The travel industry has been largely decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic as international travel has, mostly, shut-down as countries lock their borders.
The travel industry is desperate to restart but know that to do so successfully, they need to ensure that consumers are confident that travel is safe again.
They will also need to ensure that they can satisfy the requirements of governments around the world and also ensure that locals in destinations are confident that Covid will not be brought into their communities by travellers.
We know that statistics are not everyone’s thing.
Many will quote Mark Twain as saying that “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” It’s not actually a Twain quote although he has been attributed as helping to popularise the phrase.
However it does sum up many people’s view of statistics and how they can often be used to misrepresent an argument.
In October 2020 Inmarsat Aviation conducted their worldwide Passenger Confidence Tracker survey. We will only use the results to present the facts rather than promoting a personal view.
The survey raises some interesting thoughts on how people view travel in the future and what people will need to have confidence to travel again.
80% of people stated that their overall travel habits would change in the future due to Covid-19, with 41% stating that they would travel less frequently and 31% less frequently by air. In itself this seems to be an interesting result, do people have more faith in the airline industry to ensure that travel is safe or is it more to do with being more motivated to travel internationally?
Ready to Travel?
There was a fairly even split between people who would be confident to travel in the next 6 months (47%) and those who would want to wait longer than 6 months (53%).
However when you look closer at individual countries the differences are more pronounced.
In the USA 60% were happy to travel in the next 6 months from the USA. In Germany it was 46%, 44% from Australia and 41% from the UK. However just 31% of people from Singapore said that they would be happy to travel in the next 6 months and 17% won’t be confident to travel for more than a year.
35% in south Korea would not be happy to travel until Covid-19 was gone.
There was more confidence in travelling soon among younger travellers whereas older travellers would want to wait until a vaccine was in place.
Barriers to Travel
Unsurprisingly the main worry preventing people from being happy to travel was with either catching the virus abroad (61%) or catching it at the airport or on the plane (55%).
However for 60% of people quarantine was a significant issue preventing them wanting to travel. We have seen Thailand struggling to attract tourists in the numbers that they hoped partly due to the quarantine requirements.
Unpredictable border closures were also cited as a reason for a lack of confidence in travel by 48% of people, no-one wants their travel cancelled at the last minute due to to a suddenly closed border.
There does seem to be more confidence regarding flights than earlier in the year with just 39% stating flight cancellations as being a worry.
Most flight programmes have stabilised over the last few months unlike at the beginning of the pandemic when major changes were often made with little if any notice.
Many airlines are only publishing schedules a few months in advance. Others, like British Airways, have cancelled large parts of their schedule in the future.
What People Want
Attracting passengers back to skies in large numbers is likely to be a challenge.
There is widespread confusion on the requirements for travel due to a lack of consensus on entry requirements, quarantine and changing border restrictions.
When asked what would give them more confidence to travel internationally again, 62% of passengers said if there was a consistent worldwide safety standards, 54% if all countries had same quarantine rules and 51% if there was better information on border restrictions.
The experience at the airport is an important factor. The use of contactless transactions is likely to be necessary to attract many back to the skies.
IATA are preparing to launch their Travel Pass in early 2021 which is likely to achieve many of the requirements for contactless security and border controls.
The survey has highlighted that 40% want facial recognition at security and 39% an international tracing app.
The mad rush of people for boarding and leaving the plane was seen as a significant risk by many with 85% of passengers saying that they would be more confident with staggered boarding and unloading of planes.
At their destination, 43% would like to see real-time luggage tracking to reduce the scrum at baggage claim.
Many airlines ran through 2020 by running a lower capacity than normal to enable distancing. That is not a solution long-term as it would drive the cost of tickets through the roof.
Cleanliness on board is highlighted as an important area for people. 68% said cabin cleanliness was more important now and 65% would be more confident if all airlines followed the same hygiene practices.
44% of passengers said that the airline reputation is most important when choosing an airline, in fact 19% will only fly with specific airlines that they trust.
41% said the service experience onboard was more important now and avoiding crowding while waiting for the toilet was also seen as a possible issue with 32% thinking that a toilet queue booking app was a good idea.
Flyingdog Travel Comment
There is certainly a desire among many people to travel internationally again but there is much work to be done within the travel industry and from governments to get them back into the skies.
The IATA Travel Pass may be a big step forward with this but only if it is accepted in the majority of countries and for enough parts of the travel process to make it useful. Users must also have full confidence in the security of their data and what control they have over its use.
The reality is that for the forseesable future if you want to travel internationally you will need to jump through a number of hoops before you are allowed on that plane and into your destination.
Covid testing seems to be here to stay and already a number of airlines, including Qantas, are suggesting all travellers will need to have received a Covid vaccine.
It is likely that the travelling experience will become more expensive, Covid tests are rarely free for travelling purposes, and airlines may be running at lower capacity with increased costs, so flight prices may increase as well.
Here’s to a brave new world and the future of travel.
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