From sanitisers in hotels to transport crew with masks, movement restrictions, to tracing apps, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the tourism world and travel.
This piece will examine how travel bookings have evolved over the years, especially between the early 2000s and late 2019. We will also consider the future of travel bookings after the pandemic. Grab a cup of smoothie and read along.
Evolution of travel booking
The early 2000s marked the beginning of technological advancement, particularly the internet. The popularity of the internet saw many internet-based companies spring up as well as travel companies. However, many travellers made their bookings manually through travelling agents during early 2000. These agents would book your hotels, cruises, flights, honeymoon locations, etc.
They are there to plan your arrangement and be the middlemen between you and the service providers. Travel agents are your go-to guys when things go wrong with travelling. They give you better deals that you could not have known because they had access to restricted resources.
It took a while before people started using the internet to book hotels and flights. AirAsia launched the online booking trend in Malaysia in 2003.
It offered free seats to make more travellers learn how to book and pay online. Since then, the travelling industry in the region has hit a new horizon as more and more people started booking online.
The rise of internet bookings before pandemic (2010-2019)
According to Condor Ferries statistics, the value of online bookings increased significantly by over 70 per cent between 2010 and 2019, and this shows that the internet has become very vital to the travel industry.
The internet has also become the hub for all information. Thus, it is not far-fetched that websites like TripAdvisor, Agoda, Booking.com, blogs, and other internet sources are now the first-place travellers explore whenever they want more information about a country, city, hotel, or a point of interest they wish to visit. People now read the reviews of other travellers and judge from their views.
It’s no longer news that the internet has taken over. As much as 60 per cent of bookings are now taking place online and these bookings occur majorly through online travel agencies (OTAs) followed by hotel or airline websites.
With the growth of social media and more affordable advertising channels, this takes us to another phase in the travel sector which is direct booking. OTAs growing to become more important in recent years by building the customer base from their website with various options.
Airlines and hotels want direct bookings too, due to the customer service and distribution cost factors. It has brought a tricky situation between the OTAs and service providers to compete for direct bookings from the same pool of customers.
With the growth of mobile technology, OTAs, airlines, and hotel groups are also investing in technology to serve their customers more directly.
The last two decades have brought numerous changes to the travel industry. Travellers can now book hotels, flights, read reviews, and gather information about where they are visiting from the comfort of their homes or anywhere they are.
Travel after the pandemic
The travel industry will never remain the same again after the pandemic, at least for the first couple of years. Henceforth, here are some of the travelling trends you should expect;
There will be a surge in domestic travel as the international borders will not be the first to open for most of the countries. And people will prefer domestic destinations that they are familiar with immigration rules and government restrictions, rather than the hassle of dealing with the quarantine rules and vaccine passports.
People will visit places closer to home, eat out at local eateries, or travel for a domestic weekend getaway before the usual demand for international trips returns.
Forward bookings remain low
Travellers used to make way forward bookings as further as one year to enjoy free flights or cheap stays. Many countries have no choice but to change movement restrictions at the very last minute to deal with the different COVID-19 cases movement in different places.
With the uncertainties happening in foreign countries and even within own country, for the near-term travellers will be sceptical in making forward bookings to avoid the hassle of making changes in the later stage.
Booking and travelling will require more than your passport
The pandemic has heightened the observation level of many countries. Travellers will need to do more research about the travel restrictions and requirements before making their plans. There are countries that deny travellers who are coming from a high-risk nation entry into their country.
However, there are some countries that will only request a vaccination or COVID-19 negative certificate before travel. Monitoring the changes of the information is a must-do to ensure the travel is well-prepared.
Travel agents will become more important
Travellers may tilt to booking travels through established travel agents being it online or offline, noting their industry connections and invaluable knowledge, especially in handling the pandemic and SOS situation. The travel agents’ service will come in handy when the traveller is stranded in a foreign country due to unforeseen situations.
Boom in the short-term rental industry
According to a recent survey, there is a proposed boom in the short-term rental industry as many travellers prefer to stay longer in one destination rather than moving around.
Hence traditional hotel booking will become less popular for these travellers compare to short term rental properties, which means that hoteliers should be ready to meet the competition from these properties in terms of pricing and experience.
You will tick all the boxes
Travel bookings usually come with many add-ons. It is a fact that many travellers skip the parts that deal with car rentals, extra luggage, speedy boarding, seat selection, and even some of the important notices.
But with the potential mess of handling travels due to the restrictions, many travellers are starting to have a habit of thoroughly reading the booking instructions and plan the whole trip in more advance to ensure their safety and a pleasant journey.
Traveling will become joyful again
Many people made the best out of staying at home during the pandemic while missing their favourite trips browsing through Facebook and Instagram. That period showed them how important travelling is, particularly on health grounds—travelling boosts personal growth and mental health. It also improves focus, attention, energy, and empathy.
As soon as travel is possible, many people will definitely utilise their accumulated annual leave and airline credits to make their first travel plan of the century.
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