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COVID-19 recovery: Health, digital consumption, sustainability will drive consumer behavior

COVID-19 recovery: Health, digital consumption, sustainability will drive consumer behavior
29 September 2020 (Edited 29 September 2020)

Domestic vacations and the outdoors will dominate in near term

New report entitled To Recovery& Beyond: The Future of Travel & Tourism in the Wake of COVID-19 by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) in collaboration with management consultants Oliver Wyman finds 4 emerging, intertwined trends in travel and tourism following the initial 2020 surge in COVID-19:

  • Demand evolution: Preferences and behaviors shifting toward the familiar, predictable and trusted
  • Health and hygiene: Travelers seek health, safety and trust. Fear of crowds or being stranded in a foreign country needs to be addressed.
  • Innovation and digitization: Consumers are adopting digital technologies, seeking contactless transactions for buying travel.
  • Sustainability: Unemployment, anti-racism movements, the destruction and restoration of natural wildlife habitats, awareness of animal poaching and mistreatment all play parts.

Some statistics:

  • 74% of Americans plan to take domestic trips only for the rest of 2020.
  • 40% of Americans are re-thinking destinations, often in favor of beaches and rural areas.
  • However: with mean 9% share of acute-care hospitals, most rural areas are lacking in readiness for sudden virus surges.
  • 80% of potential travelers fear quarantine as much as they fear COVID-19.
  • 69% consider cleanliness and health as critical components of travel brands' response to COVID-19.
  • 66% are paying in cash less.
  • 58% say they are more aware of the environment since the onset of COVID-19.
  • Travelers are opting for longer vacations: mean short-term-rental stay has increased from 3.5-5 days pre-COVID-19 to 8.5-9 days now.
  • 89% of travel businesses say skill gap in local labor markets is a barrier to technology adoption.

Implications for the tourism industry:

  • Travel businesses need to work with local communities to develop human assets.
  • Businesses need to collaborate with all partners in their value chain to ensure the adoption of health and safety protocols.
  • Client-facing staff need to be well trained in and comfortable with the new protocols.
  • Employees and local communities must be kept up to speed on digitization, contactless transactions, biometrics, and other emerging technologies being increasingly demanded by consumers.
  • Consumers are watching your environmental track record as well as your support for diversity and inclusion. Now is the time to accelerate meaningful changes in these areas.
  • Travel businesses and destinations require significant support from governments in areas including maintaining liquidity, easing travel restrictions, protecting workers, promotion and investment.
  • Communication - marketing and positioning - will be critical, particularly with regard to sanitation and safety.
  • Development of partnerships with local communities for the delivery of authentic experiences will be key in the early phases of recovery.
  • Prioritize young travelers who are less risk-averse and thus most likely to jumpstart a travel recovery.
  • Eco-friendly destinations will have an advantage.

Insights from WTTC and Oliver Wyman:

  • Greater cooperation among governments, businesses and local communities is essential.
  • Individual competitive advantage should be secondary to restoring travelers' sense of safety and comfort in travel.
  • Agility - accelerating from concept to product launch in record time - will be needed for businesses to sustain revenues.
  • It will be vital in the near term to stimulate the revival of international travel.


  • Once again, researchers have found that domestic trips, beaches and rural destinations will dominate for the rest of 2020, and likely into 2021 at least.
  • Also once again, researchers conclude that health and safety are key selling points for businesses and destinations. We continue to see marketing collateral that's silent on these issues.
  • Destinations with quarantine requirements - which people say is no more fun than getting infected - need to work on finding alternatives.
  • Best use of public money could be in supporting - and updating the skills- of those temporarily unemployed because of the collapse of tourism.

And if you have questions or comments, you can easily send them to me with the Quick Reply form, below, or send me an e-mail.

David Boggs MS    - David
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