Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the travel industry forever, but all is not lost.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Chesky said the demand for travel is returning, but it looks vastly different.
He highlighted four major changes to the travel industry amidst the global coronavirus pandemic:
- People do not want to cross borders.
- People do not want to go to dense urban areas or cities.
- People do not want to wait in line during their travels.
- People do not want to travel for business.
Instead, people now prefer to travel by car – no further than 300km to 500km – and stay in a home with people they care about.
Chesky said people are going to rediscover small communities around them. “Instead of going to Paris, people are going to Pittsburgh,” he said.
He predicts that people are going to explore the outdoors far more, which is good news for national parks.
He said travel is now becoming more experiential, more authentic, and more local.
Travel as you knew it is over
Chesky made a bold prediction – “Travel as you knew it is over. You are never ever going to see it again”.
“Business travel is really going to be hit for a while. A lot of people are realising they can do meetings on Zoom and are rethinking a lot of the conventions and conferences,” he said.
An interesting consequence of the new work-from-home culture is that travel and living are going to blend together.
“If you can do your job from home, you can work from any home anywhere in the world,” he said.
“What you are going to see is just not travel redistribution, but also population redistribution. People may start to move to smaller towns and communities.”
People may also opt to live a few months in one place, and a few months in another place. “Why couldn’t you if you can do your job behind a computer?” he said.
“We are going to see a fundamental rethinking of travel and even urban living.”
Air travel prediction
Kulula founder and former Comair CEO Gidon Novick echoed Chesky’s views on business travel, saying he expects much lower levels than what was the case before the pandemic.
He also expects fewer but longer trips with a changing dynamic around the distinction between business and leisure travel.
The focus for the new airline will be South Africa’s potential as a tourist destination. “Leisure travel will bounce back,” he said.
He said travelling and experiences remain popular, and he expects people to continue to spend on leisure travel in future.
The difference will be tighter budgets. While corporates were less price-sensitive, but he said the days of business travellers funding an airline through higher fees is over.
“The requirement for super-efficiency is going to be greater than ever,” said Novick.
Novick said it will take time for air travel to bounce back, partly because of health concerns and the hassle of currently travelling by air.
In South Africa, leisure travel remains prohibited with no clear indication of when it will return.