Skift Take

Perhaps the only thing worse than no information is bad information. Let's bust some modern travel myths stemming from the pandemic that are dangerously common.

Nearly two years into the pandemic and the crisis has spawned its own set of myths and urban legends throughout the travel industry. Planning for the future of travel requires a firm, data-driven grip on where we stand today. In this Skift Research presentation, we bust seven travel myths to lay a groundwork for understanding the current state of travel and where our industry is headed.

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The 7 Myths

MYTH: American Travelers Are Over Covid-19
FACT: Americans Are Coming To Grips With “Endemic” Covid

  • Skift Research survey work shows that more than a third of Americans think Covid-19 will not be under control until 2023 or later. This is a dramatic about-face after a summer when many thought that the pandemic was finally coming to a close.
  • Nonetheless, Americans are ready to travel again. Our latest travel tracker data shows 32 percent of Americans plan to increase their travel spending over the next 12 months.
  • But don’t confuse a willingness to hit the road with a blasé attitude to Covid-19. Americans are very much not ‘over’ the pandemic. Travelers are seeking ways to balance a desire to travel with health and safety concerns in a world of COVID variants. 
  • Learn more from our Skift Travel Tracker  

MYTH: China Is Leading the Travel Recovery
FACT: China’s Recovery Choppy and Mainly Domestic

  • China was leading the world of travel for most of 2020 as its aggressive lockdown campaign allowed a quick return to domestic travel.
  • But the rollout of the vaccine in early 2021, reinvigorated global travel. Since then, China’s recovery has been choppy with many unexpected lockdowns and still no international travel to speak of.
  • The Skift Recovery Index shows that China has lost its travel leadership position to the U.S. In recent months it has even lagged the global average of travel activity.
  • From 2012 – 2019 China was the largest single source of outbound travelers in the world. Global travel cannot truly recover until China reopens to the world
  • Learn more from our Skift Recovery Index.

MYTH: Business Travel Is Dead
FACT: Business Travel Is Returning

  • The reports of business travel’s demise are greatly exaggerated.
  • While business travel went into hibernation during the pandemic, recent data from corporate travel startup TripActions suggests that business booking activity is rapidly returning.
  • Business travel may look and feel different in the coming years, and parts of that old world may never return, but make no mistake, the corporate road warriors are coming back.
  • Learn more from this Skift article: How Travel Companies Are Meeting the Needs of the Emerging Super Commuter

MYTH: The Big Hotel Brands Had It Better
FACT: Independent Hotels Showed Their Might

  • Early in the pandemic, it seemed like the big hotel brands had all the advantages over independent properties. They were able to tap into public markets to bolster balance sheets and signed flashy partnerships with cleaning brands. 
  • But it turns out that, in at least one important metric, independents outperformed brands. Revenue per available room (RevPAR) at U.S. independent hotels is 91% recovered vs. 2019 levels while brands are just 75% recovered.
  • It is partly that independents tend to skew towards lower chain scales and more leisure customers – two market segments that have done particularly well during the pandemic. But we also like to think that the agility and close community ties that can come with being an independent also played a role in their strong performance.
  • Learn more from our U.S. Hotel Ownership Landscape report. 

MYTH: Short-Term Rentals Are Replacing Hotels
FACT: Hotels Are Staging a 2021 Comeback

  • Short-term rentals experienced their best year ever as a product category in 2020. But hotels are poised to strike back in 2021.
  • We are seeing lodging bookings grow faster than STR bookings in more than 20 different countries across the globe.
  • The pandemic was many people’s first introduction to short-term rentals. This type of lodging will certainly grow as a result but we won’t see them overtake hotels any time soon.
  • Learn more from our Impact of Covid-19 on the Short-Term Rental Market report.

MYTH: COVID-19 Created a Hotel Labor Crisis
FACT: Labor Issues Pre-Date the Pandemic

  • There is a labor crisis, that is not the myth. The myth is that it was created by Covid-19. In fact, labor issues in travel and hospitality pre-date the pandemic.
  • The latest U.S. labor statistics suggest that it takes five weeks to fill an open hospitality position at present. That is certainly a crisis. But in 2019 it took four weeks. That is ALSO a crisis!
  • The last time that employers were able to fill an open hospitality position within the standard two week notice period was 2010.
  • Labor issues in travel and hospitality have been simmering under the surface for years but Covid-19 pushed them over the top and brought them to the fore.
  • Expect a greater push towards efficiency tools, automation, and limited service models. 
  • How to hire, train, and retain employees is a key challenge for travel.
  • Learn more from this Skift story: Hotel CEOs Concede a Lasting Labor Shortage May Reshape Guest Experience

MYTH: The Pandemic Dragged Travel Into the Future
FACT: The Pandemic Dragged Travel Into the Present

  • Many of the signature technologies adopted as part of the ‘future of work’ are in fact old tech.
  • Zoom is an ‘overnight’ success more than a decade in the making. QR code technology is old enough to rent a car.
  • Travel has not been pushed into the future, merely dragged into the present. 
  • Much work is still needed to design the true future of travel

The Reality

  • The travel industry has weathered many crisis before and has always come out stronger for it.
  • Across the world, as people become wealthier, they travel more. They travel for fun, for business and to learn and explore. If you believe that the world will be wealthier and healthier a decade from now, then you should bet that travel will be stronger as well.
  • Skift Research, in its 2022 global travel outlook, estimates that international travel will fully recover from its 2021 lows by 2024. That means we are about to experience a lot of growth in the next years.
  • Learn more from our 2022 global travel outlook report. 
  • Learn more from our upcoming Megatrends 2022.

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Tags: skift research, tourism

Photo credit: One of the traveler myths is that business travel is dead. This traveler (pictured) would beg to differ. Blacksalmon / Adobe

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