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New World of Travel

The travel industry accounts for one in 10 jobs globally, making it one of the world’s most influential economies. But when we went into global lockdown in March, grounding planes and closing airports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the knock-on effects were felt all around the globe.

Despite the upheaval, the travel industry faces a unique opportunity. Now is the time to redesign a new world of travel which is more sustainable, and inclusive, holding onto the positive benefits of travel and addressing the things that need improvement.

Over the past six months at Skyscanner, we have used data, surveys and interviews to help us understand the evolving mindsets of travellers across the globe. We’ve spoken to over 6,500 of you each week to understand your hopes, fears and dreams for future travel, to put together our extensive, New World of Travel report. Here are the report’s key findings.

You’re likely to book a one-way ticket.

In March, the number of one-way searches skyrocketed as we all rushed to get home. Six months later, the global average of one-way searches is still much higher than at the start of the year and before the pandemic, particularly among those of us in Australia, South Korea and Italy.

Lots of us are taking staycations.

Since March, searches for domestic travel have been dramatically increasing around the world. Interest in domestic flights is still growing, especially in South Korea and Japan (although the US saw a dip in June and July). This shows that we’re still thinking twice about going on international flights, despite a slight upward trend in August among Australian travellers and UK holidaymakers in search of sun.

We’re not planning very far ahead.

Before the global lockdown, searches for travel within a week of booking were common. Not surprisingly, these experienced a steep dip in March as we all stayed put at home. However, these searches have been going up since June, as well as searches for travel within a month of booking. It seems that we’re more likely to book last-minute getaways in the new world of travel.

Business travel has changed for good.

By now, most of us have experienced work meetings on Zoom. Video conferencing, plus uncertainty around quarantine measures, have made business travel as we know it a thing of the past. Pre-COVID, many airlines relied on business travellers for revenue. In the new world of travel, they might try to entice us with different cabin classes such as premium economy, or attractive ways to add leisure options into a business trip.

Low-cost airlines will set the trends.

Understandably, we’re demanding more flexibility and security from air travel as we enter into this new world of travel. Thanks to their low margins, adaptable business approach and short-haul routes, low-cost airlines are well positioned to guide us through this new era of travel.

It’s time to reimagine tourism for a new world of travel.

If restrictions on long-haul travel continue, we’ll see increasing demand for domestic and regional travel instead. It’s already happening in Europe and Asia, where we’re booking mostly short-haul trips. Destinations that previously relied on cheap, mass tourism will have to have a rethink, as the areas and attractions that used to rely on large visitor numbers become less busy.

Travel is really important to the world’s economy.

The travel industry accounts for 10.3% of the world’s GDP – a whopping US$8.9 trillion. No event in the past 50 years has uprooted travel like COVID-19 has, so it will of course have a huge impact – both good and bad – on employment, economic development and the environment in the new world of travel.

Travel is fundamental to us as human beings.

We all have an innate desire to explore and seek out new places. Curiosity, inquisitiveness and the desire for discovery are common to all people, from all walks of life. As we’ve begun to navigate a new world of travel where our movements are more restricted, it’s clearer than ever that exploration is fundamental to people across the globe.

Travel helps you cope with uncertainty.

The headlines in 2020 have been scary. The news may often be dominated by racial tension and rising nationalism, but travel is proven to foster open-mindedness and respect – values that have never been more important, and that travel experiences can provide. The more comfortable you are navigating unfamiliar places, the better-equipped you will be to adapt to these challenges.

Booking travel can feel complicated right now.

When we decide to travel, we weigh up five risk factors: health, financial, social, ethical and recreational. If you’re willing to book a trip right now, you’re mostly likely to be concerned about financial risks (e.g. whether you can rebook a flight for free if quarantine rules change). If you’re not willing to book right now, it’s probably because you’re preoccupied with health risks and, increasingly, ethical factors like passing the virus on.

The internet changed the travel industry forever.

User-generated content and social media, has forever transformed the way that we explore new places. But the COVID-19 pandemic hit pause on the entire travel industry, from hoteliers to tour operators to restaurants to airlines. For the first time, we have an opportunity to think about what we love about the travel sector, and what we might like to change.

Could we see an end to overtourism?

Mass tourism to cities like Amsterdam, Barcelona and Venice can have a negative impact on local life, but travel to cities was increasing at a dizzying rate before the pandemic. Now, airlines have the chance to reshape our travel habits, for example by focusing on routes to less visited (but equally wonderful) destinations. They’ll need to collaborate with local governments and suppliers to make this happen, which would have the win-win effect of making tourism more sustainable for all.

Your wellbeing matters more than anything.

Now that travel restrictions are easing, the report reveals new kinds of behaviour among those travelling right now. These include choosing short-haul flights and booking last-minute flights and accommodation. To create a safe new world of travel, restoring your trust and confidence as a passenger has to be the top priority of travel providers.

Let’s make travel more holistic.

Communities around the world that rely on tourism are facing an uncertain future. At Skyscanner, we’re promoting conscious travel with our eco label on low-emission flights, plus a partnership with SkyNRG, a leader in sustainable aviation fuel. We’re also testing a feature that suggests alternatives to places impacted by overtourism.

Peace of mind is crucial.

Our data shows that travellers are reacting in real time to quickly changing travel restrictions, and sometimes contradictory government advice. The travel industry has to collaborate with the government to reduce uncertainty and work towards the positive, innovative future of travel that we all want.

As we recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s really important that the travel industry focuses on making you feel safe when you’re booking a trip away. Customer service has never been more vital, and providers that work to restore confidence in the travel experience will be rewarded with customer bookings.

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