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

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