How the Travel Industry Responded to COVID-19

By Adriaan Brits Friday, July 3, 2020

The novel coronavirus has caused a widespread alteration in regular life around the world. Many businesses have already permanently closed their doors, with companies and businesses in hospitality, tourism, arts and entertainment, and beauty and cosmetics seeing a sharp decline in annual revenue. But with a decline in sales, and businesses closing, unemployment has skyrocketed, and the US has seen its highest unemployment rate in recorded history, currently standing at 13.3%.

Although global tourism trends will only return to normal in the coming months, some of the biggest travel companies, hotel groups, and airlines have shared a positive response adjusting to these uncertain times. Soon after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a global pandemic on 30 January 2020, many of these companies reevaluated their traditional approach to tourism, creating new ways to contain the spread of the virus.

With adjusted traveling measures implanted by national governments around the world, we can expect that foreign travel, whether by air, land, or sea, may only return later in the year. Although the positive news is that we soon might discover new and exciting cultures, this will come with some added safety precautions and perhaps an increased price.

Corporate Transparency

On the other end of the spectrum, Southwest Airlines quickly created the Southwest Airlines Community, enabling the company to communicate with its loyal customers openly. CEO Gary Kelly opted to represent the airline through videos, discussing how management and senior officials are finding better ways to continue doing business during these challenging times. 

This move has given customers a better understanding of what’s taking place behind the scenes and also makes it possible for Southwest Airlines to reach the federal government to fast-track the much-needed relief for the airline industry.

American-based travel company and mobile app TripAdvisor has also released regular updates on how the company is looking for more improved ways to help and support those affected in the industry. Company CEO and co-founder, Steve Kaufer recently announced that he would be cutting back his salary for the coming year. 

This news comes after the company released a statement regarding their change in policies, and openly communicating with clients about travel cancellations. TripAdvisor is world-known, and a 2019 news article showed that the company helps around 430 million international travelers each month.

Major travel companies, including most US-based companies such as TravelZoo and MullenLowe, quickly adapted their business model to ensure business going forward for the remainder of the year. TravelZoo’s American General Manager, Lara Barlow, managed to change the company’s weekly member emails using it as a venture to communicate company transparency. 

TravelZoo changed their basic travel policies, and making more of their deals 100% refundable and flexible for travelers. This change has enabled the company to maintain good member support and to put them at ease considering the road forward. 

The adjustment in business models has seen them remain stable, but the argument has enabled them to become more of a personalized business in terms of member representation. 

Adapting to a New Normal

Many domestic travel agents and hotel groups may not see a return to business once governments lift lockdown restrictions. The UK's Click Travel urged many hotels to contact them in advance before shutting down. The corporate travel agency used this strategy to offer nurses, doctors, and other essential workers lodging and very affordable accommodation during their increased working schedule.

The remainder of the year has not yet seemed to return to much normality as individuals, governments, and businesses try to find new ways of conducting business in an era eradicated by human disease. The interlocking ends of the tourism industry now make it possible for the adaption of customary business models, but might also see an increase and the forthcoming ingenuity and adaptability for the tourism industry.

As we look towards national governments to find solutions to the growing problem, major businesses now steer the betterment of their survival. Despite everything, the siege of the global pandemic has now made space for the revival of travel.

About the Author

Headshot for author Adriaan Brits
As an analyst of global affairs, Adriaan has an MSC from Oxford, with diverse interests in the digital economy, entertainment, and business. He is a specialist trainer in Advanced Analytics & Media.

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