Economists and scientists will need to study data for years to understand just how devastating the 2020 novel coronavirus pandemic truly has been for the world. The short-term consequences are obvious.
More than 3 billion people have spent months in lockdown. Hundreds of thousands of people will have died by the end of the first wave. And the worldwide economy has come to a standstill.
Industry experts remain hopeful that land-based casinos and cruise ship companies will return to business but it’s reasonable to guess that some companies will go bankrupt.
And one should not expect life to return to complete pre-pandemic normalcy because no matter how many people survive the virus, it’s not yet known if any immunity people develop will be permanent.
Epidemiologists are predicting multiple waves of infection. The 1918 influenza pandemic hit the world in three waves over about two years. It’s possible the novel coronavirus will be a threat for another year or longer.
And that means how, how often, and where to people travel will change.
1 – Who Can Afford to Travel Any More?
Even the wealthiest people have been affected by the pandemic because financial markets around the world have lost trillions of dollars in accumulated value. Any investments millionaires and billionaires have made will have shed immense value.
While people like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos remain incredibly wealthy the lower end of the top 1% will have shrunk. Many people who were once comfortable with recreational travel expenses will think twice before embarking on their next trip.
But millions of average workers who save up for vacation travel every year have been forced to cancel plans because travel in 2020 won’t be practical. The travel and tourism industries have probably lost a year’s worth of revenue as most of their customers burn through savings.
It will take time for people who still have jobs or go back to work quickly to save up for their next trips.
2 – How Have Health and Safety Regulations Changed?
The cruise ship industry often made headlines with norovirus outbreaks. While debilitating the norovirus isn’t anywhere near as deadly as the coronavirus. But cruise ships had to be disinfected after each outbreak.
With the novel coronavirus the cruise ship industry has been shut down. Until cruise line owners can adopt better health management processes not many people will want not be able to enjoy gambling on cruise ships.
One way to make ships safer is to book fewer passengers. But that means to remain profitable the ships will have to charge more for cruises.
Before allowing cruise lines to resume business as usual various governments may pass new laws or regulations mandating additional medical facilities and expertise on the ships. Those costs will be passed on to passengers.
No matter how you look at it, the era of the cheap cruise vacation may be over.
3 – Land-Based Casinos Have Changed Their Environments
Macau and Las Vegas are trying to revive their economies as quickly as possible. Both cities depend heavily on land-based casinos. And hundreds of Native American tribes have lost vital revenue from casino closures, too.
To ensure the safety of players the casinos are adopting strategies for maintaining social distancing, enforcing personal hygiene, and disinfecting games.
It may be a long time before poker rooms become the crowded smoke-filled bastions of quiet social gaming they once were.
Smokers will have to be consigned to designated areas. Any casino that doesn’t change its smoking policies risks losing valuable customers who won’t want to risk damaging their lungs.
And the slot machine industry could tumble in the long run. You simply cannot play slot machine games without touching the machines.
4 – National Parks Should Recover Quickly
One good thing about many national parks is that they are large enough to accommodate crowds. Everyone understands social distancing so the tour groups may be smaller and more spread out.
People will be able to enjoy day trips to local parks and hiking trails.
Where national parks may be affected is in their hotel and restaurant facilities. Governments may require changes in how customers are handled and facilities are sanitized.
Any increased costs associated with maintaining public health and safety may result either in closure of facilities or increased fees.
The benefit of allowing people to spend time outdoors is clear. It’s good for our well-being and doctors say that viruses are more likely to be passed around during cold months because people stay indoors.
5 – Hotels Have Changed How They Operate
The good news for the hotelier industry is that many new technologies have already been tested. Even before the pandemic some high end hotels had upgraded their services to restrict staff interaction with guests.
These upgrades include using Internet-of-Things technologies so customers can change or request services without interacting with hotel staff.
Room service robots have also been tested in several markets. And China made extensive use of room service robots in the hotels they designated for quarantine areas.
The demand for IoT technologies and robots will increase and filter all the way down from the most luxurious hotels to less expensive hotels. Don’t expect the $50-per-night roadside hotel to add these conveniences but even the low-end side of the industry will have to change things.
That could mean hiring more cleaning staff, which means room rates could go up.
To save on laundering costs hotels may turn to using disposable bed sheets. This industry is still in its nascency but if the technologies used to produce disposable sheets is practical it may become the wave of the future.
Although recycling is considered to be more environmentally friendly, hoteliers may have no choice but to turn to more disposable items to reduce their guests’ chances of getting the coronavirus.
Common breakfast areas in low-end hotels may be discontinued. Or customers may be required to take food back to their rooms. Take-out and fast food restaurants near many hotels may enjoy a boost in business as hotels cut back on their complimentary breakfast plans.
6 – Travelers May Demand More Information About Destinations
People already flock to travel Websites to read customer reviews about hotels, theme parks, casinos, and other destinations and services. Expect more people to do that and to see more detailed questions.
While not everyone will think to ask about what health precautions resorts and cruise lines implement, many people will and you should eventually find those questions on the Internet.
Smaller hotels with fewer customers and reviews may suffer from a lack of information about how they protect their guests from possible infection.
If the general public remains skeptical about traveling out of country then international travel may lose business to domestic travel. No one wants to be trapped in a hospital thousands of miles from their friends and family.
What no one can predict how people will be now when planning a casino trip. Some people may throw caution to the winds and scoop up every cheap vacation plan they can find. Some people may stop traveling completely for fear of becoming infected.
7 – Expect to See Special Offers and Discounts
Even if new regulations and the adoption of safer technologies means hoteliers, theme parks, travel services, and land based casinos must charge more, the competition for travel guests will be fierce.
There may be a period of intense competition, especially as businesses open up again, to lock in future revenue and encourage guests to restore trust in brands.
If travel industry vendors change their pricing and services they will most likely exclude the more expensive services from their discount offers.
It’s too soon to know for sure how these industries will change. What is safe to say is that because they were already adopting new technologies they will continue along that path because many of those technologies would have made travel and vacation stays healthier anyway.
The pandemic may accelerate the evolution of business and vacation travel services and conveniences. In the end people may be much happier with how they are served on their trips even if it costs more money and they must travel less often.