The Future of Travel Industry
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, by 2019 almost 1.5 billion people travelled abroad, when compared to 1950 only 25 million people took a trip.
The use of planes made the world a much more connected place, and the travel costs, reduced significantly. Three fifths of the international travellers during the year of 2019, arrived and departed by plane, when only 5% arrived by sea and 1% by train. This same year there was also a 35% of travellers, who crossed borders by car and those were mostly Europeans who took advantage of the high quality roads.
But what happened with Covid-19 pandemic, is that an industry based on the free movement of people got seriously damaged. Between the period of March and May of 2020, the worst year of the last decades, with consequences that haven't yet been seen, four fifths of the countries globally, closed their borders and the international flights ceased. Compared to the previous year, in 2020 the global tourism sector fell by 74%, which translated also to the loss of nearly 120 million jobs in flight companies and sectors related to tourism.
The recovery might be really slow, and it might even take 3 or 4 more years for tourism, to reach the levels it left behind in the year 2019, a year considered to be as the best year for tourism globally.
According to OECD and Euromonitor, the tourism sector might be the last one to recover, even after a long period of successful vaccinations. But this might also mean a shift in travelling habits. A shift that will involve sustainable development, and activities much more related to nature. The pandemic, showed the way to prioritize sustainable growth, as the unique viable choice for future tourism. As gas emissions from commercial aircrafts plunged during the year 2020, and many destinations which were overcrowded with tourism had chance to "detox", the direction to a future travel industry, based on less damaging results, might be the solution.
This ceasure of the global travel market, also resulted to a new trend called "rebound travel", which is mostly formed by young aged people, who after the continuous lockdowns, cannot wait to travel again, and this doesnt include only classic destinations such as Greece, but also long distance ones.
The economies have to manage extremely newly appeared trends, such as a workforce which will be totally negative to quit the flexibility and the freedom that work from home offered them, and this also extends to the new "traveller type", a notion that can be translated into travellers, who will no longer be opressed by the working schedule, that constrained them to a city centre from 9 to 5 everyday. So this instantly builds a totally new city geography especially for city breaks as we used to know them.
There is also another consequence, that might appear later in tourism industry, and might affect the companies which are not considered to be the "gatekeepers", in the long run. Until now, the middle and small sized companies involved in tourism, were completely put aside by the gatekeepers such as Facebook, Google or Expedia. Those huge players of the global market, used all the necessary data the buyers needed, and provided them without any effort or loss of time to them. Ofcourse this enabled tourists to book a trip, but same time it deteriorated the position of the smaller companies who mostly sell their product directly to customers, without the use of "third parties".
This way Facebook, or Google or Expedia, offered to buyers all the necessary data they would ask for, and helped them book quickly by offering a majority of choices, all in one platform. This can change though, and it has already been discussed that the operation of blockchain technology in travel industry, will help both industries and travellers. The use of blockchain technology, which means accepting cryptocurrencies as a form of payment, will result in booking directly both accomodation and flight, without addressing to intermediaries. This choice might also mean, that travellers can travel abroad without needing to show any documents at all, as their ID, would automatically be scanned by entering an airport, through the smart contract they would have already made during booking.
As the pandemic evolves, and economies try to recover from their injuiries, there is no question that the scenery in travel industry will change completely, and the need for companies which were put aside by the gatekeepers, to join the market more effectively, might mean blockchain technology, as a choice that will put back the non gatekeepers to the game.
written by Themis Panagiotopoulou, PhD in Political Science