Despite the economic downfall of the travel industry as a result of coronavirus, it could be argued that the industry has never seen such visibility. The industry’s struggles have been reported on daily, with comparisons being made by industry professionals, such as Gary Kelly, between the impact of the coronavirus and the impact of 9/11. Would-be holiday-goers are being put on hold as the industry attempts to survive, and so the question arises of what the future holds for travel.
With many people stuck inside with little to do to fill the time, it seems likely that dreams of travelling abroad are becoming increasingly popular throughout the country. A potential side effect of this is the willingness of travellers to increase their budget when travelling, a side effect that the industry may be betting on. The numerous posts on social media of the plans to have two summers in one when the lockdown is over would suggest a stampede of customers is to be expected when the travel industry reopens for business. Although it would be nice for it to be as simple as borders reopening and travellers travelling again, the complex nature of the pandemic tells us this will not be the case.
The unpredictability of coronavirus is reflected in the chaotic situation faced by the travel industry. With the economy experiencing many blows, predicting the cost of travel after lockdown is tricky. In the past, the cutting of prices has been used to entice customers during unpredictable times. The appeal of a bargain holiday could be effective in restarting the travel industry, and although this may be the tactic employed, it is not a long-term strategy. As the world reopens, the landscape will not revert to its pre-pandemic state, usual travel routes will be restricted, and health and safety precautions could see the control of passenger numbers. With less competition and high demand, the cost of flying will surely soar (no pun intended). The increasing debt airlines are facing will also dictate pricing. Although a short-term price drop could help reintroduce people to flying, it is not sustainable and higher prices will be necessary to allow the industry to repair.
The restrictions governments will choose to enforce after lockdown will also determine the price of travel. Tight controls on travel, meaning a lack of customers, could see prices start high and continue high. With demand so high, would travel companies even need to tempt the public with low prices to gain their custom? On the other hand, although very unlikely, a more relaxed set of regulations could prevent companies from experiencing high costs and so lower prices or at least ‘normal’ prices are sustainable.
Whichever course the travel industry takes in its road to recovery, one thing that is certain is that it will be a long road. Much like the rest of society, the travel industry will evolve as a result of the pandemic in ways not yet fully realised.