According to an earlier prediction by GBTA, business travel spend was expected to top $1.7 trillion by 2022. Judging by the performance of the travel industry in the past year, the business travel industry is expected to suffer a revenue loss of about $820.7 billion.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are far-reaching, cutting across every sector. States through her government and agencies are doing their best to curtail the spread of the virus. The pandemic has challenged businesses to redefine their mode of operations, priorities and revenue generation strategies.
In fact, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC, 2020), according to this report, stated that as at the 14th of April 2020, the COVID-19 virus had spread to over 180 countries, infecting an estimated 1.98 million people and accounting for 126,753 deaths worldwide. The spread of this strain of the virus, which was first discovered in Wuhan China, is heavily dependent on human movement and contact. Hence, the initial spread of the virus to parts of the globe can be linked to the travel industry, which was also badly hit as a result of COVID-19.
The travel industry and COVID-19
For businesses in the travel space, this new development represented a significant change in many areas, especially revenue generation. Conservative estimates by the WTTC projected that the global travel and tourism industry was going to shed at least 75 million jobs along with a tourism GDP deficit of up to US$2.1tn in 2020 alone.
The World Travel and Tourism Council also reported that work travel represented 21% of the $8.9 trillion spent globally on travel and tourism in 2019. But with remote working, the revenue from work and business-related travels have dropped globally. These reports show that most workers have adapted to the concept of working from home, strengthened by the acquisition of sophisticated gadgets that guarantee effectiveness and efficiency.
Many are predicting that the concept of remote working has come to stay beyond the virus. Most businesses have diverted the funds set aside for business travel expenses to the acquisition of gadgets, they are unarguably not going to dispose of these tools when this period is over.
The perfect work-life balance that remote working offers is another reason for this belief. This is further strengthened by the rise of freelance jobs, which has the potential of replacing regular employment.
The tourism segment and COVID-19
This segment of the market is not left out of the adverse effects of COVID-19. With country borders shut down, tourists were forced to cancel their travel plans.
According to the Illinois Office of Tourism Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the tourism industry in the state welcomed 120 million visitors in 2019, representing a ninth consecutive year in Illinois tourism growth. Chicago is the largest city in the State and accounts for a large chunk of this number and the resultant revenue.
While tourists were seen here and there at the Bean, Navy Pier and Museum Campuses located in Chicago. This is a far cry from the figures and the number of visitors projected for the state before the pandemic hit the world.
As of June 2019, a publication by the Chicago Tribune revealed that major events like Lollapalooza, Chicago Pride Parade or Taste of Chicago would not be held. While Skydeck Chicago, the observation deck on top of Willis Tower and museums are closed.
On the heels of the new reality, tourism brands are forced to innovate and find ways to stay afloat. For instance, Caravan Tours Inc, a Chicago-based tour company, is using their 2022 70th anniversary to offer potential tourists the opportunity to pre-register for 2022 tours. By doing this, these brands are selling hope, excitement and a longing for adventure to their clients and prospects. A pre-registration arrangement gives the impression that these sort of brands are doing something now and also have a plan to make the tours possible.
With the development of the coronavirus vaccine, which has already been shipped to some places, better days are ahead for every aspect of the global economy. This vaccine would help to boost people’s confidence, revive international travels and tourism. However, travel in the post-covid-19 world has a couple of factors to contend with.
Factors to contend with Post-COVID-19
The realities presented and normalized by COVID-19 would not just disappear. For the employee in Illinois who has now become conversant with the convenience of working from home, a return to full ‘office work’ is unlikely, when freelance work opportunities are available. Here are a few factors the travel industry has to contend with if it is to bounce back:
This is probably the biggest factor that everyone – individuals and businesses alike, have to contend with. It is said that the fear of death has caused more death than death itself. This factor is capable of keeping the travel industry down for longer than necessary or expected.
A report by the US Travel Association projected that the U.S. economy was to lose $155 billion in 2020 or $425 million per day, owing to a massive decline in foreign visits because of the pandemic or international travel bans. Governments all over the world are afraid of opening their borders for international trips and understandably so.
2. Change in living culture
The reality is that people’s way of living is not the same anymore. The culture in the world has gradually shifted with more dependence on the internet for daily living. Statista holds that as at October 2020, almost 4.66 billion people were active internet users as at October 2020. This number represents about 59% of the global population.
The report also shows that mobile has now become the most important channel for internet access, with mobile internet users accounting for 91% of total internet users globally. People have gotten used to the idea of depending on the internet for their daily needs – order for groceries online when out of stock; find your choice piece and brand of fashion online and have then delivered to your doorsteps.
3. Government and emerging health policies
For a second, it felt like we were defeating the enemy. Countries around the world relaxed the lockdown with a plan for the phased return of full economic activities. But with the recent spike in new cases, countries are shutting their borders and enacting policies to protect her people from further harm.
With the recent spike, a new and deadlier strain of the virus has been reported in some places. New policies and guidelines have now been released by health authorities and government agencies to regulate movement and enforce existing safety measures. A case in point is the Travel Order issued for anyone coming into the City of Chicago from designated states in the US.
As the world braces up to the reality of life after COVID-19, travel businesses are empowering themselves with adequate information necessary to ensure the safety of their clients and others. The new norm is here and travel businesses are embracing the reality of it by strengthening the digital aspect of their operations, bracing up to facts and driving innovation.