Some expect lingering concerns to slow the bounce back, while others expect pent-up travel demand to boost a recovery. It seems reasonable to presume those are both true.
As we continue to collectively cope with (and cover) this crisis, from what I can tell, there seems to be two prevailing schools of thought on what will shape the eventual recovery.
First, many reasonably believe that we’re in store for a prolonged bounce back, slowed by lingering concerns, a possible resurgence in COVID-19’s spread and a heightened level of caution that will lead to weak demand for corporate travel, large conventions and international travel in particular.
This strikes me as a reasonable presumption. Even if you waved a magic wand today and made a vaccine effective and available, there would still be the matter of uncertainty among the traveling public, whether that concern was rational or not.
And second, I’ve heard repeatedly from the most optimistic among us that operating in confinement for a prolonged period, as so many of us have been recently, is fueling pent-up demand for travel. It’s probably very true that many of us are yearning to get away, and that wish is going completely unfulfilled for the vast majority of potential travelers.
This, too, seems plausible. As someone who has been working from home for an extended time, having the opportunity to head off somewhere for a change of pace and scenery sounds remarkably appealing.
But at the same time, what someone wants and what they’re comfortable with aren’t necessarily the same thing, and individual desire to travel will do little to move the needle from a corporate travel standpoint.
As with any seismic shock we experience on a global geopolitical scale, this ongoing crisis is going to change our lives in ways we cannot yet predict or prepare for. So, there are likely to be significant variables on what the recovery ultimately looks like that we still cannot reasonably project.
It feels safe to me at least to guess that the climb back to where things were is going to be flavored with a little bit from column A and a little bit from column B.
Traveler and business concerns are real. So, too, is the pent-up demand for travel. This line of thinking is what’s guiding most people at this point. In the U.S., at least, expectations are that automotive travel and domestic leisure demand will be the quickest to bounce back, with conventions and international travel the laggards.
My takeaway is that the pain from this is going to be stretched out for a good, long time, but eventually will reach a “Goldilocks” period where that heightened travel demand is still there as confidence returns across the board.
Hopefully, we can all tough things out until then.
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