2020 is proving to be a year that no-one in the travel industry or travellers themselves will forget. At times, it has seemed surreal and absurd, as well as scary and uncertain. So this week, Gary and Hannah discuss 20 travel outcomes that could not have been foreseen at the end of 2019.
From Singapore Changi Airport closing 2 of its 4 terminals to a stranded Estonian tourist living in Manila Airport for 110 days, and from Chinese travellers being shut out of all SEA markets to Cambodia listing ‘Cremation Costs’ in its visitor arrival terms and conditions - the list is both thought-provoking and heart-breaking.
The show finishes by wondering how the concept of a “Travel Recovery” became the guiding philosophy for the second half of 2020. Truly unpredictable.
01:30 Number 1: The UNWTO would publish this phrase: “100% of global destinations now have COVID-19 travel restrictions,” as it did on 28 April.
“That was just unimaginable.” (Hannah)
“The demand factor and the supply factor in travel went almost to zero in March, April and May.” (Gary)
02:23 Number 2: Singapore Changi Airport, one of Asia’s primary hubs that handled 68.3 million passengers in 2019 and earned an 8th consecutive SkyTrax World Best Airport award, would operate from 2 of its 4 terminals – and defer for 2 years construction of T5.
“Singapore has seen the fallout particularly from this because they don’t have domestic flights.” (Hannah)
“It is emblematic [of the impact] of our region.” (Gary)
“You rewind back to November last year and the growth trajectory seemed like T5 was a really logical decision and made sense.” (Gary)
04:53 Number 3: Cambodia would seek to charge inbound visitors a USD3,000 deposit on arrival, part of which would cover “Cremation Costs.”
“Unfortunately, it hadn’t bothered to ask its own tourism industry, and tour operators were furious about it.” (Gary)
“It was the wrong statement made at the wrong time, and the legacy of that is consumers will remember that figure, even if you lift it or partially change it.” (Gary)
“Other countries are charging for tests, but perhaps they didn’t go into such itemised detail as meals, laundry and cremation.” (Hannah)
07:08 Number 4: Australia, a popular destination for SEA travellers, would shut its doors to all tourists possibly for all of 2020.
1.5 million visitors from SE Asia visited Australia in 2019, including:
“There was this hope that as the regeneration of the country would happen in 2020, that tourists would flow back.” (Gary)
“Southeast Asia was developing as a key inbound market, but this year that won’t happen.” (Gary)
09:08 Number 5: Cruise ships would be used as offshore quarantine retreats for COVID-19 patients in Singapore.
“That’s quite a smart idea, for the cruise ships it was a good test case to see how well they are able to minimise infection.” (Hannah)
11:04 Number 6: A marooned Estonian traveller would spend 110 days living in Manila Airport.
12:38 Number 7: The terms ‘lockdown,’ ‘travel ban,’ ‘furlough’, and ‘quarantine’ would become intrinsic to daily communication with family, colleagues and clients.
“Life has completely changed.” (Hannah)
“This move in terms of the whole terminology of health care products is so hot right now.” (Gary)
14:01 Number 8: A hotel operations director in Brunei would publicly state that housekeeping may deploy: “Electrostatic spraying technology, which uses the highest classification of disinfectants.”
“That to me sounds quite scary.” (Gary)
“I noticed yesterday that there is a hotel in Jakarta who are promoting themselves as the first hotel in Indonesia to jointly hold the hazard analysis critical control point certificate and the safeguard from Bureau Veritas.” (Gary)
15:35 Number 9: National tourism boards would replace their experiential taglines to instead present themselves as ‘trusted,’ ‘clean’ and ‘safe’ destinations.
“This shift we have seen to emphasising destinations being safe, clean, a worry-free destination instead of emphasising this experiential element that was popular before.” (Hannah)
16:52 Number 10: Consumer sentiment surveys rather than visitor arrivals, flight data and hotel occupancies would shape the budgeting and planning of tourism marketers.
“The industry was becoming very data-centric. Now there is no data.” (Gary)
“The only way that travel planners can plan for the future is to use consumer surveys.” (Gary)
“It’s not taking into account the very nuanced, will you have to quarantine there, will you have to quarantine when you come back, are there flights to get there, will you have to put down a $3,000 USD deposit, will the flights be twice the price they used to be?” (Hannah)
“When countries start to plan too far ahead, those plans, those forecasts become subject to a number of vulnerabilities, even in ordinary times. Planning beyond the end of this year is taking a huge stake on your own reputation.” (Gary)
20:30 Number 11: Any country, let alone all of them, would shut out the world’s largest outbound market: China. Some 155 million Chinese outbound trips were made in 2019.
“The whole world has been so reliant on Chinese outbound travellers generating revenue for them, making up the lion’s share of arrival numbers, and for that number to suddenly disappear - unthinkable!” (Hannah)
21:42 Number 12: IATA would predict that global air passenger demand would fall 54.7% in 2020, with a 53.8% drop in Asia-Pacific. Some 7.5 million flights are expected to be cancelled in 2020.
“I looked at the updated figures from IATA, and it’s still saying there will be a 54% drop in demand. Airline revenue losses are $419 billion USD, and a total of 7.5 million flights will be cancelled worldwide this year.” (Gary)
22:50 Number 13: As a result of (12) AirAsia would be fighting for its survival, NokScoot would be closing and Thai Airways would be in bankruptcy-avoidance turnaround.
“To a certain extent, perhaps some of these things would have happened eventually. From what I have read, NokScoot was not doing particularly well anyway, I think Thai Airways had great problems. But they probably wouldn’t have happened so soon and not all at the same time.” (Hannah)
“Most of the carriers in the regions have had some government support, but it is the private ones which are really vulnerable. AirAsia is particularly vulnerable as it has a lot of flights to and from China.” (Gary)
24:49 Number 14: The phrase ‘Travel Bubble’ (quickly followed by ‘Air Corridor’ and ‘Green Lane’) would dominate the border reopening debate, and yet not materialise.
“This term travel bubble […] is being used all over the world, particularly in our region.” (Gary)
26:34 Number 15: The UNWTO-endorsed concept of #TravelTomorrow would guide how the travel industry presented itself to consumers at the height of the crisis.
“It’s almost absurd when you take a step back and think about it.” (Hannah)
“We would never have believed when we set the podcast up that we would be talking about travel tomorrow.” (Gary)
“It’s flipped the other way - you ask people in the street or you meet when they think they will be able to travel again, and they don’t know.” (Gary)
And our bonus 5 which we didn’t have time to discuss on the episode…
Number 16: Zero (yes, 0) arrivals would be recorded in most SEA countries during April, May and June.
Number 17: Airlines and governments would provide repatriation flights from various countries, not as a result of hurricanes or earthquakes, but because of a virus.
Number 18: Domestic travel, which has long been under-valued, under-funded and under-strategised in most countries, would become the engine of a travel rebound.
Number 19: With self-drive travel forecast to continue growing aggressively in SEA, iconic rental car brand Hertz would enter Chapter 11 reorganisation in the US.
Number 20: Travel Recovery’ would become the umbrella philosophy for the tourism industry in the second half of 2020. Think about that. Travel. Recovery.