Tue, 22 Sep 2020

By Lee Kah WhyeSingapore, August 10 (ANI): Indians, among the most travelled before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, are the most confident in the world about resuming their international adventures once they allowed to do so.

They also top the list of people most eager to travel internationally in the next 12 months with 77 per cent saying they are keen to travel, followed by Thais at 70 per cent and Indonesians at 60 per cent.

Singapore is the most favoured destination for people living in India, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong and the Philippines when it comes to post-lockdown travel.

This was revealed in a newly released study conducted jointly by social research agency Blackbox Research, data provider Dynata and language partner Language Connect, "Unravel Travel: FearsPossibilities in a Post Coronavirus (COVID-19) World." It examines the sentiments, preferences, and expectations of 10,195 people across 17 countries regarding travel in a post-COVID-19 world.

However, with bad news continuously emanating from the travel industry, travellers will have to put their plans on ice for the foreseeable future as the 'new normal' in travel is still some time away.

Two weeks ago, travel booking giant Expedia reported a steep 82 per cent revenue decline to USD 566 million in the second quarter (for period ending June) and a USD 577 net loss. A year earlier, the firm had a net income of USD 276 million.

Last week, French hotel group Accor which owns luxury accommodation brands such as Swissotel, Sofitel and Raffles posted half-year losses of 1.5 billion euros (USD 1.77 billion) compared with a profit of 141 million euros one year ago. In addition, it announced that it was slashing 1,000 head office jobs worldwide out of a global corporate headcount of 18,000.

Also last week, Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic, which is 49 per cent owned by Delta Air Lines, filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in New York. This is the second airline owned by Branson that is seeking the protection of courts, the first being Virgin Australia.

Chapter 15 is slightly different from the usual Chapter 11 as it is designed for companies that operate in multiple countries. Virgin Atlantic based in Britain, is attempting to put together a private rescue package after having previously attempted to obtain a British government bailout.

Singapore Airlines reported a historic loss in its latest fiscal quarter (for the period April to June) of SGD 1.12 billion (USD 812 million). Following that, it announced pay cuts for all management and rank-and-file staff, as well as an early retirement programme for ground staff and pilots. Earlier, with support from government investment arm Temasek and other shareholders, it has managed to raise some SGD 15 billion (USD 10.9 billion) to weather the COVID-19 storm.

Geneva-based International Air Transport Association (IATA) does not expect air travel to be restored to 2019 levels until 2024.

With the COVID-19 virus rampaging throughout the world causing people to shelter in their homes for most of the last few months, the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Tourism Barometer showed a precipitous fall of 98 per cent in international arrivals in May this year when compared with May 2019. The Barometer also uncovered a 56 per cent decline in tourist numbers for the first five months of this year, translating into a loss of 300 million tourists and USD 320 billion lost in international tourism receipts. This is more than three times the loss during the global financial crisis of 2009.

Although there are hints of a gradual and cautious resumption of travel, confidence is low. A majority of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) panel of tourism experts expect international tourism will only recover in the second half of 2021.

When travel can resume under a 'new normal' travel framework, the "Unravel Travel" survey found that with a score of 76, India and Thailand are tied for top position for nationalities most confident of travelling. Asian countries dominate the countries that scored above the global average of 61, including China (69), Indonesia (65), Singapore (64). France and Germany also rated above the global average.

At the other end of the spectrum, Japan was rated the most cautious with a score of 40, followed by the Philippines (43) and Hong Kong (50). Other countries that scored below the global average include Sweden, New Zealand, UK, Canada and the United States.

Saurabh Sardana, Chief Operating Office of Blackbox Research, said that each country's score reflects a balancing act between a number of considerations -- the perceived importance of tourism to the country's economy, national management of COVID-19 cases and even past experiences of similar epidemics. Notably, New Zealand's low case achievement has led to the country's more cautious attitude towards international travel.

In another finding, the "Unravel Travel" study showed that contactless travel is something travellers would expect once they can resume travelling. 76 per cent of respondents indicated that their preferred destinations would be countries that offer more reliable contactless experiences. In terms of what the future of travel looks like, the study found that e-boarding passes (41 per cent), touchless lavatories (43 per cent), contactless journeys between airports and hotels (40 per cent), no more middle seats in transportation (36 per cent) and digital health passports (35 per cent) are some of the new ideas that global travellers hope to see implemented in the near future.

"Governments will need to play a key role in messaging and ensuring travellers' safety, as well as empowering the tourism industry through investment in new technology and innovation that would ensure a seamless, contactless travel experience that is sustainable," Sardana added. "The first movers will cash in on the pent-up demand as borders open." (ANI)

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