We all have questions
Welcome to our fourth media and communications newsletter, designed to help you track travel- and coronavirus-related developments that continue to affect our industry at large.
This week, amidst continued COVID-19 developments that included a world leader being hospitalized, another tough week for cruise lines and their passengers, and a bleak outlook for the 2021 Olympics, travel industry experts continued to grapple with the questions of the hour:
- when will the tourism industry begin its restart, and
- what will it look like when it does?
Of course, there’s no real way to know for sure yet (although we are seeing a surge in predictions citing 1-5 year recovery periods), but it’s safe to say that once countries slowly begin lifting restrictions, a post-pandemic world will be different for every destination. A need for caution in the face of a virus resurgence points to regional and domestic tourism as the natural next step, and some countries like Australia and China are already making moves to communicate this to their residents.
Additionally, the psychology of travellers and the impact the pandemic will have on travel behaviour and motivations is being explored more and more as marketers begin forming recovery communications plans—and questioning whether this global crisis may be paving the way for some much-needed disruption in our industry.
Below is our weekly roundup of news, expert insights and food for thought about how to continue to position your brand during this time of fragility and uncertainty, how to connect with travellers as they navigate ever changing refund policies, advice and mindsets, and how to begin to reimagine your brand’s future when we come out on the other side.
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Stay safe and healthy,
Your friends at Bannikin
The week at a glance
Tuesday, April 14:
- WHO officials say it’s unclear whether recovered coronavirus patients are immune to second infection
- French borders and territories closed until May 11
- UK’s Heathrow Airport sees passenger numbers down 90% in April
- COVID-19 puts over half of 2020 passenger revenues at risk
- eMarketer expects US search ad spending to decline due to the coronavirus
Monday, April 13:
- Carnival extends suspension of cruising through June 26
- Commission payments becoming a sore point for advisors
- Qingming festival boosts recovery of domestic tourism
Sunday, April 12:
- Hong Kong’s airport passenger volume nosedives 91 per cent, approaching 2003’s all-time low during Sars
Saturday, April 11:
- How Boris Johnson’s illness shook him, and the nation
- U.S. now leads world in deaths, day after Trump announces ‘opening our country’ task force
- U.S. and EU give airline passengers refunds, but Canada sticks with vouchers
- Cruising was halted weeks ago. But 5 ships and 5,000 passengers are still at sea
- Disney World to furlough 43,000 workers due to coronavirus crisis
Friday, April 10:
- Tokyo Olympics CEO hints Games could be in doubt even in 2021
- New York has more cases than any country
- Travel industry calling on Congress for additional COVID-19 relief
- Yellowstone not expected to reopen until May or later
- CDC extends ‘no sail order’ for U.S. cruising
- Hong Kong to hand airlines including Cathay Pacific HK$268 million as COVID-19 batters travel
- Universal Orlando theme parks will remain closed through May; employees face pay cuts, furloughs
Thursday, April 9
- Many destinations expect to resume advertising within next 60 days
- Genting implementing new health protocols for cruise ships
- Flying via a smaller airport? It may take a while
- IMF head sees worst economic downturn since Great Depression
- Hong Kong’s top tourism executive plans marketing blitz to revive travel by July
Wednesday, April 8
- UK’s Johnson ‘improving’ as he fights COVID-19 in intensive care
- NTA tour operators report $1 billion in Covid-19 refunds
- Winter comes for Georgian hospitality
Tuesday, April 7
- New Zealand isn’t just flattening the curve, it’s squashing it
- Japan declares state of emergency over coronavirus
- Cruise industry, a symbol of the pandemic, scrambles to survive
- 128 people on Antarctica cruise ship test positive for coronavirus
- Rail journeys at 5% of normal levels as UK stays home
- Majority of Americans apprehensive about travel planning
- All Microsoft events will be digital-only until July 2021
What the travel media are saying…
Fodor’s Travel – If You Travel to Escape Your Problems, What Happens When You’re Trapped in Place?
Snippet: “Eventually, once social distancing, self-quarantining, and other parameters are lifted, there’s bound to be a resurgence in escapism travel,” Dr. Manly reassures. Cooped-up travelers “may find a great deal of healing and stress-relief as they imagine leaving some of the daily challenges and limitations of the pandemic behind.”
Travel + Leisure – 7 Important Lessons I Learned From My Travels That Are Helping Me During the Coronavirus Lockdown
Snippet: While I’ve had some days where I find myself staring at the ceiling of my small one bedroom for hours, the majority of my confinement has not been that bad. Of course, I miss being on the road, and keeping confined has always been a huge fear of mine, but I’ve found that the lessons I learned from years of traveling the world have sustained me through this tough time.
Condé Nast Traveler – The Coronavirus Shut Down My Food Tours—But I’m Hopeful for the Future
Snippet: Cruise lines, airlines—they’ll get bailouts. It’s these small, independent, multi-generational businesses that are at the greatest risk. They’re working on really thin margins. These are our friends, they’re our family, they’re everything. It’s going to be a grim recovery for a lot of them.
What experts are saying…
Skift – What Shape Would the Travel Industry Recovery Look Like? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
TL;DR: Based on trends following events including 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis, leisure travel is looking at a five-year recovery cycle, with corporate travel perhaps never coming back to the level it was at previously. That said, there are a few mitigating facturas, including government stimulus and the possibility of a vaccine.
LA Times – When can we travel again? Experts share their predictions
TL;DR: While no one knows for sure when we’ll be able to travel again, experts weighed in with the following predictions:
- Domestic travel will pick up first, specifically anything within driving distance
- Airline travel likely won’t pick up for 4-6 months
- Americans will wait over a year to begin cruising again
- Travel to Europe is generally going to be off the table until 2021
- Travel for emotional events (weddings, family reunions, etc.) will be a driving force to getting people to travel again
Communications & COVID-19 Content
Overwhelmingly, virtual experiences continue to dominate the travel media landscape, with more and more travel brands getting in on the action. However, this past week we also started to see more “wanderlust” stories pop up, the common thread being wide open spaces: travelling away from urban centres and away from crowds. For example, Lonely Planet shared 10 natural wonders so pretty you won’t believe they’re real, while Travel + Leisure wrote about the 6 Best Campgrounds in Yosemite National Park (of course, stating that while Yosemite National Park may be closed right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dream about your next night under the stars).
What does this mean? Travel media is slowly but surely creeping back to sharing travel content, albeit with the disclaimer of “dream now, travel later.” As we’ve stated, we don’t know what travel is going to look like on the other side of this pandemic, and neither does travel media, so by sharing wanderlust stories of wide open spaces, the kind of travel we anticipate people will be craving first, outlets are dipping the toe back in the wanderlust storytelling pool as safely as possible.
We’re also seeing that the post-COVID-19 world of travel is already being reimagined, with new safety protocols being implemented on cruise ships in anticipation of cruise travel’s return, and virtual reality travel experiences skyrocketing in popularity, bringing people to places they may not be able to go to even under more normal circumstances. What else may be different? Perhaps airlines will forgo middle seats indefinitely. Maybe thermometres will be as crucial a travel tool as a passport. Refund policies are likely in for a shakeup. Perhaps shared rooms and charging solo supplements will be a thing of the past.
We can’t know yet, but what we do know is: however we reimagine tourism for the future, the traveller mindset is changing, and will set the terms for the rest of us.
Keep in mind for the week ahead
When responding to any future travel media requests or creating any “wanderlust” content of your own, remember that:
- Landscapes and physical landscapes, the epicentres of “escapism travel” aren’t likely to change, so it’s okay to share images of rock formations, tips for a solo hike, or a livestream of a forest bath – so long as you’re always providing a disclaimer that now is still the time to stay home.
- The way we travel may look different on the other side of this. Have you made any product adjustments yet? If so, make sure you are committed to them before stating them. If not, avoid saying anything about “returning to normal” – you may not know what the new normal is just yet.
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