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Tourism industry starts to see some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel

Travel companies will need to make sure consumers feel safe in the post-pandemic world

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It’s probably safe to say that pegging when everything will be back to pre-pandemic normal is a leap in the dark. Just when airline associations were forecasting that things might not be back to normal until 2023, one travel research company is reading some bright spots in its tea leaves.

On Friday, Skift’s Rafat Ali blogged that, yes, the travel industry will have to learn to crawl before it learns to walk. But what he sees as he surveys the travel scene are six things that bode well, at least for travelers in the U.S.

  • Online flight searches were in the proverbial tank thanks to the shutdown, but Ali sees some upward movement, albeit on a small scale.  

  • Travelers who prefer to hit the road over flying the skies are showing renewed interest in campers and RVs. Ali notes that Honolulu, Las Vegas, and Louisville have come up tops in travel transactions for the U.S. summer.

  • New York City -- the coronavirus’ favorite place to lurk as well as a destination for nearly 70 million travelers every year -- is considering reopening the tourism sector and has a plan in place to make it happen.

  • Lodging across America hit rock bottom thanks to the spread of COVID-19, but Skift sees early signs of microscopic but real occupancy recovery. HotelNewsNow’s tracking of hotel occupancy shows that stay-overs are enjoying a fourth consecutive week-to-week increase in demand.

  • Extended stay hotels such as Extended Stay America are doing well compared to the traditional hotels and motels. Skift notes that the extended stay hotel sector held a 72 percent occupancy rate in March compared to the 42 percent hotel industry-wide average.

  • Amtrak, sensing that some travelers might feel safer in a train than a plane, is also reopening some routes on the busiest Northeast corridor.

Between the lines

We’re far from being out of the woods, but any forward movement, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. 

It’s worth shouting out travel sector companies like Airbnb, which is doing everything it can to take the worry out of staying at one of their host’s places. But it’s something that the company has to commit to long term.

“The coronavirus pandemic has raised the stakes when it comes to making customers feel safe and comfortable. Sharing economy companies, such as Airbnb and Lyft, will have to find ways to convince customers their services are safe, while not imposing such severe standards on hosts and drivers that they abandon work.” Axios’ Ina Fried wrote.

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