Are people becoming more confident to travel? While a precise answer may be difficult, a global poll of recent travellers reveal growing confidence in a return to air travel, which is badly hit because of the pandemic.
Future travel trends highlighted in the IATA survey indicate 57% expect to be travelling within two months of the pandemic being contained (improved from 49% in September 2020).
Of the surveyed, 72% want to travel to see family and friends as soon as possible (improved from 63% in September 2020) while 81% believe that they will be more likely to travel once they are vaccinated.
However, 84% of respondents said they will not travel if there is a chance of quarantine at destination (largely unchanged from 83% in September 2020). 56% believe that they will postpone travel until the economy stabilises (improved from 65% in September 2020).
On travel restrictions, 88% of respondents believe that when opening borders, the right balance must be struck between managing Covid-19 risks and getting the economy going again.
85% believe that governments should set Covid-19 targets (such as testing capacity or vaccine distribution) to re-open borders, while 84% believe that Covid-19 will not disappear, and the world needs to manage its risks while living and travelling normally.
A good number of respondents – 68% agreed that their quality of life has suffered with travel restrictions, while 49% believe that air travel restrictions have gone too far.
While there is public support for travel restrictions, IATA says it is becoming clear that people are feeling more comfortable with managing the risks of Covid-19.
People are also feeling frustrated with the loss of freedom to travel, with 68% of respondents indicating their quality of life is suffering as a result. Travel restrictions come with health, social and economic consequences.
Nearly 40% of respondents reported mental stress and missing an important human moment as a result of travel restrictions. And over a third have said that restrictions prevent them from doing business normally.
“The top priority of everybody at the moment is staying safe amid the Covid-19 crisis. But it is important that we map a way to being able to reopen borders, manage risks and enable people to get on with their lives. That includes the freedom to travel. It is becoming clear that we will need to learn to live and travel in a world that has Covid-19.
“Given the health, social and economic costs of travel restrictions, airlines should be ready to re-connect the world as soon as governments are able to reopen borders. That’s why a plan with measurable milestones is so critical. Without one, how can we be prepared for restart without an unnecessary delay?” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.
Clearly, the Covid-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges to the world, international air transport sector in particular.
Border closures, flight restrictions, travel advisories, and social distancing measures implemented in response to the global pandemic have resulted in an unprecedented decline in aviation activity.
“2021 is starting off worse than 2020 ended and that is saying a lot,” noted Alexandre de Juniac at a virtual media briefing recently.
Increased testing capability and vaccine distribution are the keys for governments to unlock economic activity, including travel. It is critical that governments build and share their restart plans along with the benchmarks that will guide them. This will enable the industry to be prepared to energise the recovery without any unnecessary delay,” said de Juniac.
Global standards to securely record test and vaccination data in formats that will be internationally recognised are urgently needed, IATA insists.
There are some headwinds in travel trends. About 84% of travellers insisted they will not travel if it involves quarantine at destination.
And there are still indications that the pick-up in business travel will take time with 62% of respondents saying they are likely to travel less for business even after the virus is contained.
That is, however, a significant improvement from the 72% recorded in September 2020.
“People want to get back to travel, but quarantine is the showstopper. As testing capacity and technology improves and the vaccinated population grows, the conditions for removing quarantine measures are being created. And this points us again towards working with governments for a well-planned re-opening as soon as conditions allow,” de Juniac points out.
Although a poll does not necessarily reflect the real sentiments on the ground, the fact remains that a majority of people want the freedom to travel. Border closures and current flight restrictions mean that freedom may take longer to realise.
But as testing capacity increases and vaccine distribution grows, there is a clear expectation that borders will re-open without quarantine measures. That will probably kick up demand for travel yet again, leading to substantial recovery of a sector, which has been decimated because of the Covid-19 pandemic.