From travel trends to long term adjustments

We’ve all had our suitcases packed, mentally if not physically, raring to travel as soon as permissible. Globally we’ve collectively been through lockdowns and isolations, but the travellers’ desire to discover the world remains unabated.

Germans already had a word for it – fernweh. Uniting the words fern, meaning distance, and wehe, meaning an ache or sickness, the word can be literally translated as “distance sickness” – a pain to see far-flung places beyond our doorstep, an innate need to travel. Think of it as the opposite of homesickness (heimweh in German).

But the how, why and where we’re going to be travelling, and with whom, has changed because of the pandemic. The hospitality industry is changing faster than ever before and the travel industry is one of the largest and most influential sectors.

In monetary terms for the UK, Visit Britain’s pre-pandemic visitor economy records show that tourism was worth GBP 127 billion to Britain’s economy and as Britain’s seventh largest export industry, inbound tourism’s economic contribution was valued at GBP 26.2 billion pre-covid-19. That’s a lot of fernweh!

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, in 2019 the Travel & Tourism sector contributed 10.4% to global GDP; a share which decreased to 5.5% in 2020. In 2020, 62 million jobs were lost, representing a drop of 18.5%, leaving just 272 million employed across the sector globally, compared to 334 million in 2019.

The Great Tourism Reboot

The pandemic has been one humungous blip that brought tourism and hospitality to a grinding halt. Where other business sectors have had two years of pivoting, these sectors can only now truly begin to shake off the dust and consider how they can recover.

Out of lockdown and heralding a tourism renaissance, the travel sector can now seek answers on the way forward, and truly assess for the first time since early 2020 the long-term changes for the sector. The future remains predictably unclear, but we are in a better position to address the why, and define how, destinations and hospitality can adapt to meet the changes.

The next few years will be about transitioning to an endemic level, navigating ever-evolving rules for social behaviour, trade, transport and work. These will vary between nations as place, work and travel becomes redefined against a backdrop of moving parameters. The current pace of recovery remains slow and uneven across world regions, primarily due to varying degrees of mobility restrictions, vaccination rates and traveller confidence.

From Lockdown Trends to Long Term Adjustments

At the fabl we see dynamic opportunities in the way our lives will adapt over the coming years. Business travel is restarting after a prolonged period of virtual meetings, conferences and events. Offices are reopening and finding new ways to integrate remote working. Consumer health concerns triggered a new wave of contactless commercial solutions.
For the bold there are nearly endless possibilities to navigate into as restrictions are eased. At the fabl we have analysed numerous insight surveys from leading global tourism organisations, national destination management organisations and leading retail consumer research. This has led us to identify three essential considerations for any destination and hospitality strategy looking to meet the new needs of travellers short, medium and long term.

The first consideration is wholesome reunions; the bringing together of distant connections in distant locations, often involving multiple generations to engage with varied interests and requirements.

The second consideration is experiences; the what, how and why of real life encounters over virtual worlds and material possessions to explore and discover a place, and what it takes for brands to resonate.

The third is community, that sense of belonging that transcends spaces and the people that inhabit them into a set of collective values unique to each destination and product, to then fuel behaviour and draw people together.

Sustainability is not a trend

With the global focus on a carbon neutral goal by 2030, we have just eight years left to achieve this. We can therefore expect sustainability influences to increasingly dominate every element of our lives.

Among the first post-COP26 significant signs of this to impact the consumer travel space is Air France and KLM’s introduction of a Sustainable Aviation Fuel levy to all tickets departing France and Amsterdam respectively from January 2022, as reported by Business Traveller. Etihad was quick to follow with the launch of their Corporate Conscious Choices programme.

These are bold moves in a space that has yet to be defined, but the defining travel, destination and hospitality solutions will not be those that add a temporary fix. It will be those that rethink the experience from the ground up that will capture market share and long term loyalty. A quick fix example of replacing the dresser with a workstation in every hotel room isn’t going to cut it.

The more a marketing message and experience can genuinely align with expectations of Climate Changers, the more those brands and destinations will resonate. Any organisation that continues to turn a blind eye to sustainability will likely fail.

A focus on environmental sustainability isn’t new, but the degree to which travellers expect (and prefer) eco-friendly products and services is. It is also a crucial element when any hospitality company is seeking to secure financial investment for future growth. Sustainability has to be integrated into B2B and B2C communications like it’s second nature, not an after-thought.

The Formula for Success

Each of our three clearly identified essential needs play out against a backdrop of increased environmental sustainability. Millennials and Generation Z in particular feel they can make a difference through their purchase and lifestyle choices. Sustainability is no longer a trend, it has to be considered a permanent and natural element of the whole integrated offer.
When reunions, experiences and community can come together, bold pays off. A combination of these three drivers will have a significant impact on consumer choices around the workplace, socialising, discovering, exploring, interacting and learning.

Click here to download the full white paper – Beyond the Blip; A new era of travelling, living and working post-pandemic.

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