As we step into a hazy future filled with uncertainty and an impending sense of doom, the world we once knew seems to be in the back of beyond.
And in these unstable and tense times, the one thing that will surely suffer a welt will be the future of travel.
As per a report by market research provider Euromonitor International, the travel and tourism industry is likely to suffer through the effects of the pandemic for another five to 10 years, bringing the entire industry on its knees. However, limited stretches of recovery are expected to drive the initial rebound in certain regions like domestic and short-haul travel.
We spoke to a number of experts in the field to get a glimpse of what the future looks like for travel enthusiasts waiting to plan their next vacation.
The post-pandemic world would not just spiral the fear of health hazards but the dark clouds of financial instability will also take over.
Komail Naqvi, CEO and founder of Pakistan’s largest travel portal, FindMyAdventure, gave his take on how his platform is trying to keep consumer confidence high while still being responsible for the type of experiences they can offer at a time like this.
“We’ve been making active efforts to facilitate our customers with regards to queries and confusions, while constantly innovating and coming up with new experiences we can offer. Our top priority right now is to offer experiences that are safe,” he said.
“All of us, consumers and service providers alike, need to educate ourselves, behave responsibly, and prioritise health over recreation,” he added.
Pakistan’s tourism scene plunged after the pandemic as swiftly as it rose, driving many out of business, and leaving countless fearful of the times ahead.
Amtul Baweja and Fahad Tariq, the superstar duo behind the travel company Patangeer, walked us through the future of Pakistan’s tourism industry and how it can recuperate from the COVID-19 aftershock.
“After almost 20 years since 9/11, we had finally established our country to be safe for travel, which had created business and that is why we say, travel locally and support these tour guides and companies,” Tariq told Geo.tv.
Speaking about how the industry can rise once again, Baweja and Tariq stressed on the government’s efforts to spread awareness about precautionary measures that should be essential for travelling even years later.
Naqvi also gave his take and how FindMyAdventure is aiming to give back to the battered industry. “Tour guides and porters have found themselves struggling to make ends meet. We realised they needed help, which is when we started our Guide Fund, through which we managed to raise millions of rupees which went to families across Pakistan.”
Safaa Rauf, CEO of travel company Utopia Retreats and a prominent name in Pakistan’s digital marketing and blogging circles, laid out a plan that can bring us back on track: rehabilitation of cultural landmarks and a dedicated marketing team for the country’s tourism.
However, before we tread towards that, she also reminded us that, “First, we need to make sure the country is safe for international and local tourists. This means flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases.
“We, as a country and nation, have a lot to offer and can work towards growing our tourism sector,” Rauf told Geo.tv.
With the industry being thrown into disarray, many are now heading towards other digital routes to keep their businesses afloat.
Naqvi offered a prime example of how even bigshots are moving to digital alternatives. “Most businesses have started focusing on digital content, and have moved towards providing digital variants of their products. In a conversation which we had with one of Airbnb representatives, he detailed how the initiative was executed from the ground up, with each process being done manually.”
According to Euromonitor International’s Travel Forecast Model, some of the countries that will witness the sharpest decline in the global consumer expenditure due to a drop in tourism, include India, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Trishita Bhattacharya, an acclaimed travel photographer and blogger based in Mumbai, India showed a glimpse of what a world wary of travel would look like.
“I think we're all going to be really careful till a vaccine comes out and wouldn't be travelling internationally at least. Humans will be extra careful and take precautionary measures after this. Countries will set their own rules regarding travel and we'll have to adapt to the ‘new normal’,” she said in a conversation with Geo.tv.
“Looking at the current scenario, domestic tourism is the only thing that can work for us. Travelling domestically and within Indian states will help us in increasing the revenue on an individual level,” she added.
Healthcare official, avid traveler and an emerging blogger from Hong Kong, Susanna Tsui also spoke about how her love for travel has fallen into jeopardy: “I guess long distance travels may decrease but prices would always be my biggest concern when I travel. I love travelling to Middle Eastern countries but if flight prices surge I would surely step back and switch to nearby ones.”
As tourism takes a hit and travel becomes a luxury, the days of backpacking across continents and staying confined on a limited budget seem to be behind us.
Our travel gurus, however, are giving some expert advice on how to keep your travel bug alive while also ensuring you're being safe and keeping your wallet in check.
“Rent a car, get a tent and head to the closest place to you. There are lots of places you can look up now that are very safe to camp. Much cleaner and safer than staying in hostels or hotels,” suggests Baweja of Patangeer.
Naqvi, on the other hand, wants to make sure precautionary measures remain the uppermost priority not just for FindMyAdventure but for anyone looking to travel: “The biggest tip would be to make sure that they’re taking all the right precautions and have done their homework thoroughly on the location they’re planning on visiting.”
Bhattacharya recommends: “The tips that can help in any travel is cheaper air tickets, and leaving out the expensive adventure parks and expensive touristy spots.”
According to Rauf, spending on experiences should be more important than splashing out on luxury travel. “Pre-plan and pre-book trips months in advance to take advantage of lower costs, spend time with locals to find out of cheap deals and budget-friendly things.”
Tsui deems a shift in travel destinations in terms of distance to be of more use in compressing the budget. “To keep renewing our travel experiences, travelers can choose to focus on nearby countries. Like for me, the Southeast Asian countries save the biggest expense in trips which are flights,” she said.