We asked five travel and hospitality leaders about the future of the industry and how drastically different it will or won’t be post-pandemic. Check out their insights below, and find more in-depth information about leading through the COVID-19 crisis in Women Leading Travel & Hospitality’s latest report, Leading Through Crisis.
Women Leading Travel & Hospitality: Do you believe consumer attitudes towards travel have been permanently altered by the pandemic, or is this a phase and they will revert back to where we were pre-pandemic? Why do you feel this way?
Natalie Bowman, Managing Director, Marketing and Advertising, Alaska Airlines
I think for the next few years, leisure travel will be more purposeful. Whether it’s reconnecting with a loved one or celebrating a milestone missed during the pandemic, leisure trips will mean more and be appreciated more. I believe business travel will be slower to recover as people see how efficient they can be with virtual meetings. However, the power of face-to-face meetings will eventually drive business travelers back into the air.
Ali Daniels, Chief Marketing Officer, Visit Seattle
I do believe the pandemic has permanently altered travel, but I don’t think it’s negative. Far from it. I think we’re going to appreciate travel — and everything that goes into the travel experience — more than ever.
Nothing else can fill your cup the way travel can. You just can’t duplicate the feeling of experiencing a new culture or exploring a new destination. So many of us are yearning for it. And I truly believe we will appreciate it in ways we never have before. I also see a permanent respect for the health and wellness of fellow travelers — stay home if you don’t feel well, wear a mask in public, etc.
Jessica Davidson, Senior Vice President, Digital and Brand Marketing, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
At Wyndham, 87 percent of our hotels are in “drive-to” markets, and we cater to the leisure traveler. Guests hitting the road for the first time since the pandemic will likely feel some hesitation at first, which is why it’s so important to offer information about health and safety protocols, flexibility, etc. When we deliver a positive experience, guests are apt to feel more comfortable to travel again. I expect the vaccine rollout will have a bearing on shifts in attitudes towards travel, with people being more open and appreciative of new freedom.
Dorothy Dowling, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, BWH Hotel Group
All data currently suggests that leisure travel will return quickly and strongly. According to demand indicators, we can expect to see this return in this year’s third quarter. In terms of consumer attitudes being altered, I think the value of travel and visiting friends and relatives has been highlighted as critical to our well-being.
Travel has been an essential part of the basket of goods for most consumers for quite some time and, ultimately, it will return to pre-pandemic levels. Also, I believe some of the cleanliness and hygiene protocol changes that have occurred through COVID will remain in place long term. Additionally, the industry as a whole is trying to redefine the breakfast experience and how housekeeping will evolve into the future.
Isis Ruiz, Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President, Norwegian Cruise Line
The travel industry, and specifically the cruise industry, have been one of the most affected by the pandemic. Together, we have a huge responsibility ahead of us — restoring traveler confidence. The negative media coverage, constant state of uncertainty, and conflicting misinformation in the public impacted the overall image of the $150 billion-plus global cruise industry.
However, with vaccines rolling out and consumers starting to feel more comfortable with traveling, our 2022 booking rates demonstrate there’s incredible pent-up demand, especially with our loyal customer base who remain engaged and eager to cruise. As a business, we need to instill confidence within the wider traveling public.
With 17 innovative ships sailing to nearly 300 destinations around the world, and tremendous growth planned for the brand with six new vessels joining the fleet between 2022 through 2027, we believe in our product and our ability to deliver safe, extraordinary vacations tailored to every type of traveler. Once we’re able to safely relaunch our ships and demonstrate how we have innovated the cruise experience to ensure an even safer experience for our guests and the destinations we visit, I know that our business will be back and well positioned for a post-pandemic world.