Forbes India|June 5, 2020

Here’s how the coronavirus will cause the travel bug to mutate in the near term

It had become a bit of a joke in the past few years, as people who lived alternate realities on social media added cliched hashtags to their bios: #Traveller, #Wanderlust, #GlobeTrotter. The year 2020, however, delivered a punch (line) without any humour at all. In India alone, the tourism sector is staring at losses worth ₹1.29 trillion through the calendar year because of Covid-19, according to a study by credit rating agency Care Ratings.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) predicts the sector will face a staggering 100 million job losses due to the pandemic and a sharp escalation in economic loss—up to $2.7 trillion of GDP worldwide.

When we emerge after months of government-mandated lockdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus, the world will have all but changed, there’s little doubt of that. While we slowly navigate the contours of living in this brave new world, we will have to also find new ways of, well, navigating the world itself. How will we travel when we travel again?

The answers are complex. Let’s begin with the immediate question:


“We have to look at a more near-term recovery before a long-term one. Even a semblance of it will only begin after mid-June—it could be July, August, potentially even September,” says Neeraj Govil, senior vice president, South Asia, Marriott International. “And I say this assuming the health condition will not worsen. We should hopefully continue in the right trajectory and see some ease of restrictions that are reliable by then.”

When and whether we will cross borders in the near future will depend on various factors, which won’t count price within them, as they traditionally have.

According to Deep Kalra, founder and group executive chairman of online travel aggregator MakeMyTrip, “While the recovery will be sluggish, the first phase of travel will be led by immediate and essential travel— with people travelling back home, to their city of work or for medical purposes. The subsequent phases will see essential business-related travel followed by leisure travel as fear subsides. International travel, however, may take a few quarters or more to open up.”

Many travel and hospitality operators, especially in the luxury space, have written off 2020, Daniel Andre Langer, CEO of luxury brand strategy firm Équité said at a recent Forbes India webinar.

In the non-luxury sector, branded budget hotels are likely to recover first as essential business travel kicks in. “CEOs can do video calls, but for the salespeople on the road, they will have to keep moving, especially in a bad economy,” says Kapil Chopra, founder and CEO of boutique luxury hotel brand The Postcard Hotel.


Aside from business travel, experts say a sizeable number of people may need a quick getaway after being locked down for a long time. Instead of browsing flight ticket and hotel discount deals to decide, people’s choice of destination will be based on two paramount factors: Safety and sanitation.


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June 5, 2020