Hypotheses about the future of travel in the post pandemic world

What’s going to change in how we travel?

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The COVID-19 pandemic may be remembered as the single most disruptive event in modern history. It is likely to durably reshape the customer, employee and organizational behaviour. Many of us might be currently asking ourselves what the upcoming future will be like and how to prepare to do business in such an environment.

Our team felt a strong urge to come to a common vision of what the post pandemic landscape might look like. Therefore we conducted a series of internal futures thinking exercises — researching and brainstorming on hypotheses about the near term future in our part of the world. We’ve divided them into 5 areas: Travel & Leisure, Society, Economics & Consumption, Environment and Politics.

Here are our thoughts about the changes that we might expect going forward in travel.

Passengers will expect new, efficient and innovative safety measures incorporated as an integral part of any travel services. Unlike after 9/11, this time it is not about security restrictions, but about a possibility to keep distance and keep us safe from infection. But declarations from service providers might not be sufficient. Passengers will expect to see actual physical proof of the safety measures.

Worries about financial stability and possible future travel restrictions, such as lockdowns or border closures will increase demand for flexible booking options. But real flexibility means that the service provider is willing to return the money, not to merely change the date — those prepaid holidays in the Maldives might have a bitter taste when the customer has become unemployed in the meanwhile.

Environmental data gathered during the lockdown and a forced return to minimalistic consumption might make customers more aware of the direct environmental impact of their travel decisions. Will people want to pay much more for sustainable options? Many probably not, due to tighter budgets, but some will. And at a minimum, more customers than earlier will pay sufficient attention for sustainability to become a stronger source of competitive advantage at a comparable price.

Domestic travel might be the first choice for the nearest future. This could result in the rising popularity of camper business. People might also want to buy and invest in their own summer houses while indulging slightly more on local experiences in their home towns — moving to a nice hotel in your hometown for a few days of spa might become less awkward.

74% of the European population lives in an urban area. Due to oppressive lockdowns in urban areas, people might long to rediscover the benefits of interacting with nature. They might also choose countryside vacation over city touring, big hotels and cruises, since in the countryside the likelihood of keeping a social distance or of simply avoiding crowds will be higher. For similar reasons those who do not live in big cities, might prefer to avoid them.

Air travel will most likely be initiated by the urgency to take care of business affairs. Tourists will join in later, starting with short-haul flights. Intercontinental tourism might need more time to get back on track.

Due to the void left by tourists some travel services providers have dropped prices already. Further price cuts are expected to set the whole business in motion. However, in a medium-term, prices will regain pre-pandemic levels and might even surpass them due to capacity cuts and sustained demand from the least price sensitive business travellers.

While the above set does not pretend to be exhaustive and universal, you can use it as inspiration for internal strategy discussions to feel more comfortable with the upcoming risks and opportunities. You can also make a step further and use it to draft impact and response scenarios. Then naturally comes the turn of prototyping and testing your responses before you launch at full scale.

And in the meanwhile, stay safe!

Authors: Marta Wawrzyniak-Falkowska; Jagoda Podrucka; Andrzej Nagalski, PhD and Krzysztof Kwiecinski

We combine a strategic perspective with user-centric innovation to create, improve and scale services and organizations.

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