Helloworld Travel CEO Andrew Burnes has predicted international travel will not return for at least nine to 12 months, with cruising not returning to popularity until mid-next year.
Burnes addressed thousands of Helloworld agents in a letter discussing the recovery process from COVID-19, according to The Australian.
The Helloworld CEO said cruise would return to popularity after increased health and safety measures become known, but warned it may take longer than the rest of the industry, which he expects will begin its path to recovery next year.
However, he said that many staff members questioned if the cruise industry’s popularity would ever return.
“My answer is yes, of course. Cruise has proven to be one of the most popular sectors of the leisure travel industry in the world,” Burnes said.
“The product is popular, well-priced and delivers an all-inclusive break that people enjoy.
“Cruise companies are going to have to have significantly increased cleaning and disinfecting measures, commit to much better on-board health including immediate isolation capabilities, respirators and other near ICU facilities and to stringent health checks for all embarking and disembarking passengers and crew.’’
Burnes said travel agents would be more important than ever in navigating the new normal as countries will lift certain restrictions at different times to others.
“Getting to the other side of this is everyone’s greatest challenge. It’s a challenge for airlines, agents, wholesalers, cruise companies, hotels, resorts, tour operators — everyone,” he said.
“And it will come at a cost, both financial and personal.”
The Hellworld boss also predicted that in the next five to six weeks, some domestic intrastate travel will begin to return on a state by state basis, with cross-border interstate travel hopefully returning by September.
In 2021, Burnes said, destinations such as New Zealand and possibly some South Pacific countries could be the first to open to Australian visitors.
“Beyond that, and in the absence of a widely distributed vaccine (and even if there is a vaccine, it will take a long time for it to be widely distributed), the rest of the world will slowly open up to travel, with corporate travel recovering initially followed by leisure travel not too far behind it,” he said.
“But re-emergence of international travel is nine to 12 months away from today, so in the meantime, it’s going to require a tremendous amount of discipline for travel businesses to basically go into hibernation for the next six months or so.”
But when things do open up, Burnes said there will be an “enormous amount of activity to bolster travel demand”.
“In 2019, travel contributed $US9.25 trillion ($14.5 trillion) to the global economy and 325 million jobs worldwide,” he said.
“For many countries, it is their most significant contributor to GDP and employment, and we can expect to see a lot of marketing funds being directed to driving demand once visitors are able to return to key destinations globally and they will be welcomed with open arms.”