coronavirus travel industry
April 1, 2020

Coronavirus and the Travel Industry: Here’s A Bright Spot of Hope

Graciela Perez

Graciela Perez

Since first being identified in late-2019 in the Wuhan region of China, the coronavirus pandemic has spread to dozens of countries around the world, and its impact is still unknown for anyone. 

But, amidst the sea of difficult and dramatic news, it’s important to look at the glimmer of hope coming from certain areas of the world as well as embracing some of the positive things that are arising from the situation. 

Technology is playing an essential role in our daily lives, allowing many people to work remotely and in this moment of hyper-connection, we are also starting to see a feeling of ‘virtual’ community never seen in all social and economic spheres.

We are also seeing how this lockdown is positively impacting the world’s environment. “Nature is sending us a message” says the UN, and they might not be wrong. According to Newsweek the air quality has never been better in the past years due to the significant reduction of global carbon emissions and nitrogen dioxide levels. 

With our beloved Travel industry being one of the most affected ones by the Coronavirus outbreak, in China, where all this started, we are already seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. For instance, Marriot is already reopening most hotels in the region according to Skift. The same source also affirms that 40 Percent of companies expect business travel to resume within 3 months. 

Let’s also look at some inspiring initiatives:

Room Mate Hotels Group and other hotel chains have turned their hotels into hospitals, offering rooms and beds to desaturate the health system.

Cloudbeds for instance, has launched COVID-19 support platform with hashtag  #hospitalityhelps to connect property owners and operators with health-care providers, providing facilities during this time of need.

Iberia, LATAM, and many other carriers have scheduled specific flights to repatriate travelers to their countries

– Most airlines worldwide, like the North American ones, are adopting flexible policies and allowing travelers to reschedule their flights or cancel without incurring any costs.

airplane - cornavirus travel industry

What Kind of Measures is the Travel Industry Adopting During Coronavirus Crisis?

These past weeks we’ve seen so many initiatives that it’s hard to enumerate all, but here’s a summary of the most common ones and also the ones we believe will be more effective in the short-term to recover from this crisis.

1. Flexibility – It’s a good time to be generous with cancellation policies. From waiving change fees to hotels refunding rooms or offering lenient rebooking policies, people will remember those companies that showed them generosity. This is especially true for those traveling from those hard-hit areas. 

2. Online Marketing Spend Optimization – As fewer people travel, companies who focus their ad spend on retargeting and metasearch will succeed in attracting travelers for now and in the future when the market returns. A Cornell University study shows that those hotels who continued to invest in marketing during the 2008 economic crisis found it paid off in both the short and long term. 

3. Campaign Creation – Launching promotions for when people decide to travel again is another good initiative that can help you continue building brand loyalty. Offer relevant content and inspiring travel ideas to “Get Ready to Come Back”, keeping your online presence alive even if your business is not operative yet. If you are a DMO, another way to promote your destination is adapting your marketing campaigns to the situation, through empathic and emotional messages like for instance this one from Visit Portugal “Can’t Skip Hope” or this one from Discover Puerto Rico, inviting people to a virtual getaway to discover the Puerto Rican culture from home.

4. Local Promotion – This is also a chance to revisit your marketing for the local market. In the wake of 9/11, Philadelphia ran a wildly successful campaign in local marketing. Titled “Philly’s more fun when you sleepover”, it featured local celebs wearing pijamas while visiting tourist attractions like the Philadelphia Art Museum and the Liberty Bell. It was so successful that area hotels still offer a Visit Philly Overnight Package. Locals are already “there” so to speak and many of them may appreciate the opportunity to visit local tourist attractions with fewer crowds. Social media and local targeting offer opportunities to attract this market. Some creative marketing could include front-line hospitality workers such as tour guides for a personal perspective and to allay fears.  

5. Deep Cleaning – Germs can live on surfaces up to 48 hours. Not only is it prudent to be extra vigilant when wiping down high touch areas like doorknobs and other frequently touched surfaces, but travel companies can also borrow from Marriott’s International Statement on Cleaning Protocols.  

6. Applying for Governmental Aid – The US Government announced tax breaks and economical stimulus for newly jobless and small companies. Many European governments have also launched subsidiary measures for SMEs and workers who have temporarily lost their activities. 

cities - coronavirus travel industry

And, as a Traveler or Citizen, What Can We All Do to Help the Industry? 

1. Plan and Book Future Trips – Many in the travel industry say it’s a good time to book future trips as incentives are high. From lower rates and discounts to additions like a 3rd night free or spa credits, travel companies are offering promotions that some travelers are happy to reserve. We are also spending more time online so it is a good moment to keep an eye on the future and plan our long-awaited trip.

2. Invest Locally – Local businesses, restaurants, bars and shopping areas in our hometowns have been urged to close and stay at home like everyone else, and all the touristic areas such as museums, sights and local attractions are suffering from this quarantine too. Perhaps it is time for all of us to be more thoughtful and consider travelling nearby when all this is over, contributing to the recovery of our countries and local economies.

3. Canceled Trip? Take Advantage of Flexible Conditions to Reschedule it- Many people are requesting a full refund for their canceled trips. Even though we will not be able to travel (at least for now), these are exceptional circumstances that are affecting globally so let’s consider rescheduling the trip instead, as a nice gesture and a win-win situation both for us and for the company we booked the trip with.

While it’s a difficult time in the travel industry, it’s important to remain calm and keep an eye on the future.

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