Travel and tourism had become one of the most important sectors in the global economy before COVID-19, accounting for 10 percent of global GDP and more than 320 million jobs worldwide. Given the immediate and massive shock to the tourism industry, the coronavirus pandemic has triggered an unprecedented crisis. People lived in a mobile world and assumed that until COVID-19 arrived, they would maintain the status quo in mobility; sadly, the pandemic has threatened the lives and lifestyles of millions of people. As a result, most countries declared lockdowns as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of the virus.
With over 1.4 billion domestic travelers in the pre-pandemic period, people have strong longings to travel and that desire is an internal force that drives people to fulfill physical and psychological needs for escape, recreation, relaxation, prestige, novelty, adventure, and social interaction steers one's motivation and subsequent intentions.
Several previous studies have found that people cancelled or postponed international trips or flights to avoid becoming infected during the pandemic. Such self-protective behaviours are primarily influenced by demographic factors (primarily, age and race) as well as the perceived risk of infection. People avoid travel because of the fear of the contracting virus.
While travel was restricted for the majority of last year, people are gradually resuming their normal routines. However, people's perceptions of places have shifted. According to the findings of the Future of Travel research, the majority of Indians have become more aware of the broader impact of their trips, with 70 percent of travellers wanting to travel more sustainably in the future, 78 percent of them expect the travel industry to provide more sustainable travel options to meet their needs.
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Travel social anxiety
As a result of the pandemic, increased travel anxiety has emerged as one of the key risk factors influencing tourists' holiday planning and implementation and the length of planned vacations and related activities.
Tourists adjust their plans and the choice of destination is influenced by the presence of risks, whether real or perceived; risks such as contracting a virus, to one's health, play an important role in deciding a destination and tourism provider.
Viruses are not new to travelers around the world. However, the scale and risks associated with COVID-19 are unprecedented in human history due to the ease of person-to-person transmission, long incubation period and the fear it has instigated.
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Getting away from the crowd
Travellers from India planning trips in 2021 have expressed a desire to avoid other tourists, with a surge in interest in lesser-known destinations this year. 76 percent of people will avoid crowded tourist attractions, implying that destinations will need to implement new, smart crowd management measures to appease visitors, while 54 percent of people want to travel to alternative destinations to avoid travelling during the peak season to avoid overcrowding.
Providing assistance to local communities
People's awareness of their impact on the environment and local communities has increased as a result of the pandemic. Subsequently, more sustainable, and regenerative travel is being considered by travellers. According to a survey by Booking.com, 75 percent of respondents want their travel choices to help the destination's recovery efforts, and 73 percent want to see how their spending helps the local community.
Shift toward sustainable travel
It is believed that sustainable travel will ensure that future travelers will have access to a world full of destinations worth visiting. For the past few years, developments and implementation initiatives and products are being set in motion in order to help communities, reduce over-tourism, preserve culture, and protect the environment. As a result, a long-term future in which the entire industry collaborates to further transform the global travel experience into a powerful force for good is being cultivated.
The article is authored by Arun K Chittilappilly, Managing Director, Wonderla Holidays Ltd. Views expressed are personal.