What's happening?

Crises are familiar, but the extent of the pandemic tests all segments of travel.

Boardrooms sit empty as video conferencing buzzes with travel companies reeling from and reacting to this global crisis.  

Travel (the world’s largest industry) and its movement of people, goods and cultures has come to a grinding halt as once bustling cultural sites, crossroads and commerce remain closed. What’s happening to the industry that drives so much of the global economy?  

Collapse, rescues and recovery 

U.S. airlines and the Department of Transportation may soon have to consider consolidating service to dozens of cities around the country in a bid to help carriers cut losses, several airline industry executives told CNBC.

International tourist arrivals could fall by 20% to 30% in 2020 with air traffic down 90% in some airports like Dublin Airport. Some carriers like EasyJet have grounded entire fleets of aircraft.

What startups are doing to survive the economic fallout from COVID-19

Should startups go into what Johannes Reck, CEO, GetYourGuide, calls "hibernation mode"?

“We’ll work on our tech, our infrastructure, and our supply offering, and make sure we have everything in place for when travel picks up again,” says Reck.

The current crisis allows startups to focus more on the building side, says Fritz Demopoulos, founder of Queen’s Road Capital. This includes areas such as improving the user experience and product features in anticipation of “flying again when the weather conditions are better.”

Cities shut down non-essential businesses and plead with residents to stay at home to stop the spread

The CDC issued a 14-day domestic travel advisory for New York tri-state area (home to over 23 million people).

With the travel industry desperate for good news, talk of China opening up again brings hope

As the first market to deal with the coronavirus, China is also the first to show signs of stabilization. According to STR, about 87% of the country’s hotels are now open – up from a low of 40% - and occupancy is starting to turn in a positive direction, to about 22% for the week ending March 21 from a low of 10% in February.

Markets around the world can not begin to rebound until they stop the spread of COVID-19, which is why a figure of 30% absolute occupancy in the U.S. for the week ending March 21 is not a good sign, says STR’s senior vice president of lodging insights, Jan Freitag.

Nothing can be taken as certain, however, with talk in the next breath of concerns around secondary infections of the virus or contamination from travelers or citizens arriving in the country from other areas. Trying to make sense out of all this is challenging but organizations tracking industry data and travel search activity are well-placed to discern any trends.

Travel bailouts are not simple tasks to manage 

U.S. airlines cheer government relief but warn it is no “cure” for deep industry crisis. Plus the rescue isn't equal for all segments - the travel value chain is under scrutiny as airlines get bailouts and intermediaries plead for help.

Airline stocks fall as some analysts predict industry seen not getting back to normal before 2023.

Hotels like Hilton have furloughed employees and reduced salaries.

This is not the type of distancing that travel inspires. An industry where people intermingle and share culture is at odds with the type of restricted movement and stay at home policies shaping what seems to be the new normal for weeks, if not months, to come.  

In the midst of a crisis we can rethink the rules

Doug Lansky, a Sweden-based destination management expert who tested positive for COVID-19, believes destinations have an opportunity to rethink how they use technology and tourism modeling to better understand how to manage their cities and attractions once some semblance of order resumes. After learning that he'd contracted the coronavirus, he was a guest on InPhocus, where he gave an account of his experience and, secondly, share his perspective on the current climate for destinations and what could (or should) happen next.

Florence, Italy-based Giancarlo Carniani, manager of three properties in the city and president of Confindustria Alberghi Firenze, the region’s hotel association says the situation is difficult to imagine for those yet to experience it (many soon will, sadly). Carniani is also already thinking about what comes next - not only for his business but also the entire way his part of the industry may operate in the future.

The rules are going to be rewritten, it would be safe to say.

When cities end their lockdowns and people will be allowed to start roaming the streets again, they will become more interested than ever in discovering their city and the local area. Much because some restrictions might still be in place. For instance, traveling abroad might be limited due to safety issues. As such, local/domestic travel will remain the only viable option for travel.

Expect local travel to be promoted massively, as it is one of the first levers of recovery for the local economy: restaurants, hotels, attractions, etc. will all depend on local travel until foreign travelers return.

For now, people remain in place – but we know that on the other side, travel will remain an essential part of society and thus bring with it economic recovery and that wanderlust spirit.  

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