Industry Update
Opinion Article15 September 2020

COVID-19: Voice of Consumers on Travel & Hospitality

Download the free Travel 2020 Report which examines the state of travel in 2020 and beyond in light of COVID-19.

By Alan Young, Co-Founder, Knowingli Market Research and Puzzle Partner

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It's a Tuesday evening, and you wait at the curb for your Uber. The app prompts you with a reminder that riders must wear a mask, and you sort through your bag to make sure you packed one. As you strap on your mask, your driver pulls up, and you duck into the backseat, where you spot a hand sanitizer bottle in the cupholder. Your driver smiles at you in the rearview, although you can't actually see the smile — but his eyes are warm and welcoming. Your phone pings from your pocket, and your eyes scan across another work email.

Lately, the requests seem to come in at all hours — but then again, no one at your company is in an office anymore. As you approach your destination, you wish your driver well, making sure to raise your voice just a little louder than you normally would ensure he can hear you through your mask. Entering the building for your appointment, the woman steps around a plexiglass divider and up to the door with a clipboard and a temperature gun in hand. "Ma'am, do you mind answering these questions for me?" she asks pleasantly, before running through the questions you've now answered hundreds of times, and taking your temperature.

This, you have realized, truly is the new normal. And it does, almost, start to feel normal as you fall into the routine of COVID-19 precautions.

Perhaps, there is no 'going back' to normal. Perhaps, there is only moving forward.

But, what exactly does that look like?

A Brave New World

Over the last five months, the coronavirus pandemic has shown us that sometimes, all bets are off, and whatever plan or prediction you had for the near future is turned on its head overnight. And sometimes, the event which acted as a catalyst to that disruption sets the stage for a consumer landscape forever changed.

And now, we find ourselves surveying that landscape.

From ride-sharing to grocery trips, corporate life, gym use, dining out, partaking in social events, and, of course, traveling — the world as we know it is transforming under pressure. It is our responsibility to ask, how are consumers feeling? Moreover, what is their perspective on the post-pandemic era, especially in the realm of travel and hospitality?

The recently released Travel 2020 Report data is in ---and we're able to take the collective temperature of consumers re-entering the world of travel post-COVID-19.

Hotels are Facing a New Standard of Clean

As for hotels, cleanliness reigns supreme. Moving forward, the public perception of hotel and travel companies will be largely based on the preventative procedures they communicate to prospective travelers and will, in turn, help to solidify their recovery.

The feedback indicates that measures such as sealing rooms post-cleaning, physical distancing, and physical barriers still remain of the highest priority in the eyes of prospective travelers, with 47% reporting they would be comforted by the strict observance of social distancing in public areas. This is followed closely by the wearing of masks by staff, and by guests in public areas, at 45% and 44% respectively.

Moreover, 22% of UK/U.S. travelers say widespread testing would boost travel confidence.

Additionally, almost half of leisure travelers noted that they would feel more comfortable if hotel owners provide cleaning and sterilizing equipment within the rooms.

Touchless Travel

Hoteliers are also realizing a push for technological intervention that allows for a largely 'touchless' experience, including:

  • Mobile room keys
  • Mobile check-in and boarding
  • Mobile concierge services
  • Mobile ordering and payment options

The coronavirus pandemic has had an undeniable impact on the widespread implementation of the digital guest experience across the travel industry, and contactless technology will be an essential measure to combat traveler anxiety around social distancing.

For example, as much as 1 in 4 travelers in the report say a contact-free boarding process would encourage them to travel, for example. However, the survey also reveals some concerns surrounding data privacy, noting that 'the new normal' will require new data privacy standards in travel.

Enroute to Recovery?

Travel behaviors are already showing clear signs that the 'staycation is the new vacation' as restrictions and continued global transmission dampens travel confidence. According to the respondents, 31% of travelers will likely show a continued preference for domestic travel as conditions remain uncertain surrounding the continued spread of COVID-19.

Appropriate crisis management and confidence in government advice will act as a significant stepping stone in rebuilding traveler confidence, along with publicized and stringent cleaning and sanitization procedures, social distancing measures, and touchless technology.

In fact, the data reveals that now is the time for brand-building and audience engagement, as prospective travelers are eager to know what precautions travel companies are taking to ensure the safety of travelers.

Companies need to rise above the chorus of "we're in this together" to demonstrate action -

travelers are notably more likely to say they'll reward brands that helped people (43%) and contacted them during the outbreak (22%).

In the best-selling book, 'The Future is Faster Than You Think,' Ray Kurzweil explores the 'law of accelerating returns,' which notes that "we're going to experience twenty thousand years of technological change over the next one hundred years."

Right now, we are in the crux of accelerated change led by responsive COVID-era changes and innovations.

And as both consumers and brands adapt, and confidence builds, industries, like travel and hospitality, will return to their former glory.

Download the free Travel 2020 Report, which examines the state of travel in 2020 and beyond in light of COVID-19.

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    Co-Founder, Knowingli Market Research and Puzzle Partner
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