As flight connectivity restarts and travelers prepare to travel again, new research from Collinson, a global leader in traveler experiences and medical assistance, has pinpointed some key potential issues based on an in-depth survey of travel industry experts. The survey was carried in partnership with CAPA – one of the world’s most trusted sources of market intelligence for the aviation and travel industry – to capture a snapshot of the opinions of a specially-selected group of travel experts globally.
While most travel experts (89 per cent) believe that it is safe to travel, they are pessimistic about the industry’s recovery – whether due to the policies being put in place, wider perceptions of safety, or both. The data highlights that 31 per cent of respondents in Asia Pacific expect travel to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023, closely followed by 2024 at 25 per cent, and late 2022 with 17 per cent.
The quest for herd immunity continues – but inequality hurts everyone
Most travel experts in Asia Pacific surveyed overwhelmingly believe that it is now safe to travel – with 11 per cent saying it is “extremely safe” and 30 per cent saying it is “quite safe”, with a further 48 per cent saying it is “extremely safe provided preventative solutions are adhered to”. However, over half (56 per cent) are “very concerned” at reports of fraudulent COVID-19 test results and vaccination passports.
Global herd immunity is a key driver of the return to normality; and yet, because of public resistance to the vaccine in certain locations, coupled with vaccine inequality – this will take a considerably long time.
When asked what they thought was the most plausible scenario by 2022, 30 per cent of experts in Asia Pacific believed herd immunity would be reached in the US, UK and a select few developed nations. By contrast, 27 per cent believed a handful of smaller nations would do so, with the rest of the world including the US and the UK failing to do so. Only 16 per cent believed that most countries in the developed world would achieve herd immunity by next year.
Leisure and shorter-haul travel more likely to recover sooner
A high number of respondents believed that leisure travel would recover significantly faster than business travel, while in both categories, shorter-haul flights will make a faster comeback.
When asked to select the most plausible scenario in 2022 for the recovery of leisure travel, 27 per cent of respondents in Asia say they expect 41-60 per cent of 2019 levels next year. With that in mind, members of the travel ecosystem should continue to prioritize the mental and physical well being of travelers by ensuring there are spaces for them to de-stress and relax during their journey.
Meanwhile, the outlook for business travel markets is weaker than leisure. For short-haul flights, 31 per cent expect to see 41-60 per cent of 2019 levels next year – while 35 per cent of respondents expect long-haul business travel in 2022 will be only 20-40 per cent of 2019 levels.
Despite business travel projecting a slower recovery than leisure travel, companies should act now to equip their employees with the necessary tools for a safe return to global travel, including robust travel-risk management policies.
Quarantine measures expected to ease due to testing, but with mixed market access
Most Asia Pacific respondents (51 per cent) expect that robust testing protocols will remain key to reopening global borders until end of 2022. Almost one-third (32 per cent) of respondents believe robust testing protocols will remain key for the next 3 years, while just 13 per cent expect testing will be phased out in 2021 in line with the vaccine roll-out.
As such, almost half (49 per cent) of Asia Pacific respondents believe quarantine measures will be phased out by 2022, with a further 11 per cent expecting quarantine measures to be lifted by mid-2021. Yet 30 per cent still believe quarantine measures will remain in place beyond 2021.
Most Asia Pacific respondents (58 per cent) expect aviation market access arrangements by governments to evolve at different rates, depending on the region/market through 2021. Over a quarter (27 per cent) expect aviation market access arrangement by governments to ‘remain the same until at least 2022’, while only 5 per cent expect access arrangements to ‘substantially ease’ or even just ‘start to ease’ as we go through 2021. It is therefore critical for governments and members of the travel ecosystem to come together and collaborate for the safe return of global travel.
Vaccine passports of ‘vital importance’ – but fears over fraud need to be addressed
Asia Pacific respondents overwhelmingly (75 per cent) shared the view that vaccine passports were of “vital importance”, as governments won’t re-open borders without them. Meanwhile only 18 per cent said they were “not important”, as some governments will allow access regardless of digital health documents. A further 7 per cent said they were “not relevant” compared to other issues, such as mutual recognition of vaccines.
Asia Pacific respondents were also overwhelmingly (76 per cent) concerned by reports of fraudulent COVID-19 test results and vaccination passports surfacing, with only 6 per cent saying they were “not concerned”.
In light of this, Collinson is supporting the development of accredited testing solutions, along with Verifly, CommonPass and IATA, including the piloting of digital health passports aimed at reducing the chance of fraudulent activity – while expediting the safe return of global travel.
“The global travel recovery won’t be immediate, but we do have the unique opportunity to make things better than ever before by working together to evolve current practices,” said Todd Handcock, Asia Pacific President for Collinson. “This joint research with CAPA has helped shine a light on the areas that require immediate, combined focus and effort from government bodies and private organisations – particularly those in the travel ecosystem – in order to remove remaining barriers and help achieve the safe, long-term return of global travel.”
CAPA – Centre for Aviation Managing Director, Derek Sadubin, said that the insights will help understand how the aviation and travel market is rapidly evolving. “This is a high-level, savvy and switched-on group of aviation and travel industry professionals, so their views carry weight”.