Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, no sector in the economy has been hit harder than the travel industry. Following rolling global lockdowns through last spring, and resulting border closures and travel bans, both tourism and business travel was at a virtual standstill, with an estimated 98% drop in the number of international tourists when compared with the previous year, according to the World Tourism Organization.
Still, the summer was seen as a crucial indicator of both short and long-term prospects for the travel industry. Throughout the world, many made sure not to miss their summer holiday, but there are signs that people are traveling differently, with many preferring to wait until the last minute to book their tickets, choosing reimbursable options, or foregoing international travel altogether to avoid any possible closures or quarantines.
While it's unclear whether these travel trends will last longer than the pandemic itself, here are some examples of sectors inside the global travel industry that are witnessing big changes:
Language Learning In France — In France, foreign language study abroad programs have been struggling to adapt to the pandemic, with an estimated loss of 70-80% in turnover since March, according to Le Monde. "At the beginning of March, almost overnight, everything stopped," recalled Gérald Soubeyran, director of Effective Linguistics.
• Many French students tend to travel abroad to English-speaking countries like Britain, Ireland or the United States, to improve their language skills. However, with border closures, quarantines, slowed air traffic and closed language schools, not to mention those struck by the coronavirus itself, business has virtually ground to a halt.
• Director of the organization Route des Langues, Laurent Pasquet notes that "Even when it was possible to leave for certain destinations, there was a strong psychological effect. Faced with so many uncertainties, families did not want to send their children abroad."
• Anglais In France, which connects French students with native English speakers currently living in France, has seen interest grow since the onset of the virus. According to program manager Jennifer Laur, this is because of the program's ability to teach students away from home in a way that is "reassuring" for their parents.
A couple takes advantage of an oportunity to "glamp" in a nature reserve in the UK — Elmley Nature Reserve
Glamping In UK — While the virus has frozen travel to many cities and metropolitan areas that were once sought-out travel destinations, the countryside made a comeback in the UK this summer.
In a country that can never seem to make its mind up on whether or not to quarantine, making travel plans abroad is a gamble for British nationals. Because domestic travel is the best way to avoid a two-week quarantine or being stranded on the wrong side of a border closure, many new and unusual rural opportunities are opening up across the UK:
• The trend has even opened up opportunities for farmers and rural landowners who were anticipating a hard year due to the removal of EU agricultural subsidies and an expected economic downturn to open up their land for camping, glamping and more.
• As Simon Foster, director of tourism, told The Guardian, "People are looking for somewhere safe, secure, secluded, where they can hunker down for a week, rather than staying in a big resort or a big caravan park or hotel."
Monumental Reopenings In India — How can you shut down one of the seven wonders of the world? Well that's what happened when the Taj Mahal was closed indefinitely to the public in mid-March amid the nationwide lockdowns in India to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. The Taj Mahal and neighboring monuments are now set to re-open mid-September, but that doesn't mean tourism in the region will return as normal.
• All visitors will be screened and sanitized before entering monuments, tickets will be online purchase only, visitors will be required to wear masks and the visitor limit will be set at 2,000 people per day, The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) stated.
• According to the Indian daily Hindustan Times, the hospitality industry is also anticipating the return of tourism. Beyond exchanging handshakes for namastes, guests will also have to sign a declaration that they are not infected with the COVID.
• New innovations to the industry include thermal temperature guns, UV sanitizer boxes available for each guest to sanitize their belongings, special floor mats to clean and disinfect shoes, full protective gear for housekeepers and even security gates with ionizers to kill the virus on the hair of guests.