Tourism industry veteran, HotelPlanner CEO Tim Hentschel argues that a rise in tourism within the SEA region is to be expected over Q4, however, the increase may not entirely be attributed to revenge travel. Instead, Hentschel advises brands to consider region-specific characteristics as well as the lower cost of tourism in SEA.
By Tim Hentschel
Revenge travel is a term used to coin the inevitable trend of travel bouncing back once people emerge after weeks and months of citywide lockdowns. In light of the pandemic coming fast and hard, people from around the world have had to cancel travel plans they were excited for, reschedule honeymoons, and strike off casual weekend getaways.
This has inadvertently led to a pent-up desire by those who wish to catch up on missed travel opportunities, who are more than ready to get back on the road once the crisis subsides. As a response, brands and companies are already poised for a surge of travellers wanting to return home from quarantine and wishing for a casual and quick getaway.
In Southeast Asia, as the COVID-19 outbreak gradually comes under control, revenge travel becomes a matter of when instead of if. While the prospect of recession looms overhead for the hospitality industry, brands are looking at hopes of a V-shaped economic rebound due to the desire of travellers to return to normalcy.
Having been in the group travel industry for over 20 years, HotelPlanner has seen many such trends following the SARS pandemic and the 9/11 tragedy. A rebound is definitely around the corner – for some regions more than others.
Notably, the trend of revenge travel should not be expected to be consistent worldwide. For instance, in the US, revenge travel has come and gone – with a relatively short lifespan towards the end of June. Reason being, states have begun to retreat back into lockdown measures due to the increase in COVID-19 infections.
What the industry should expect to see, however, is the recovery coming in waves. As death rates begin to decline, it signals the end of the pandemic is near. What hinders this recovery, if anything, will be the over-sensationalised pieces by the media, and their constant promotion of COVID-19 hysteria. While understandable that it comes from a desire to increase viewership, this is undoubtedly keeping the economy from recovering before the November election in the USA.
The industry should be expecting a strong recovery in Southeast Asia by the end of July, assuming there is not a significant second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak resulting in an extended lockdown. What this means is that the recovery, if any, will happen in the second half of 2020.
This will definitely not be a V-shaped recovery. Right now, more than 65% of hospitality workers are on furlough, resulting in revenue losses of over 50%. Hopefully, the recovery remains strong and sturdy during the second half of the year to avoid a wave of bankruptcies in the industry.
SEA recovery will also be dependent on the health of the Airline industry. Several airlines like AirAsia and Hong Kong Air are on the brink of bankruptcy; if there is less competition in low-cost careers, prices for air travel will rise, and higher prices will hurt the recovery.
Right now, Hotelplanner is seeing a spike in last-minute staycation bookings, and weekend drive getaways to remote areas as predicted previously.
That said, governments need to do more to add stimulus to the hospitality industry. Recovery is definite, but it has been slow. This slow growth makes it difficult for hospitality companies to deliver quality products and services – all due to low staffing levels. The industry should try to keep high staffing levels to provide quality even at low occupancies. Hopefully, we can see the government help these companies with a payroll stimulus plan.
On top of that, they need to protect the people so they feel confident to travel. Seeing the effort put in to enforce prolonged lockdowns, it is the hope that authorities put in an equal amount of effort in creating a stable society for economic recovery.
The important thing is that brands should take this opportunity to capitalise on the travel surge. Seize opportunities to make their brands visible online. Travellers that embark on revenge travel are generally social media junkies that consume content from specific channels. With the increased technology literacy that has come with COVID-19 and work-from-home measures, it can also be helpful in aiding companies to overcome limited capacity measures.
One way this can be done is through keeping staffing levels efficient to deliver the best product in line with pandemic protection measures. For example, virtual meetings at hotels will be the solution to having a 200-person meeting, allowing hotels and venues to socially distance and keep capacity low.
Venues can choose to have temporary walls installed in convention halls and split up rooms of low number of people each, and tie these rooms together through virtual conference technology with cutting edge AV systems.
Keep your brand in front of your customer, constantly grow, improve and innovate, and you will be able to capture the business you need.
(Ed. Featured image courtesy of Photographer Leah Kelley.)