One of the most jarring consequences of the pandemic in our interconnected world has been the restriction of individual movement. The freedom to travel, locally or abroad, is limited. Beyond cancelled vacations and business trips, the travel, tourism and hospitality industries are crippled.
To help them better understand their industry, communicators in all sectors can use predictive landscapes to understand trends.
In order to examine travel’s future, APCO Worldwide’s digital team compiled an informal database of 100 forecasts. These forecasts were published in 30+ unique media outlets. We used a Natural Language Processing algorithm to group predictions according to thematic similarity.
Motivators and Destinations
In the travel example, two primary categories, or themes, emerged: Travel Motivators and Travel Destinations.
On the left in the graphic, predictions are categorized as industry improvements. These are necessary to motivate people to travel in the post-COVID-19 world.
The more obvious actions include increased promotions and cancellation flexibility. In addition, there are predictions about promoting sustainable travel options that consider environmental health. Emerging environmental and sustainability themes include predictions about reducing over-tourism and carbon emissions of aeroplanes and cruise ships. Moreover, there are efforts to ensure that natural landscapes are protected from people and people from nature (e.g., viruses).
Technological innovation also features prominently in these predictions. Robotics and automation services can minimize human contact in airport queues and hotels. Biometrics can track unhealthy travellers. Radically rethinking interior design to accommodate social distancing within modes of transportation is another prediction.
Several predictions speculate that shifts in destination choice will influence post-pandemic travel. Instead of global cities, travellers may prioritize rural or remote destinations off the beaten track, where proximity to nature could be perceived as being healthier.
Another cluster of predictions centres on bucket-list travel. A potential increase in once-in-a-lifetime vacations following the pandemic’s restrictions is mentioned.
While there were numerous predictions concerning the future of economy accommodations, opinion was divided. Some see private vacation rentals increasing, as long as the properties are isolated and close to home. Others think that smaller-scale private operators will be unable to guarantee sanitation in each lodging. On the other hand, hotels already are touting deep-cleaning regimes. In addition, some hotels are investing in apartment-style rental properties.
Health and Safety
Last, two themes dominate the centre of the network and reveal priorities for future travel: health and safety and the expected increase in family travel.
As travel restrictions are lifted, the first trip that many will take is to visit family and close friends. Some industry observers expect to see that trend evolve into increased multigenerational travel. Similarly, families will rediscover the importance of spending time together and seek to save on travel costs.
Most importantly, all actors in the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors must adopt technologies and procedures to ensure potential travellers’ health and safety. Cleanliness and healthiness may soon even become key factors that airlines, hotels or tour groups use to differentiate their services from the competition.
Trend Mapping in Any Industry
While no one can predict all aspects of the future with certainty, we can examine common predictive themes. We then can use them to map trends likely to shape an industry’s future. As this global crisis evolves, we can update models to take into consideration changing predictions and revise projections accordingly.
Communicators can use prediction landscapes to understand wider industry trends that are likely to influence business and communication strategy. In addition, communicators tracking forecasts will be better positioned to navigate changing circumstances and deliver a future-forward response.