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The Rise of Revenge Travel

One of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic was travel. When the virus became real and billions of people locked themselves into their homes, travel all but stopped. And airlines, hotels and all ancillary businesses started to collapse.

People stopped doing anything; unless it was seen as essential – holidays and work travel became words from another time in history. And as cases rose, so did the fear of the virus. No one left home until it was absolute necessary, which led to the downfall of all things travel.

The Hilton hotels, for instance, saw a $31 billion drop from in valuation between January and April. American Airlines and Expedia – a travel booking platform, too incurred losses in billions. Zoom, in comparison, saw a stratospheric rise – and was valued higher than American Airlines, Hilton Hotels and Expedia combined at this same time.

So yes, travel was (is) seeing its worst moment.

Throwing caution to the winds

Now, there’s been a change in thinking. People are experiencing, what’s being termed as COVID-fatigue, and are willing to risk going out. As a result, travel is seeing a bit of a resurgence – not air travel that much, but more road trips and hotel bookings.

When COVID came, it divided the world into two kinds of people – those were mortally afraid of the virus and thus locked themselves into their homes, and those who had a more what-will-be-will-be attitude.
And while the former still stay in, the latter are now travelling with a vengeance.

And that’s good

When the March lockdown went into place,  Indian hotels registered a 12% – 14%  decline in average daily rates and an 80 per cent YoY decline in Occupancy Rate. Additionally, seven countries recorded a decline in YoY Occupancy Rate higher than 70 per cent with Italy recording the highest at 93 percent.

According to UNCTAD’s report Covid-19 and Tourism: Assessing the Economic Consequences, here are the 15 most affected countries.


Therefore, if there are chances of travel picking up, whether domestic or international, itwill benefit the  hospitality sector (given that proper covid19 protocols are maintained).

And revenge travel could also lead to a revival of other, travel-dependent sectors.. The (same) UNCTAD report also observed that a number of sectors (such as suppliers to hotels, food and recreational activities) are linked to tourism and its decline indirectly affects these sectors. Here’s a look at the sectoral output impact.

The report recorded that a $1 million loss in international tourist revenue could lead to a fall
in national income of $2-3 million. Revenge travel could, therefore, be the boost every economy is looking for.

Where and how are people travelling?

As China reaches nearly a year of lockdown, the Chinese government itself is promoting revenge travel to boost economy. China already began to see a boost during its Golden Week, generating some 174.5 million yuan ($25.7 million) in revenue! As per McKinsey’s survey, domestic destination remains the most realistic choice for Chinese travellers.

India is also expected to experiencing a rise in travel. . According to STR, destinations like Rajasthan, Punjab, Karnataka, and Goa have all seen a huge rise in domestic leisure guests. Kochi, Jaipur, Agra are among the popular destination. It would seem that short leisure car access (as even reflected in Chinese travellers) is preferred over flight travel. Leisure travel is seeing a 30-40% rise, while corporate travel is at 10-20% of pre-pandemic times. Perhaps, revenge tourism within one’s own country could be the first step each country could adopt and salvage what they can from Covid19’s annihilation of the tourism sector.

The labour challenge

When the global lockdown was initiated, millions of jobs were affected. Tourism sector was one that received a huge blow. The World Travel and Tourism Council estimated in (March) that the number of jobs at risk from COVID-19 pandemic is up to 75 million. India came in the second most affected country after China.

Also, as hotels let go of staff, people returned to their hometowns. Now, with the rise of travel, the hotels are facing a curious problem – an acute shortage of staff. Some previous employees are too far to return, others don’t want to risk being back. So while people are thronging to hotels in droves, waving their COVID-negative certificates, the latter are finding it hard to cope.

Long road still

While this may be good news for the travel sector, it’s still going to be a long road to recovery – MakeMyTrip, a travel booking platform in India, has seen an 82% drop in the company’s revenues , with its losses increasing by 41% this quarter. The story is the same in many other countries as well. In the UK, for instance, a second lockdown has been another blow for the travel sector. Getting away on a short vacation is now an option anymore, even for those willing to risk it.

According to Suman Billa, Director, United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)Technical Cooperation & Silk Road Development predicts that tourism industry will recover only by the end of next year or early 2022.
Looks like till then only the Revenge Travellers will be the ones taking to the road. Sadly, that won’t be enough to revive the industry, though it might give it temporary a shot in the arm.

Date added
02.11.2020

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