The Future of Travel
Empty streets, masked essential workers, neighbors emerging from their homes weekly to applaud the medical staff - we all have most likely experienced by now - if not directly then through the media - life under lockdown. Now that some of the hardest-hit countries are starting to release the strictest measures, we need to plan for life after lockdown - a task that proves difficult given that how exactly the ‘new normal’ will shape up still remains an open question.
One of the primary quandaries on everyone’s mind is travel. The past two months have brought news that shook the entire industry. Planes grounded at major airports for weeks at a time. Hotels closing worldwide. Cruise ships stranded at sea, travelling from port to port only to be turned away.
At Minut, we’ve suffered the consequences too. We’ve had to radically change the way we work - becoming more frugal with our resources, and refocusing our short-term and long-term targets. But despite the hit we experienced, we remain optimistic about the future of the industry - because travelling, or the ability to escape the everyday, is not only a facilitator of connection between different people and cultures, but also an irreplaceable source of inspiration; a fundamental human need.
And data appears to prove that - according to Skift Research, who asked Americans if they would like to travel within three months after travel restrictions are lifted, one-third responded positively. Confirmation also comes from officials - like in Europe, where the EU’s executive Commission outlined its recommendations for reviving tourism last week. “Our thoughts are now turning toward summer and to the places that we love to travel,” announced Margrethe Vestager, a Commission deputy.
So the question then becomes not if we’re going to travel again - but how. Brian Chesky, Airbnb Co-Founder and CEO, offered his take:
Travel in this new world will look different, and we need to evolve Airbnb accordingly. People will want options that are closer to home, safer, and more affordable.
We’re already starting to see these trends play out: governments encouraging domestic travel, new security measures being introduced in airports worldwide and agencies creating offers for travellers whose disposable incomes have suddenly shrunk. Importantly, while such profound industry upheavals always prove difficult, there is a silver lining - and it’s that these changes, ultimately, will make the industry stronger and more sustainable. In the future, not only will we travel differently - we will also travel better.
Closer to Home
As travel returns, especially in the short term, we will have to find a way to do so while preserving social distancing measures. Many will want to avoid traditionally crowded means of transportation altogether; hopping into their cars and RVs that offer more privacy. Others will hope to decrease time spent in airports and train stations, and on planes and trains themselves.
The solution for most travellers becomes obvious, especially when faced with travel regulations that, aiming to prevent the dreaded second wave of the virus, will make it more difficult to travel abroad: we will travel closer to home. And tourism agencies already know that; from California, where an in-state campaign is to be launched, to France and Sweden which are encouraging domestic tourism this summer.
As we turn to exploring locally - or within the so-called “travel bubbles” which are forming around the world (most notably between New Zealand and Australia in the Asia-Pacific region; and the Baltic countries in Europe), we will stay away from crowded urban areas and tourist landmarks that attract swaths of visitors. This presents a unique opportunity for the industry to recover - especially for the short stay space, as setting up a hotel in a new location can take years, but short-term rentals can be up and running in days.
When choosing our next travel destination in the coming months, we will also pay special attention to its safety - a value that has always been at the core of Minut. Some perks like an unlimited buffet will most likely disappear from amenity listings; others, such as a communal hot tub might suddenly look significantly less appealing; instead, we’ll be examining the new cleaning protocols and valuing tech innovations designed to limit human contact and therefore the spread of the virus.
Already, terminals such as Seoul’s Incheaon, or Puerto Rico’s Luis Muñoz Marín, are pushing the boundaries of airport security for the new era. Instead of relying on controversial measures such as the so-called ‘immunity passports,’ they use technology to screen passengers for symptoms and react in real time. In the slightly more distant future, we can also imagine a more streamlined check-in process, with robots helping to shorten the usual lines, making the experience not only safer but also better.
There will be changes at the destination too. Across the industry, major hotel chains such as Hilton and Marriott and the largest STR players, including Airbnb and VRBO, are preparing for the new reality, drawing up stringent cleaning protocols and looking to new technologies to limit human contact. We hope that Minut can help here too - allowing for remote property monitoring which limits the need for maintenance checks to the minimum. As guests value privacy more, short stay listings offering the autonomy that comes with renting the whole apartment are bound to get a boost as well, since, even with new measures in place, it will still be very difficult to avoid other people in big hotels.
This drastic refocusing of the industry will also bring about some less obvious consequences. Initially, as companies are eager to kickstart recovery, they will offer discount deals making travel more affordable in the short term; but more importantly, the shift happening right now represents an opportunity to turn towards a more mindful tourist experience. We will certainly have more appreciation for travel, and slow travel might get a renaissance as well. Rather than hopping on a flight to a different city every weekend, we will choose to travel less, but for longer periods of time.
This will potentially lead to a more sustainable way of travelling, decreasing our carbon footprint, and naturally causing us to make greater effort to consult, get along with and support the local ‘host’ communities. If we’re staying in a new place for longer than just a few days, we are more likely to consider our new ‘neighbors’ and their well-being. And our new-found appreciation for nature will hopefully not only make us spend more time outdoors, but also treat the environment with more care and respect. If we’re travelling less often, and to more unusual places, the issues associated with overtourism should also disappear.
Hence, it becomes clear that the future of travel is bright, even if its details remain uncertain. At Minut, we’re confident that the industry is going to emerge stronger, and smarter, offering all of us not just a different, but a better travel experience.Nils Mattisson, Minut CEO & Co-founder