The entire world and the travel and tourism industry are in deep trouble. This report is from California, one of Southern and East Africa’s major source markets.
As of now, mid-April, California is totally closed down. The US has more COVID-19 cases than any other country, with more than 473 000 infections and over 17 800 fatalities. At all levels this is an unprecedented situation and America’s international leisure travel market pool is totally hunkered down in place until then – but we want to know when.
The market and travel professionals are all asking when it is going to end and come back to normal. A realistic and frank answer is never. That said, and hopefully understood, let’s discuss where we are and what we should consider for each one of us and the industry to get back on our feet.
The best estimates, based on models, is 2022. That timeframe provides us with earlier entry points to get the business and operations into a re-start mode.
As of now the leisure consumer market is in limbo, primarily thinking of travel in dreamlike ecstasy, visualising concept destinations, all their previous plans wiped out, with their wallets shut tight.
For planners – note that I did not say ‘planning’ – planning will come only after some or most of the personal restrictions all of us are now under are relaxed. Many experts are placing it about July-August 2020+.
That may be the time we will start hearing of some business activity in the industry; the airlines and the cruise industry will start to make their presence known; and, more importantly, the market will be able to visit their favourite restaurants – most likely still wearing masks, served by masked waiters, with the sommelier wearing rubber gloves, and being checked outside the restaurant for their temperature.
Who will remain in business?
During that time, we will hear who is and who is not remaining in business; there will be airlines, hotels, operators, as well as many independent US frontline travel agents and tour operators who will not survive, and we need to be prepared for that.
Remember that the coronavirus exhausted whatever accumulated reserves many of them had and not all will be fortunate enough for government subsidies or understating banks on either side of the Atlantic.
Therefore the influence this will have on leisure travel and cruising will be problematic but will, however, allow those still in the game to start their destination planning market support; to distinguish themselves and let the market know that they are ready and waiting and, of course, inviting the world to visit or to return.
They will need to project that their COVID-19 situation is in a much more stabilised condition versus the rest of the world, and of course open for business.
This will take us to the last quarter of 2020, possibly the beginning of 2021. The consumer market will by then know the economic damage corona has done to them and temper their leisure plans and how to, or what and where to would be okay to plan.
This will be the right time to invest in getting the market to know “We are in business and are ready for YOU”. At this point we should contemplate what it should look like, and what the market will wish to hear.
What will the market want to hear?
They will want to know how antiseptic aircraft have become. I don’t think they will want to be greeted by cabin crew wearing face masks, but at the gate a temperature check would, or should, take place.
Airports will have to project health and temperature awareness, possibly having temperature screening gates with guards (in masks) asking health and relevant coronavirus-related questions, and checking each passenger’s Yellow Card, officially known as International Certificate of Vaccination/Personal Health History.
That yellow, yet official 16-page document was originally mandated by the World Health Organization, now named the UNWHO, and in the US is published by Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
The Yellow Card used to rule international travel, especially to Africa but has gone by due to industry and health officialdom’s disuse. A good idea would be at the arrival airports to repeat what used to work quite well, and integrate the international Yellow Card, almost as a modern day health passport showing what vaccine (by then we should have them) the individual traveller has received.
The Yellow Card could be shown to the hotel and/or lodge on check-in showing that the bearer passed the country’s health entry requirements and is okay to be our guests. This will easily take us to the middle of 2021.
By that time there will be a few client arrivals, but not the level we had before. The pandemic has robbed us of at least four to five years of development – therefore if we reach close to where we were five years ago, we’ll be doing very well.
By 2022 we need to address the market and get back to what we know how to do, however with what the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us.