to know when we will return to normal, or if we will ever return to our old version of “the norm.” It’s very possible that the coronavirus has veered humans off our trajectory and caused us to form new habits over time that could lead us to a vastly different future. Consumers may start exploring their own cities again, look for hotels with advances in technology and safety, or just tour the world virtually instead. Perhaps COVID-19 transformed us to homebodies and established a new routine of ordering takeaways and even preparing our own meals! Whatever the new norm may be, the virus has changed the game, and players can only continue to stay top of the game if they come up with fresh relevant ideas that cater to the new needs of consumers and guests in the post-coronavirus world.