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Travel Is Being Reinvented

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Despite stories about how Covid-19 turned some of us into RVers, summer vacation didn’t happen for many of us. In short, we had to stay in or limit outings to practically next door.

However, this doesn’t mean there wasn’t tourism. As The Wall Street Journal notes in its report on Kyoto, it’s just that the locals have become the new explorers. The New York Times has similar stories, such as this one about Venetians experiencing their city in a new way – without tourists from abroad. 

Unsurprisingly, this change is linked to the pandemic, which has turned spring and summer travel seasons into one long extended Covid-19 season.

But even Covid may have seasons and it may change your winter plans. For example, Dr. Marc Lipsitch, Professor of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says in this Top of Mind report by Goldman Sachs, that transmission could be expected to go up as temperatures outside go down.

But we’re adapting. Trends show that we’re changing how we define or think about “getting away.” Like airlines, hotels are scrambling for business. As the Post-Gazette reported, hotels are trying to boost visits by encouraging locals to get away just by checking in for a stay.

Considering some local quarantine requirements, this is more than a savvy PR ploy. Hawaii, for example, requires visitors to quarantine for 14 days after arriving, while New York says you need to stay put for two weeks depending on the state you just came in from. 

With this in mind, checking into a hotel in your home state, or a nearby state that doesn’t require you to quarantine, may be as much of a vacation as vacations get for now.

It’s unclear how many people have been booking rooms in local hotels, but based on the number of headlines that cover everything from the best staycation cities, why we need them and how to plan one – there’s a clear desire to take a break. Consider this: 20% of the office workers surveyed by the staffing agency Robert Half said they planned to take time off for “a self-care and mental health staycation.”

Travel amenities are also changing. And transit is being reinvented. Many of the changes have to do with paring back. As the BBC reports, this includes airlines getting rid of things like magazines, pillows and food service on flights as ways to limit “touchpoints” that could help the virus spread. 

Meanwhile, Travel and Leisure says we can expect changes to include things like airlines minimizing staff-to-passenger contact by nudging fliers to check in through apps and possibly ending practices like allowing “elite” fliers to board first.

Social distancing might also mean that we’re getting some extra travel space. In an article about trains, The Conversation imagines that “we could be entering another golden age of railway travel. One in which passengers actually have space around them,” as well as fewer travelers.

Fliers may not be so lucky. The reason comes down to economics – a report from the trade association IATA shows that airlines break even when on average they’re between 75% and 81% full. 

Breaking even could be a boon because our new travel trends have inflicted some serious costs. The US Travel Association estimates that the travel industry as a whole will lose about $505 billion this year. The trade association estimates these losses translate to about $81 billion of loss in federal, state, and local tax revenues. 

If you’ve been trying to book a flight or just tracking the airline industry, you’ve probably seen that things are getting a little tight. Airlines have been using different tactics to get through the slump, including laying off employees, trimming routes and exploring different ways to finance their operations.

It’s not just states and cities that could benefit from an increased demand in travel services. The industry’s employees could, too: the US Travel Association estimates that more than 25% of leisure and hospitality employees are out of work.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.