Tourism is one industry that has been affected by the pandemic. The industry which depends on in-person experience was plunged into comatose as governments restricted travel to curb the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, many tourists had to change their travel plans or cancel them outrightly as the world adjusts to life without travel.
This started an avalanche of refund requests which later spiralled into litigation as travel agents, hotels, vacation homes and airlines struggled to refund customers money for earlier bookings. The financial impact of pandemic resulted in a total revenue loss of $195 billion worldwide in the first four months of 2020. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates the travel sector alone shrunk by over 70% in 2020.
Though the travel sentiment may seem at an all-time low, tourism experts believe that people would still travel after the virus. A lot of tourists, restless by the lockdown measures, can’t wait to get back to their favourite vacation spots and tourist locations. Cruise ships are reporting record bookings for summer 2021. This does not dispute the fact that travelling patterns, and by extension, tourism has changed.
However, while global tourism is still grappling with the effects of the pandemic, companies directly affected by the sector are devising various ways to survive. This has resulted in the emergence of lower travel deals as tourism-related businesses are desperate to lure customers back to hotel rooms, vacation homes, and passenger flights. Companies which are not able to offer low prices to stimulate demand and reduce their burn rate would be forced to pack up.
The dovetailing of the tourism sector has presented ample opportunity for savvy travellers who are taking advantage of cheap deals on hotels, vacation homes, airlines, cruises to achieve their vacation dreams.
Here are eight ways the pandemic has made tourism more cost effective for consumers.
Airlines have been badly bruised by the pandemic, which has resulted in a 90% decline in air travel. Most airlines had to depend on government bailout to keep their workers and prevent them from being furloughed or sacked. However, since the government has not been forthcoming with the much-expected stimulus, they had had to lay off their workers and implement pay cuts to reduce overhead costs and cash burn. American Airlines, for example, laid off 19,000 workers in September.
To stimulate patronage, airlines are trying to lure travellers with low rates. Flights are at their historical lows this period, with some fares being reduced by as much as 40%. This means tourists can travel at lower prices, thus making tourism more affordable and cost-effective.
Cheaper accommodations and lodging
Vacation homes, hotel accommodation and lodging fees have also fallen steeply because of the pandemic. Savvy hotel managers have come up with the idea of selling credits that can be bought at a discount for future room nights, food and services like spa treatments. An example of this would be the idea of selling $100 "bonds" for $150 in credit for use after 60 days. This means that consumers can enjoy the same quality at their tourist spots for lesser prices.
Another way the pandemic has made tourism more cost-effective for consumers is that customers can now cruise at lighter costs to their pocket. Getting passengers on cruise ships as is crucial to the survival of the industry. A price-cutting strategy is the best way to be cruisers back on ships as safety restrictions are lifted. Many cruise companies are taking the bait and have slashed their prices to attract customers. One example is cruise lines that have slashed prices of week-long cruise by up to $125 to make it available from less than $630 up till May 2022.
Waivers on cancellations and changes
Cancellation and booking fees have gone under the knife as a result of the pandemic. Hotels, airlines, timeshare cancellations, cruise ships and tourist centres are waiving change and cancellation fees to increase patronage and reduce their burn rate. Consumers with long-term vacation commitments, such as timeshare, have even gone to length to cancel their vacation club points. For example, timeshare owners have contracted the Linx Legal cancellation team to get them out of their timeshare commitments. This has created a challenge for vacation clubs as consumers look for flexible and more cost-effective vacation packages moving forward. The majority of U.S. airlines typically charge a fee, about $200 for domestic flights when travellers need to change their itinerary. However, low passenger travel has forced airlines to suspend change and cancellation fees even for the lowest-priced tickets, with most intending to do so through 2020. Alaska Airlines, for example, is waiving fees on changes to new tickets booked by July 31, 2020, for travel through June 30, 2021.
No doubt the pandemic has changed the future of tourism. Tourists would more than ever, have safety concerns about their locations and itinerary. This has led to the rise of virtual tourism as customers who do not want to expose themselves to health risk, are using technology to meet their travel needs.
Virtual travel tours offer tourists a simulation of tourist locations through a sequence of photos and videos. Tourists can navigate their way through some of the world’s most famous at the swipe of a mouse. While virtual travel may not embody the same personal experience as physical travel, in the current situation, it’s probably the next best thing. Plus it saves one the pain and cost of travelling.
The pandemic has brought about an awareness of health and the role nature plays in helping us achieve healthier living. Travelers are hoping to experience nature are moving to rural enclaves, away from the commotion of urban centres and cities. This provides a cheaper alternative to tourists over visiting big cities, which are usually expensive. Rural vacations come with low priced accommodation, less money on utilities, plus you get to eat your food fresh. This is cost effective for consumers hoping to enrich their travel experience without undermining their health.
Because tourist would seek more private experience post-pandemic, tourist patterns are expected to change. Rather than going to hotels and resorts which would be crowded with people irrespective of social distancing, families may opt to have a private accommodation by renting a villa. This is extremely cost-effective, especially if you are in large groups. They provide a wider variety of options than hotels and space, which is ideal for family or group vacations.
Though there has been a rise in deals which have significantly lowered tourist expenses, consumers should be wary of the fact that this would only last as long as the pandemic. The best time to take advantage of this bonanza is now, but only after you have given your health and safety due consideration. This may be the only time tourist may have extra value for their money.