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ITB Berlin NOW: recovery of the tourism industry still faces lot of dilemmas

Cveta Potočnik – An exclusive, global survey by ITB Berlin and Travelzoo presented at the ITB Berlin NOW last week shows that among Europeans in particular trust in travel brands has suffered during the pandemic. Europeans are disappointed with how travel brands have handled bookings and communication during the pandemic. According to the study, fewer people now trust travel brands and airlines in the UK, Germany and France than before the pandemic.

Slow refunds, lengthy customer service responses, and unclear information have all led to frustrated holidaymakers during the last 12 months.

For consumers now is the most important a money-back guarantee or the possibility of being able to rebook without issue. This sentiment indicates that tour operators are on the right track with new flexible terms and pricing being created in the travel industry right now.

Some 50% of the pre-crisis level will be reached by the end of 2021

According to the IPK Internattional globally outbound travel in 2020 declined by 70 percent. Nature-oriented holiday types and trips by car performed significantly better during the pandemic than air travel or city breaks and round trips.

However, what the Corona pandemic has not led to, is travel more cheaply. Although the average amount spent per trip has indeed fallen worldwide by 14 percent, this is due mainly to the decline in air travel and long-haul trips.

Despite the drastic global decline in 2020, the latest survey results give hope for the upcoming year: two-thirds of outbound travelers worldwide intend to travel abroad again in 2021. A combination of vaccines now being available and a high willingness among outbound travellers (90 percent) to be vaccinated has nullified the main reason for not traveling, meaning that nothing stands in the way of a rapid and widespread recovery of the tourism industry. This goal could be reached in 2022, at latest 2023

In terms of holiday trips abroad in 2021, there is a high level of interest in sun & beach holidays. City breaks rank second among holiday types (first among Asians) and nature-oriented holidays comes third, a considerable rise in popularity compared to before the pandemic. The latest surveys also reflect continuing high interest in air travel abroad and a recovery of the hotel industry appears likely.

Europeans clearly favor destinations in Europe. Spain ranks first, followed by Italy, Germany and France. Markets of origin with the best recovery potential in 2021 are Germany, Switzeland, Austria, the Netherlands and Russia. »It makes sense to focus marketing efforts on these markets in 2021,« said Rolf Freitag at ITB Berlin NOW.

Nature trips and outdoor activities in demand, business travel slumps

More trips at home, more trips in nature and outdoor activities: those are three travel trends revealed by the Global Tourism Demand Forecast; a survey commissioned by ITB and carried out by Statista GmbH in Hamburg.

According to the findings which examined travel behaviour and travel plans in Germany, the US and China, in 2021 there is good reason for optimism. “In 2021 around 70 per cent of respondents are planning to travel or intend to plan a trip soon. Only about a quarter to one-third of those polled are not planning to travel“, said Claudia Cramer from Statista. “Most people want to travel as soon as possible”, the market researcher said.

Innovations as well as changing travel behaviour are influencing the travel market. According to Peter Kautz, over the last ten years hundreds of startups have sprung up offering innovative services for holidaymakers, including digital travel guides, individual holiday planning and sustainable tourism.

Tomorrow’s hotel industry

Patrick Mendes, CCO of Accor Hotels, states: “The trend is for making reservations at shorter notice and for a reduced duration of stay. Customers also require maximum flexibility when it comes to cancellations and re-bookings. In addition to security, customers are also placing greater emphasis on the technical equipment provided by hotels. Being able to set up a home office in a hotel is not just a short term trend but can lead to changes for the hotel industry, whose facilities will not only be used by travellers but by the local population too.«

Other speakers stressed that safety, cleanliness and overall quality as well as communication with guests will be crucial for the hotel industry after re-opening.

More serviced apartments are expected to open in the future to reduce housekeeping and room service interactions. The number of items that need to be disinfected in hotel rooms and other hotel areas will be reduced.

Restaurants are likely to reopen with limited capacity to ensure social distancing. Breakfast buffet and other buffet operations are especially problematic and other way of served meals may become the norm.

Virtual meetings and conferences are likely to be here to stay, even as in-person events return and this will have lasting impact on hotel F&B and event management.

It is expected that use of contactless technology or low-touch solutions will increase, enabling guests interaction with the front desk. Connected rooms, where everything can be controlled via the guests’ mobile devices will be arranged.

It is expected that hotels will make adaptations to ensure plenty of outdoor space for guests.

New protocols will have to be followed in wellness centres, swimming pools and gmys when hotels will re-open.

City tours of the future

»It will be necessary to re-invent city tours following the coronavirus pandemic. In so doing there will be important roles for digitalisation and quality. Along with general best practices like masks and social distancing, operational changes like smaller group tour sizes, capacity restrictions in major attractions and distanced seating on bus tours and day trips will become normal,” said in a panel discussion Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Arlt, a member of the Committee of Experts of the World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF).