Will travel go down? In the short run, yes. In the mid-term, perhaps. In the long term, if you ask me, definitely not. Currently there is no doubt that travel industry is hit extremely hard and travel is down. In total for 2020, UNWTO expects a drop in international tourist arrivals somewhere between -58 to -78%! Surely the drop in travel will linger on in 2021 and beyond, and it might be difficult to believe that we will ever return to pre-Corona levels, let alone exceed them. But let’s take a short look at history.
According to UNWTO data, in 1950, there were almost 25 million international tourist arrivals in the world. That is the amount of people who every year cross an international border for business, leisure, or any other purpose. 40 years later in 1990, that amount hit 400 million. Another 15 years later in 2005, that amount doubled! In 2019, the world saw a record of 1,5 billion arrivals. That means 4,1 million people travelling every day, representing an increase of 6000% from 1950.
This historic increase has been fuelled by a growing world population and emerging market economies, but in essence comes from the human curiosity to explore the world. Evidently this is also the reason why huge growths in hotel supply, regardless of Airbnb, still have been able to fill up with guests.
The downsides are nonetheless clear, and world has seen severe impacts on the environment due to over tourism.
If you ask me however, not even a Corona pandemic will put a stop to the historic upward trend in travel in the long run. According to UNWTO, 40% of destinations already have eased travel restrictions, although this will probably change before a vaccine is on the market.
The world is a changed place already, and so are our travel behaviours. Technology has taken a big leap forward, with many meetings being more efficient on Zoom than in person. Some people will indefinitely travel less. Merger and acquisitions will follow, and hotels and other businesses will seize to exist.
UNWTO previous forecast was to reach 1,8 billion arrivals by 2030. I think that will still happen, just 2-5 years later instead. I do hope however that travel comes back in new improved forms, with more regulations for over tourism, new laws protecting our environment, more responsible travel, and with improved health procedures staying in place. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use technology to fly climate friendly, instead of experiencing a beach in Seychelles or the pyramids through a pair of virtual reality glasses? We are humans. Travel is in our nature, so let us fill our lives with experiences in a hopefully even better post-Corona world!