April 29: Covid-19 Update

Bannikin | April 29, 2020

What’s right, and what’s good for business

Welcome to our sixth media and communications newsletter, designed to help you track travel- and coronavirus-related developments that continue to affect our industry at large.

In our ongoing efforts to look for trends in the media that may indicate a way forward, it’s become clear that while the world is indeed learning new things about this virus and its impact every day, there’s not a lot to action on with respect to even basic communications.

That’s not for lack of trying, of course. There are plenty of op-eds and consultants out there waxing resilience and “pent-up demand;” those who trumpet doom and gloom depression scenarios and some who warn that “post-pandemic” is a marketing misnomer in the absence of a vaccine. A few are placing bets on cheaper-than-ever travel; others are swearing by a rise in “premium” tourism, where only the wealthiest among us will be able to afford to fly. Many believe this terrible crisis will lead to a definition of a better, more sustainable travel industry, and are calling for greater consideration as we enter our respective recovery stages. Yet, even with all these ideas, suggestions, reports and opinions, without any real change to travel restrictions to speak of, we’re still all in a bit of a holding pattern with little left to do than entertain theories and scenarios for what’s ahead.

With that, here’s what’s been on our minds this week, with respect to the coming months:

  • Travel and tourism is destined for a disruption at every level, and will be largely influenced by a need for more attention paid to health, safety, wellness, traveler budget, consumer trust and sustainability.
  • There is no clear solution yet to end COVID-19, but even so, people are getting sick of being on lockdown, regardless of what that might mean for our health and wellbeing, and so…
  • What comes next may well be determined by how (not whether) companies play into consumers’ desire to feel “free” as restrictions vary around the world, and where big businesses will draw the line between meeting changing demands amidst post-lockdown grey areas and respecting the advice of health experts.

Below is our weekly roundup of news, expert insights and food for thought. If you can’t access an article due to a pay wall, let us know and we may be able to send it through to you.

Stay safe and healthy,
Your friends at Bannikin

 

The week at a glance
Tuesday, April 28

Monday, April 27

Sunday, April 26

Saturday, April 25

Friday, April 24

Thursday, April 23

Wednesday, April 22

Tuesday, April 21: 

 

What the media is saying…

NBC News – The coronavirus will change how we travel. That will probably be good for us.

Snippet: As millions of travel and tourism workers now find themselves out of jobs, furloughed or, as in the case of some cruise ship employees, stuck indefinitely at sea, the industries involved seem to be gearing up for some future “recovery,” insinuating a return to the baseline of pre-coronavirus. That simply cannot happen because the pre-coronavirus travel and tourist industries will not function in a post-coronavirus world.

Everything must change: the way we fly, the way we dine, how we wait in line — even how we go to the beach. Our very concept of vacation may have to change.

 

Vox – The era of peak travel is over

Snippet: Industry experts say technology will be a key tool in the revival of travel, with electronic passports and IDs, boarding passes, medical screening, and robot cleaners being deployed widely to limit physical contact between people and surfaces. Hotels, airlines, and especially cruises will have to determine how to give travelers personal spaces they feel they can control. And in the short term, driveable local trips to vacation rentals can ease shell-shocked travelers back into adventure.
USA Today – Coronavirus will reshape your next trip, for better or worse. Here’s what to expect

Snippet: How coronavirus will change your next vacation:

  • You’ll pay less. Look for lots of deals and better values.
  • Your ticket will be more flexible. Change fees and refund rules will stay away for the rest of the year, maybe longer.
  • Your vacation will be cleaner and safer. Your airline, cruise line and hotel will emphasize their hygiene and safety.

 

What experts are saying…
Phocus Wire – Scenarios for what the travel industry might be dealing with after COVID-19

TL;DR: In a new report, Smart Travel Lab outlines four possible scenarios for post-COVID-19 travel:

  1. “Close Call”: Companies that have taken drastic measures to survive also need to be prepared for pent-up demand following lockdown releases.
  2. “Panic Attack”: Consumer behaviour will change as people become more risk averse, requiring travel companies to win back their trust.
  3. “Recurring Nightmare”: If a second wave of COVID-19 affects travel during another part of the year, only the most well-off will be able to travel during safe segments, with travel becoming less affordable to most people.
  4. “Brave New Reality”: If COVID-19 remains a permanent feature, government will step in to regulate the industry and open/close borders as needed.

Download the full report here.

UNWTO – An inclusive response for vulnerable groups

TL;DR: Vulnerable groups within the tourism sector are among the hardest hit by COVID-19. When designing sustainability into tourism recovery programs, we must consider:

  • providing aid for informal workers
  • making sure women are part of recovery and decision-making processes
  • ensuring women in tourism have access to healthcare and information
  • protection against gender-based violence
  • flexible working conditions

 

Washington Post – Here are the innovations we need to reopen the economy

TL;DR: According to Bill Gates, before the world economy can open back up, we need new tools to help detect, treat and prevent COVID-19, which starts with doing enough testing that we can detect hotspots early (this can be made faster with the development of an at-home test) as well as consistent standards about who can get tested. We also need to focus on contact tracing, to know who may be infected, as well as effective treatment options and, ultimately, a vaccine.

 

General communications & COVID-19 content 

Now more than six weeks into their content pivots (shifting from talking about this year’s “hot destinations” to all the ways you can travel from the comfort of your home), editorial demand remains difficult to predict: while we’re seeing some new virtual travel content being published, there still doesn’t seem to be much of an appetite for explorative, travel-positive narratives or trip promotion.

In their wake, we’re seeing a resurgence of “good news stories” – uplifting human or environmental articles that relate to our current reality – especially surrounding last week’s Earth Day, as well as more lifestyle-focused articles, such as how to support small businesses from home and what products you can use to bring the outdoors inside.

Behind the scenes, outlet behaviour is shifting, as well. We are hearing feedback that editors’ interest is beginning to wane on virtual travel stories, and while several “wanderlust” stories have popped into circulation this week (a dreamy Galapagos itinerary, an account of a Tuscan baker, a photo essay of Easter Island), many are previously published articles that have been updated, indicating there may not be a lot of budget for newly commissioned articles. Most significantly, the New York Times dropped their weekend Travel section this past Sunday for a new quarantine-focused lifestyle section, driving home the reality that destination profiles may not be a focus of travel media for the foreseeable future.

Travel media, like everything else in tourism, is expected to experience a shakeup in the weeks and months to come, so keeping an eye on this evolution will be crucial to recognizing the best way forward to staying relevant in the media.

 

Keep in mind for the week ahead

Even though a few destinations began re-opening this week (some in direct defiance of expert advice), it’s too early to know what recovery will bring in terms of consumer behaviour and mentality — especially with the risk of a “second wave” looming over any talk of economic reopenings. Indeed, as different destinations begin approaching a post-lockdown life in their own ways and at different speeds, the public opinion of whether or not it’s safe or time to travel will likely evolve to varying degrees as well. At present, we can all agree that now is not the time to travel. But as the world begins opening up again, global opinions might not be so cut and dry. Eventually, travel “markets” may be defined simply as “those who are willing to travel” and “those who aren’t”, and tourism stakeholders will be left to determine a path forward for their own survival whilst weighing the public health risks.

With that in mind, and in lieu of any confident way forward, it may be time to start considering what kind of travel brand you were pre-pandemic, and what kind of business you want to be in a post-lockdown world — even if that world still seems far away. Until we have any kind of clarity on what to expect from this virus in the weeks and months to come, the lines between what’s right and what’s good for business are only expected to blur further, and the brands with a clear, firm grasp on who they are and what they stand for may be the only ones who stand any kind of chance.

For questions or comments, email us:
britney@bannikin.com