On this week’s broadcast of Eye on Travel, Peter once again covers the travel industry’s road to recovery, including the Black Lives Matter movement. Is there a connection between the two? Absolutely, and it will continue to affect the way we travel moving forward, if we are to move forward at all. Author and Founder of the Young China Group, Zak Dychtwald, details how China and the United States’ travel and tourism industries are intertwined, and the financial and brain drain impacts affecting both countries. Author Pico Iyer shares his world view of why most travel predictions are misguided — from what the pundits were saying during Y2K and after 9/11 until now. He argues that the need to be acquainted with the world is a fundamental human longing that isn’t going to go away. And then, he makes a few predictions of his own as to where and how he thinks the world will get back to traveling. We’ll also focus on the continuing problem of passengers getting the refunds they deserve — with a surprise guest. There’s all of this and more on this week’s broadcast of Eye on Travel.
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Brett Tollman, CEO of The Travel Corporation, addresses the concerns of customers from its subsidiary companies: Trafalgar and Uniworld. He acknowledges that all travel companies were put in an unexpected and unprecedented situation. Because the corporation spans globally, it was left in a position of ceasing all operations on a level that could have never been anticipated. The corporation has had to reposition itself from some markets, but not the sudden business stop from all of them. With that acknowledged, the primary concern is taking care of customers and those who have been willing and able to accept vouchers for rescheduled trips have seen 10-15% value increases on those trips. The Travel Corporation has operated for over 100 years, and it’s his intention for it to continue for 100 more.
James Thornton, CEO of Intrepid Travel, dissects some of the barriers that the travel industry will face moving forward from this pandemic. We have an amazing opportunity to rebuild better. It tries to encourage the industry to emerge from this crisis more responsibly. Now is the time to partner with NGOs, and he wants other companies to adopt more ethical practices. Intrepid has suspended all of its travel through September. The intention is to start operating in a limited capacity in October. Protecting its customers and communities is the first priority, followed by reinforcing travelers’ confidence.
Shannon Knapp, President & CEO of The Leading Hotels of the World, covers the hotel brand’s initiatives to help increase its customers comfort level to travel again. There’s a “Healthy Stay” commitment. The focus is going to be on cleanliness with concentrated efforts including certifications from third party organizations. The hotels are receiving expert medical guidance, as well as partnering with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), a Division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, to offer GBAC STAR facility accreditation to its members. The hotels are also now partnered with the Leading Quality Assurance (LQA) and have developed new hygiene standards. Steps are being made to help ensure that the hotels are clean, safe, and offering peace of mind to visitors.
Zak Dychtwald, Author of Young China and Founder of Young China Group, explains that China and the United States are the world’s two largest powerhouses when it comes to travel and tourism and the two can’t exist without the other. China has now started to allow tourism from locations that are handling the pandemic well. No matter how politically fraught the two countries are, the economic need of tourism will win out. Two of the first countries that China has reopened to are Taiwan and Korea, countries with traditionally strained relations. China has become one of the largest purchasers of luxury items from around the world, which is also now being impacted. The other big factor that many don’t look at is the amount of international students coming from China. A lot of our education system is propped up by the money coming in from Chinese students. Now, a lot of students are nervous to come to the United States because of travel but also because of the struggles and financial constraints they may now face in trying to get back to China. There is hope on the horizon though, and we should be looking at China’s recovery.
Pico Iyer, Author of A Beginner’s Guide to Japan, speaks about not when we will travel but how we will travel. He believes that people have very short attention spans and thinks that people won’t be concerned about coronavirus a year from now. The need to be acquainted with the world is a fundamental human longing that isn’t going to go away. He believes that we will take calculated risks, where people might eat out or go out less to justify their travels. Many have rediscovered aspects of home that they love, but people need to travel and go out to balance life. So although it may look slightly different, he thinks people will want to travel as soon as possible.
Chris Elliott, Author, Advocate and Journalist, talks about trying to get back to the United States from France. He shares the companies he worked with to cut through the red tape, including MedJet and Valerie Wilson Travel. There were no repartition flights back from France, and the only flight options were around 10,000 euros a person to get home. Since he had travel insurance, it took care of getting him home and he never saw a bill. If he had booked the exact same itinerary home, it would have cost him $6,000 a ticket. Travel insurance, if not read correctly, can be a big ripoff. Make sure with everything you’re booking, including travel insurance, that you read the fine print. Also make sure you’re getting your full refunds, not partial refunds or vouchers. For example, with “cancel for any reason,” you’re only getting about a 75% return.
Irene S. Levine, Forbes Contributor, thinks that tour operators are going to have some major changes when reopened. Some operators may require screenings or proof of immunity. We are also going to see people wanting to do smaller private tours and only doing them with people that they already know, not strangers. Outdoor and walking tours are going to be among the first to come back and many previous tours might be accommodated to be outside. There will also be a rise in virtual tours or tours that have a virtual aspect instead of hands-on elements. The advantage of having a local tour guide is having someone that has a pulse on the specific changes of that location, such as regulations or adjusted venue and restaurant hours. You’ll need locals to even tell you which restrooms are open and clean.