My predictions on the future of travel after the coronavirus pandemic.
I logged in and looked at my blog’s analytics, feeling a mix of panic and fear as I came face to face with the reality of what was happening. Coronavirus wasn’t just devastating for people’s health, it was killing businesses, crushing ambitions and destroying dreams.
My blog is my home online. The place where I can be 100% honest. So, it’s time to face facts, and some of them are pretty hard to stomach. This isn’t a ‘poor me’ post, it’s just time to be realistic, reflect a little and look at how this could play out from here on.
Personally, I’ve found the last six weeks a struggle. I’m sensitive and emotional, and find myself easily wrapped up in the horrors and the heartbreaks of the headline news. There was the devastating tale of the mother who lost her 13-year old son to the deadly virus. The frontline medical staff fearing for their lives as they go to work without suitable protection. Reports of death bed goodbyes via video chat and funerals with no attendees.
Here I am shedding another tear thinking about it all. It’s impossible not to. It’s been utterly horrific.
My mind has wandered to those I’ve met during my time blogging. The small businesses on remote islands who rely on tourism. How are they coping? The beautiful hotels and restaurants in northern Italy – a region that will need more support than most once travel restrictions lift. The communities I’ve visited, which I fear won’t have the medical support required if the virus reaches them.
Travel is a gift and a privilege. It’s taught me so much about compassion, and that’s what keeps ringing through all of this.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel blogging
I’d be lying if I said the pandemic hadn’t hit me in other ways than my emotions. My blog has always been my passion project, but it’s grown into a full-time business over the last five years.
It receives approximately 180,000 monthly pageviews, that’s an average of 6,000 views per day. My content covers destinations around the world, from the UK and Europe, to Asia and South America and the majority of my readers are based in English-speaking countries (US, UK, Canada, Australia).
My top posts are detailed travel guides of over 3,000 words, with plenty of photos, helpful tips and personal recommendations. Similar to journalists working on travel features for newspapers, I go on press trips, then create a mix of video, photography, social media and written content to promote the destinations.
As coronavirus started to spread across from Asia to Europe, I saw the number of visitors to my blog dipping a little. They decreased at a rapid pace from mid to end of March. By April 1st I had my lowest day for traffic in years, with just 685 views – around 10% of my usual daily traffic.
Friends were losing jobs and being furloughed, and I was sharing in that feeling of loss. Grieving a little as I knew the repercussions this drop in visitors would have on my business.
Around 50% of my annual income is generated via my website. That’s via advertising revenue and affiliate income (earned when people booking hotels or tours through my blog). Advertising revenue dipped to around 10% of what it would usually be, and the other bookings? Well, the world had hit pause, so there were no future bookings and all upcoming bookings evaporated into thin air.
I mean, are you starting to plan your next holiday when you have no idea how long this will go on for? Probably not – where’s the motivation? If anything, it almost feels like torture to look at photos of beautiful destinations around the world when you’re confined to a small radius around your home!
I know I’m not alone. My friends across the travel industry are watching as their PR clients pause their contracts, hotels close indefinitely and airlines are grounded.
The rest of my annual income comes from travel campaigns for brands and tourist boards. Usually these involve travelling to a destination to shoot videos and photos, as well as create engaging social media content and informative travel guides.
The week before the US banned entry from the UK, I was all set to fly to Florida for a job with the tourist board out there. A few days before the flight, the job was postponed. Since then, four other jobs have been postponed, and who knows whether they’ll be back on the table post-pandemic.
Tourism is going to struggle – a lot of money has been lost, travel companies are suffering and ultimately there will be casualties.
Will I be one of them too? I guess that depends how long this goes on for.
The number of friends who have asked, “So what the hell are you doing now you can’t travel?” as if jet-setting was the only thing I did!
It’s an interesting one. Suddenly I have weeks to learn new skills and face admin jobs that always seemed a little overwhelming or low down the priority list. I have time to improve the SEO of old posts and create new ones from content I’ve been sitting on for a while. I have time to dedicate to working on our new site, The Great British Bucket List, writing blogs about destinations closer to home for when restrictions lift.
I would never choose to take three months off travelling to sit at my laptop, but there’s something quite precious about it. After a few months with low traffic and earnings close to zero, there’s potential for a big boom once the world opens up. Who knows…
The future of travel
There have been a lot of debates about how the travel industry will look after the pandemic. While it’s impossible to predict, It’s something I’ve thought a lot about.
I have no idea whether any of this will happen or how things will shift, but it’ll be an interesting phase to watch develop. There’s definitely potential for some positives to come from all of this too.
Is this a chance to press reset?
There’s been a huge positive emerge from this tragic pandemic, and that’s the decrease in pollution and carbon emissions. With factories closing, cars off the roads and planes grounded, the world has had a chance to press reset.
We knew there was a climate change emergency, and that countries around the world needed to work together to deal with it. Suddenly, the pause button has been pressed out of the blue.
Have we bought ourselves some time? Could some of the changes stick long term? Who knows, but this is a big opportunity to take a look at the evidence and see what changes could be made to preserve our planet.
Could there be an increase in responsible travel
Hand in hand with the idea of resetting comes the idea of a more responsible style of travel. Many had started to adopt this anyway, opting to take trains rather than fly, or reduce their air travel, looking at alternative destinations closer to home.
There were several destinations suffering from the effects of over tourism. Venice, Barcelona, Iceland, Machu Picchu and Cinque Terre were all saying ‘PLEASE DON’T COME HERE ANY MORE!’ They were struggling with the number of tourists visiting, and the destruction they caused.
With so much evidence of the positive effects that the lack of travel is having on the planet, will more people be swayed into making more responsible travel plans? Will people switch obvious destinations for alternatives or stay closer to home? I hope there is a shift, and a I know I have an important responsibility to encourage this too.
And then there are the prices. There’s a chance that while some costs will drop in the short term (for example Easyjet has dropped some of its usually costly baggage charges to just 99p!) that the overall cost of a holiday will go up. Fewer businesses surviving may push prices up in popular areas of the world, and some businesses will need to up their rates in order to claw back some cash.
If prices rise, we’ll need to consider each trip more thoroughly. Hopefully the responsible elements will factor in that decision-making process.
A UK staycation boom
99.99999% of Brits I’ve spoken to have said they can’t wait to travel somewhere further than their own town or neighbourhood once restrictions start to lift. Most have said they’re already thinking about getaways within the UK.
I’ve been watching how the rest of Europe is handling things. Lockdown is lifting in different phases in each country. Austria are easing their restrictions, Germany is dabbling its toe in the water too. President Macron has closed France’s borders with non-European countries until further notice. Will other countries open up or remain closed? How limited will our movement be? And how long is ‘until further notice’ or ‘indefinitely’ – buzzwords and phrases of the moment, along with ‘unprecedented’ of course!
Who knows what will happen, but I predict UK staycations will be massive this summer and into autumn.
A lot of people are craving a holiday of some form, as well as longing to be reunited with family who they’ve been separated from for weeks.
Personally, I’d love to have a little break by the seaside in Devon or Cornwall, and will be hopping on a train to visit my mum and sisters as soon as I’m allowed.
A shift in travel demographics
Over 70% of those who have sadly passed away from COVID-19 have been over 65 years old, and in many countries, those in older generations have been sheltered from society as much as possible throughout the outbreak. It’s a dangerous disease for all generations, but it’s far deadlier for those in their later years.
So, how likely is it that those in this age group are going to be travelling as actively as they once were? Will those who have been shut away for months be dreaming of crowded airports and planes, or just fancy exploring places closer to home, without the stresses attached to travelling abroad? It’s likely they’ll be advised to take more precautions, and perhaps wait until there is a vaccine on offer.
I know from talking to friends who are in their 30s, that they’re excited for travel restrictions to lift. They’ve felt gutted to cancel holidays that they’d spent months planning and saving up for. “I’ll be on the first plane out of here once we’re allowed to travel again,” one of them said to me last week.
I think this reflects how a lot of us are feeling right now, and I’m not just talking about frequent travellers. Many are feeling claustrophobic and frustrated, and craving that escape.
With the number of older travellers adapting their style of travel to stay closer to home, brands and tourist boards will need to focus on attracting younger travellers. I wonder if this will make influencer marketing in travel more vital than ever.
Targeted campaigns via top travel influencers are a great way to reach travel lovers in the 18-45 demographic, so perhaps there will be a boom in this area of travel marketing as part of tourist boards’ recovery plans.
Escapist travel on the rise
The other type of travel I think will be big is the escapist sort. The ‘f*** we made it through, now get me the hell out of here to somewhere really special / different / exotic’ type of travel!
This has been a scary time for many. People have lost family, friends and been isolated from their loved ones. They’ve watched days on end of harrowing news reports. They’ve been cooped up trying to look after their kids while holding down a full-time job. Some have lost jobs or been furloughed, while others have been searching for new ways to cope with what life has flung at them.
It’s not been easy, and it’s not over yet.
My prediction is that in 2021 (assuming things have settled or there is a vaccine in place) people who can afford to, will go on some pretty incredible trips. There will be a travel boom. Two years of holidays rolled into one big adventure.
It’ll be time for the safari you’ve always dreamed of or the Caribbean adventure you’ve seen in movies. The US road trip you always talked about or that European city break you never got around to.
We’ll have been starved of celebrations, happy times and memories, and we’ll have some making up to do.
An increase in budget travel
For some, this next phase of travel may be on the budget end of the scale. Most people I know with their own businesses have suffered greatly in the last few months. Even with a little bit of government help, purse strings are likely to be tighter for a while.
No doubt, cheaper destinations or UK staycations will be more favourable for the rest of 2020. See, we’re back to staycations again!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings on this topic. I’ve had so many thoughts, there’s every chance I’ll read this back tomorrow and feel totally differently. While I can’t predict the future, I know that we’re all in this together, and we’ll come back stronger than ever… once the time is right.