Lasting changes in the new normal for travel

During an ITB Asia 2020 Virtual conference session, Axel Hefer, CEO of trivago, shared his vision of the future shape of travel in a post-COVID-19 world. 

For Hefer, family travel was the first segment to recover in most markets around the world. But travel habits had profoundly changed. “Tourism became driven by close-by, driving-distance trips. Urban tourism also came under pressure as city destinations faced more restrictions and less activities,” he explained.

What could the future look like? For Hefer, city trips will bounce back as soon as a vaccine will be made available for the world. However, the trivago CEO believes two sectors will face difficulties in recovering any time soon: intercontinental travel and business travel.

“Intercontinental travel is not only suffering from weak demand, but it is also affected by supply issues. It will indeed take some time for airline networks to rise back to their old strength if they ever come back,” Hefer said.

Business travel is unlikely to regain its status and Hefer predicts a permanent reduction in business travel volumes. “Unlike in previous recessions, where business travel recovered, improved technology changed the picture. Companies discovered that they can become very productive without being in the same space. That will generate fewer reasons to travel,” he said.

Consolidation of the travel industry will certainly shape the future of the industry. Hotels in metropolises will be confronted with oversupply. They will need to find innovative ways to manage their portfolio more efficiently.

The push of big e-commerce and digital platforms such as Google and Amazon can only be considered an asset if they foster innovation. “If they are seen at hindering progress, then state regulation will come,” he concluded.

Photo: Axel Hefe,CEO, trivago