By Hasnain Noorani
While the current situation is something the world and the industry have never witnessed before, hospitality industry players believe that the travel and tourism will definitely revive itself once this difficult phase has passed. People have travelled since ancient times even when transport means were very limited. It will continue to remain popular. Different destinations will rediscover their travel norms differently, but travel will bounce back over time.
We consciously believe that international travel will take a while to resume in its entirety, as it is dependent on global decisions on international routes opening up and airline schedules. Domestic travel will be a key driver for the industry. The desire for indulgence, pent up demand, disruption of holiday plans of families will influence this surge. After months of no travel, people need that well deserved break and the sense of wanderlust will influence the desire to be keen to explore destinations within the country. Till such time the domestic airlines resume operations itself, destinations which are at a travelable distance will be in demand.
Available data points to a double-digit reduction of 22% in the first quarter of 2020, with arrivals in March down by 57%. This translates into a loss of 67 million international arrivals and about USD 80 billion in receipts. The losses to be suffered by airlines and especially mega carriers by the end of this year may be unfathomable.
While domestic travel contributed over 30 per cent of Kenya’s leisure travel in 2019, it will grow with renewed vigour and the demand from domestic travellers will mark the beginning of a new era of travel in the coming months. Normally the period between April to July sees a huge outflow of travellers going to Dubai for holiday. Now that the international option is not possible, it is a huge opportunity for all of us to optimize domestic travel. I also foresee people taking multiple trips locally this year.
Every crisis is an opportunity, we have witnessed what this unforeseen situation has brought to fore is an increased awareness and consciousness among travellers about the environment and community, and one’s impact on it. Travel in the future will be strongly influenced by a growing sense of responsibility towards sustainability, places one visits and local communities. This situation has accelerated the growing importance of sustainability.
Driven by the desire to travel post COVID-19, people will embark on domestic travel characterized by road trips to less tourist-centric destinations; thereby leading the rediscovery of unique and secluded locations. Slow travel with a heightened need for immersive experiences will be in demand as people look to explore authentic local traditions and culture.
Fear of missing out has been heightened during these covid-19 times and this will drive a new age of travellers across age groups. Post COVID-19, even as people increasingly seek experiences that allow them to enjoy the nuances of travel and all that a destination has to offer, travel will focus more on providing ‘value’ other than just rate amendments.
Over the years, the perceived value of international travel has often superseded that of domestic travel. Post COVID-19 gives us an opportunity to not only showcase the many unique and often, undiscovered avenues of Kenya, that many travellers are yet to get familiar with; but also magnifies the tremendous value of travelling within a vast and diverse country like Kenya.
This will only be achieved through value-led offerings such as experiential holidays, wellness-focused retreats and healthy and detox offerings among others, all the while maintaining the new and required social distancing norms.
Domestic air travel, which has been one of the key growth multipliers for the travel and hospitality industry, will be impacted by the new norms, and the effect on pricing will only be seen once travel slowly resumes over time.
The rising demand for slow travel will see brands increasingly offer unique experiences that are authentic to a destination. This, combined with the highest standards of hygiene, will be some of the key offerings hotels will aim to provide post this current situation.
The writer is the CEO and Founder of PrideInn Group of Hotels and chair of Kenya Coast Working Group