By: Bob Mowat
Travel will be different.
I’ve heard that a lot over the past 12 months. Sometimes the word ‘different’ is defined by the speaker, sometimes it isn’t.
In a world where there are times when it’s hard to remember what day it is (well, at least for me), defining what will be different tomorrow or the day after is a struggle and to look forward two or three or six or 12 months, well, that takes an acumen that I don’t have.
There are certainly lots of possibilities – each of them coming with an upside and a downside – and, right now, the industry is trying to figure out what will and won’t work in this brave, though shaken, new world.
Yet the data that the industry has to work with to plan its way forward is pretty thin.
Answers to questions like:
So, in that respect, travel will be different.
But if the idea of different is that the all-inclusive package tour will lose favour or disappear; or that you won’t see consumers looking for deals and shopping for price; or that people will stop going to all of those ‘must-see’ sites; or that the business of travel won’t be all about growth anymore, you’ll probably be disappointed at how things turn out.
Travel and tourism is a high-volume business that needs to grow in order to support the jobs and economic activity that it drives just about everywhere around the globe.
Like every industry, travel and tourism has an upside and a downside and, perhaps, that ‘different’ that people are talking about is minimizing the downside of travel. And I believe that what most are referring to is the industry finding a way to balance its need for growth with the need for sustainability on all levels.
Certainly, many companies – both large and small – have shown a willingness to pursue this goal.
But the question I keep coming back to is, what about consumers?
While there are all sorts of travel intention surveys and consumer tracking studies out there, I wonder if the industry’s expectations won’t be disappointed when, as the saying goes, it will be safe for consumers to travel once again.
Until they’re put into action as a booking, intentions and planning are simply a possibility, and profits aren’t made by possibilities.
Right now – just as there was when this all started – there’s lots of talk about Canadians looking to stay close to home this summer.
Certainly, there are lots of flights being put into the market in anticipation of this kind of demand.
But again, how it will work out remains to be seen.
And I suspect that when people talk about travel being different, it is more about the unknown that all of us are living with right now.
So, yes, travel will be different … but the chapter on how it will be different is still to be written.
Although, I must admit that I do like the phrase Dana Welch of Tourism Ireland once used… telling me that: “travel is a search for those unscripted moments…”
My question to her right now would be: Are there enough of those moments to go around in the after times?