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Travel unlikely to recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2023, say industry experts

travel-unlikely-to-recover-to-pre-pandemic-levels-until-2023,-say-industry-experts

One-third of travel industry experts in Asia-Pacific expect travel to resume to pre-pandemic levels by 2023, according to a new survey by Collinson.

While most travel experts (89 per cent) believe that it is safe to travel, they are pessimistic about the industry’s recovery – whether due to the policies being put in place, wider perceptions of safety, or both. The data highlights that 31 per cent of respondents in Asia-Pacific expect travel to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023, closely followed by 2024 at 25 per cent, and late 2022 with 17 per cent.

Travel experts expect that robust testing protocols will remain key to reopening global borders until end of 2022

The survey was carried out in April 2021 by Collinson in partnership with Centre for Aviation (CAPA), polling more than 330 C-Suite and senior managerial-level travel experts globally from leading travel industry brands.

Most travel experts in Asia-Pacific surveyed overwhelmingly believe that it is now safe to travel – with 11 per cent saying it is “extremely safe” and 30 per cent saying it is “quite safe”, with a further 48 per cent saying it is “extremely safe provided preventative solutions are adhered to”. However, over half (56 per cent) are “very concerned” at reports of fraudulent Covid-19 test results and vaccination passports.

Global herd immunity is a key driver of the return to normality; and yet, because of public resistance to the vaccine in certain locations, coupled with vaccine inequality – this will take a considerably long time.

When asked what they thought was the most plausible scenario by 2022, 30 per cent of experts in Asia-Pacific believed herd immunity would be reached in the US, the UK and a select few developed nations. By contrast, 27 per cent believed a handful of smaller nations would do so, with the rest of the world including the US and the UK failing to do so. Only 16 per cent believed that most countries in the developed world would achieve herd immunity by next year.

A high number of respondents believed that leisure travel would recover significantly faster than business travel, while in both categories, shorter-haul flights will make a faster comeback.

When asked to select the most plausible scenario in 2022 for the recovery of leisure travel, 27 per cent of respondents in Asia say they expect 41-60 per cent of 2019 levels next year.

Meanwhile, the outlook for business travel markets is weaker than leisure. For short-haul flights, 31 per cent expect to see 41-60 per cent of 2019 levels next year; while 35 per cent of respondents expect longhaul business travel in 2022 will be only 20-40 per cent of 2019 levels.

Most Asia-Pacific respondents (51 per cent) expect that robust testing protocols will remain key to reopening global borders until end of 2022. Almost one-third (32 per cent) of respondents believe robust testing protocols will remain key for the next three years, while just 13 per cent expect testing will be phased out in 2021 in line with the vaccine rollout.

As such, almost half (49 per cent) of Asia-Pacific respondents believe quarantine measures will be phased out by 2022, with a further 11 per cent expecting quarantine measures to be lifted by mid-2021. Yet, 30 per cent still believe quarantine measures will remain in place beyond 2021.

Most Asia-Pacific respondents (58 per cent) expect aviation market access arrangements by governments to evolve at different rates, depending on the region/market through 2021. Over a quarter (27 per cent) expect aviation market access arrangement by governments to “remain the same until at least 2022”, while only five per cent expect access arrangements to “substantially ease” or even just “start to ease” as we go through 2021.

It is, therefore, critical for governments and members of the travel ecosystem to come together and collaborate for the safe return of global travel.

Asia-Pacific respondents overwhelmingly (75 per cent) shared the view that vaccine passports were of “vital importance”, as governments won’t reopen borders without them. Meanwhile, only 18 per cent said they were “not important” as some governments will allow access regardless of digital health documents. A further seven per cent said they were “not relevant” compared to other issues, such as mutual recognition of vaccines.

Asia-Pacific respondents were also overwhelmingly (76 per cent) concerned by reports of fraudulent Covid-19 test results and vaccination passports surfacing, with only six per cent saying they were “not concerned”.

In light of this, Collinson is supporting the development of accredited testing solutions, along with Verifly, CommonPass and IATA, including the piloting of digital health passports aimed at reducing the chance of fraudulent activity – while expediting the safe return of global travel.

“The global travel recovery won’t be immediate, but we do have the unique opportunity to make things better than ever before by working together to evolve current practices,” said Todd Handcock, Asia Pacific president for Collinson.

“This joint research with CAPA has helped shine a light on the areas that require immediate, combined focus and effort from government bodies and private organisations – particularly those in the travel ecosystem – in order to remove remaining barriers and help achieve the safe, long-term return of global travel.”

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