Here's to the world's most consequential sector learning to walk again...
Story updated below: If you are the parent of a young kid, you obsess over the various life stages they go through and see mirrors of their changes everywhere in the world around you.
Well, that’s me and what has happened in travel over the last few months. After the travel economy was in a fetal position for most of March, the baby started to roll over and get tummy time over the latter half of April, and now it is starting the crawling phase in May. As our world expands again bit by bit, we are relearning it all over again. Yes, there may be regression as we go along, we all have to be ready for that, but crawl forward we will from here until we start cruising, then walk the first tentative steps … well, you know the drill from here.
All this to say, from the doom of March and April, it was hard to think of hopeful signs emerging so quickly, but emerging they are, and I figured it is worth jotting some of them down. Here’s to the world’s most consequential sector learning to walk again:
- China, China, China, no surprise, as the biggest sign: Shanghai Disneyland has reopened, giving hope that a hyper-crowded setting like a theme park is possible to operate in these times AND that there will be pent-up demand for it. Even packaged tours, hard to restart due to distancing requirement, have started selling again.
- We knew about reopening China domestic business travel, now there are signs some international business travel, reopening with exemptions for some key foreign companies who can apply for exemptions to the entry ban if they want to get executives back into China.
- Hong Kong restaurants are busy again.
- Travel bubbles emerging: Aus-NZ & likely more to add there; China-HK-Taiwan-South Korea.
- Some international borders reopening in a month for almost-normal international tourism: Iceland and Greece. Turkey wants to reopen tourism by June, in steps.
- UPDATE 1: This would have been unimaginable even just a few weeks ago: Italy will open borders for all EU travelers, sans quarantine, on June 3. Of course flights etc will need to follow, and social distancing/masks will remain in place.
- UPDATE 2: Also unimaginable this quickly: Spain said it aims to reopen borders around the end of June, sans quarantine.
- Efforts for a trans-European reopening of skies — and tourism — this summer, for now guidelines more than concrete steps, though.
- Ryanair is planning to start 40 percent of its regular flights in July, though expect low demand. Emirates is starting flights to some major long-haul destinations from May 21.
- The Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are re-opening borders to each other starting Friday, with no quarantines. The Czech Republic has already eased some of its International travel band.
- Astonishingly, Vietnam is the success story in Southeast Asia in the battle with coronavirus. And now looking to reopen international travel.
- UK, the hardest hit country in Europe, could reopen hospitality sector — that means restaurants, primarily — in July and efforts are on to make al-fresco dining a big part of it.
- Germany trade fairs could reopen soon with rules relaxed on those; latent event-goer demand is higher than you would assume, though how it translates into actuals remains to be seen. China has also opened a path for events to come back, though details TBD.
- Mexican tourist hotspot Los Cabos will begin reopening in June, About 40 percent of hotels will open on June 1 under strict hygiene measures.
- In U.S., online flight searches are picking up from the bottom, though still very miniscule. U.S. Drive markets are showing promise as well. Campers and RVs are seeing lots of demand. Honolulu, Las Vegas, and Louisville have come up tops in travel transactions for the U.S. summer.
- Biggest hit city on the planet NYC is now thinking of reopening tourism and coordinating for it, which would be unimaginable even 2-3 weeks ago.
- U.S. lodging has hit a bottom, and very early signs of microscopic but real occupancy recovery. Marriott CEO said as much on their recent Q1 earnings call. IHG is saying it is in a “net reopening environment.” Hyatt even has some sold-out hotels.
- Extended stay hotels are having a banner moment right now amongst all the gloom, in the spotlight like they have never been in their history.
- Even if travel startups won’t get much funding in coming months, the one travel focused VC fund did raise a new fund and wants to invest. Call it progress.
- Short term rentals have a future! In fact, future data is showing that, just call it longish-short term rentals.
- Amtrak is reopening some routes on the busiest Northeast corridor, anticipating uptick in demand.
- Cruises, the most derided travel sector of this pandemic age, is planning some sailing starting August, not without controversy.
Let’s end with the list with this hopeful note. I mean, why not?
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Photo credit: Tourists pose for a photo inside the Shanghai Disneyland theme park in east China's Shanghai, May 11, 2020. The Shanghai Disneyland theme park reopened to visitors with controlled capacity on Monday, after the Covid-19 epidemic in China became more subdued. This is the first Disneyland theme park in the world that has reopened since the outbreak of the Covid-19. Ren Long / Ren Long / Alamy Live News