Aerial views: What industry leaders have to say about pandemic travel trends
When borders closed over a year ago, people sought alternatives to feed their travel appetite — leading to new travel trends. In the second episode of Think Travel: Leadership Circle, host Hermione Joye, who leads the Google travel sector out of Singapore, chats with leaders from Changi Airport Group, Airbnb, and SW Associates to understand how these trends will affect the future of the travel industry.
Scott Wayne, president of sustainable travel consultancy SW Associates, says that a yearning to travel has propelled people to rediscover the attractions in their backyard, like visiting parks and open spaces. They’re also going online to discover new experiences. Wayne said, "The pandemic pushed more people in APAC online for work, study, shopping, [and] virtual experiences. Everything from tours of chocolate factories, cooking and music lessons, to even meditation sessions."
Travelers want to feel safe and receive hygiene information as they prepare for travel. Jayson Goh, Changi Airport Group’s managing director of airport operations management, believes this heightened attention to safety and hygiene will likely remain a priority for people traveling post-pandemic. So Changi Airport Group began allowing people to schedule their check-in and boarding times to minimize interactions at the airport. They also created an app called Safe Travel Concierge that “allows passengers to look up all the necessary conditions and requirements they need to fulfill before catching the plane and coming into Changi,” says Goh.
According to Wayne, the halt in business travel resulted in a $120 billion impact on travel spending in APAC. Parin Mehta, Airbnb’s regional director in APAC, notes that an up-and-coming form of business travel is what Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky calls a “hub-and-spoke model” of living and working. People shuttle between a home base and their company’s offices, often for weeks or months at a time. Airbnb saw a 5X increase year over year in the number of guest reviews that mentioned this idea of remote work.
A similar emerging travel trend is the rise in “workcations” — a vacation that combines work and leisure time with the family. In tandem with this trend, Airbnb is seeing more long-term stays. In Q1 2021, 24% of all Airbnb stays were for over 28 days, compared to 14% in Q1 of 2019. “We’re really seeing this blurring between work, living, and travel. For consumers, we think there’s a big opportunity for hosts who can provide a family- or work-friendly environment,” says Mehta.
Further, “72% of travelers,” especially among millennials and Gen Z, “believe that people need to act now and make more sustainable travel choices to save the planet,” said Google’s Head of Travel Sustainability Sebnem Erzan. Erzan believes brands can cater to this increased appetite for sustainable travel practices to capture attention from people traveling after the pandemic. “Anything you are doing that will have the least negative impact on the environment is important for the travelers who are concerned about sustainable travel. You need to share what you’re doing with travelers.”