With a sense of sadness, I watched the beaches empty in Thailand, Day after day, more visitors left. It was the beginning of April 2020 and there were worried expressions on the faces of the family that ran the beach resort I was staying in.
As the sun went down every evening, there were more empty chairs at empty tables. We ordered food and drink and sat on a ghostly beach in the moonlight. What will become of all the Thai people now as tourism collapses and we all enter a phase of uncertainty?
I had just met up with another traveller who had decided to take the risk and stay, She was Swiss and also not ready to go home yet. However within the next few days we were packing our bags. The shops and the restaurants were closing down, There were rumours of ferries and flights being cancelled. People were saying sorry and goodbye. Sorry we cannot support you enough to warrant a sustainable income for you and your family. I wanted to cry for them. They always worked so hard to please us, and felt a pang of questionable guilt, to be leaving.
Travel and tourism has been one of the most influential global economies and accounts for one in ten jobs world wide. Imagine 10% of the world were about to lose jobs, In some countries this will mean no food to feed their families. My Indian friend who relied on an income from Air BNB has not had a penny come into his household since April. As many people in the West complain about lockdown and losing jobs, as hard as it is, there are a lot of people who are going to suffer unless we can work out how to either eliminate this virus, or learn to live with it.
Married to a tour operator in the UK, I have lived through many changes in tourism, I was lucky to make many friends within the industry and meet hard working and positive individuals, taking an interest in the history of tourism, I found in fascinating, I worked in holiday camps in the 70’s and 80’s., ventured out on some of the first package tours and eventually got hooked into planning my own round the world trips using the internet and dropping the need to use an agency. I have always loved living in holiday resorts.
We have been travelling since time began, In search of food, stability and adventure. We are curious about other cultures and eager to learn about far away places. The need to travel will not stop, so long as adventure has it’s appeal.
Once only for the rich and well off, entrepreneurs like Billy Butlin, created holidays that were affordable for most families followed by the package holiday industry which gave the masses a taste for travel overseas. Club 18’30 sent youngsters off to let their hair down and companies like Saga offered safety and ease. Travel was for everyone. The internet brought change again as we grew away from the packaged tour, booking on line made it possible for us to be brave and go it alone, Air travel became cheaper and easy to book, And then COVID came down on us. Like a big heavy boot. Closing borders and creating a huge uncertainty for everyone in the world. Companies collapsed that could not sustain their losses. For addicted travellers, This felt like world war 111.
Travel before Covid.
But before Covid, the travel industry was already reaping change, Airlines that we had become familiar with, were beginning to disappear. Farewell Thomas Cook and a further 17 airlines who went bust in 2019. Travel was changing again, Unfortunately many job losses followed.
I had an interesting conversation with an Australian man who I met in India and who worked in tourism in Melbourne Australia. He described me as a ‘lifestyle traveller’ You are a growing trend he informed me.
According to recent studies, single travellers make up 11% of the overall travel market. 42% increase in solo traveller bookings over the last two years. 25% of millennials in the US plan to take a solo trips in the next 12 months. 10% of all holidaymakers say they have taken a trip or holiday on their own in the past 12 months.
And guess what, 84% of solo travellers are women.
So despite the upheaval there are addicted travellers out there sitting in departure lounges waiting to go somewhere. The travel industry has a unique opportunity to redesign a new world of travel. First it needs to undoubtedly build confidence if it ever wants to see the large numbers again but it also needs to address travel that is more sustainable.
Many of us are now booking closer to home as international travel remains restricted for the time being. According to Skyscanner booking last minute bookings took a dive in March as we all stayed at home. However they have been on the rise since June, Searching for last minute offers are again on the increase. This probably accounts for the ‘lets wait and see attitude’ based over concerns and latest rules and restrictions, due to Covid
changes to business travel
Business travel has probably changed for good, now as companies have become accustomed to using video conferences and Zoom. Company Jolly’s, some have feared are on the decline although somehow I believe it wont be long before they realise those trips benefitted from more than just a meeting. Staff morale and inspiring experiences are difficult to achieve over zoom. After all, we are social animals even in the workplace.
The travel industry as it transforms will meet demand and carefully adapt as it has done so many times before. As Billy Butlin transformed his holiday camps into army baracks during WW2, and entertained troops so he could hang on to the camps whilst waiting for the war to end, The people who make up the travel and hospitality industry will step up as they always do. By remaining positive and willing to service the demand. Covid or no Covid. The industry will survive by picking itself up and brushing itself down. All we need to do is GO SOMEWHERE.
Are you an addicted traveller? Will you carry on and find ways to travel. I would love to hear your comments and tips for safe travel during this time.