While the world tourism has grounded to a halt amid discussions on possible first measures for lifting restrictions, health and hygiene will play a vital role in choosing a holiday destination.

COVID-19-related travel restrictions are still in place in all destinations worldwide. The majority of destinations have completely stopped international tourism, and some have enforced curfew.

Depending on the speed of containment, the duration of travel restrictions and shutdown of borders, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) projects international tourism to decline by 58%-78% year-on-year in 2020, causing a loss of $910 billion to $1.2 trillion in export revenues from tourism.

As tourism is one of the most labor-intensive sectors of the economy, the coronavirus crisis is foreseen to put 100-120 million direct tourism jobs at risk.

The tourism sector has entered into a difficult period with uncertainty regarding the determination of health rules for the new normal and how to apply them beside the reservation cancellations, personnel management and financing restructures.

Tourism, which will hit the bottom in May, is expected to see signs of recovery by the final quarter of 2020 with the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions

While domestic demand is expected to recover faster than international, the sector will revive in 2021.

Social distancing

Ulf Sonntag, head of market research at Institute for Tourism Research in Northern Europe (NIT), said bilateral openings of the borders, as well as domestic mobility, and social distancing rules are on the agenda of sectoral meetings.

“It’s all up to the politicians and up to the rules that are being implemented in both the originating markets but also in the destinations.”

He highlighted that demand will probably not be the problem. “There will always be enough Germans who are eager to travel; who are courageous enough to travel.”

Sonntag noted that Scandinavia and UK tourism markets are expected to open after Germany.

“The question is what will be the rules? How will authorities enforce the regulations that we will have from the health side?” he said, stressing that probably it will be a “stop and go” “trial and error” way.

Noting that questions will be clarified in next couple of weeks, Sunntag said: “That we will have at least a basis on how to plan for the summer holidays in July, August and September, there will be at least some kind of international tourism going on in Europe.”

He projected not all rooms at hotels will be available for reservations, adding that he is optimistic on solutions of regulations on how many people can be on the beach or restaurants.

Changing consumer behavior

Sonntag pointed out that consumer behavior will also change in deciding their holidays such as going for more organized holidays.

“Tour operators, especially small scale ones, and small travel agencies, are the most in danger of becoming bankrupt pretty soon and going out of the market,” he said.

“But on the demand side there is a chance that there will be more trust towards travel professionals,” he said.

While not expecting a change in the long run in international tourism, Sonntag projected that city tourism and cruise will struggle with applying possible measures on the discussion.

“Especially cruises, they are really high up in the booking for 2021 right now. So I think it will be that they will return,” he said.

Sonntag said the consumers will put more value in tourism and not just purchase a cheap trip.

“We as a customer, we reflect on why we travel, why we love to travel, what we want with travel, and so far travel, like for ourselves in a better way in the future,” he said.

Sonntag stated that the consumer health concerns will be decisive on the holiday.

“So we will look more for information on how is the situation on hygiene on disinfecting things, just making sure that you don’t catch COVID-19 but also not other disease. So the awareness is bigger there,” he said.

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