Findings from WYSE Travel Confederation’s second COVID-19 Travel Business Impact Survey indicate that while top business concerns remain unchanged between March and April, there is increasing uncertainty around placement availability. Travel and tourism businesses are for the most part satisfied with the cooperation of their partners, and some are finding new ways to collaborate. Few see new trends, though accommodation and education providers are facing challenges that may have lasting effects. The modification of cancellation policies remained one of the top actions taken by businesses in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The experience of respondents in respect to cooperation with business partners was mixed. Just under 50% indicated the situation was much the same, but around 28% reported a worsening of collaboration compared with 24% saying it was better.
In general, however, respondents were satisfied with the cooperation of their business partners. Most problems reported related to refunds of deposits or lack of action from government or banks. When asked if they had found new ways to collaborate, 16% said they had. A lot of this collaboration relates to payments or the implementation of online activities.
Just over a quarter of respondents (27%) indicated new trends emerging as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The most notable of these was the shift to online provision, particularly in the educational travel sector. Some accommodation operators are serving stranded travellers or international students, and some reported fewer guests, but longer stays. For hostels still operating there has been a shift from dorm beds to private rooms. Forty-six percent of respondents had not seen any new trends for their business coming out of the COVID-19 crisis.
What these shifts may mean over the long term for youth travel products, programmes, and experiences remains to be seen. For educational travel, the opportunity for real life cultural immersion, whether formal or informal, will likely retain an important edge over online learning.
For hostels and accommodation providers who have traditionally offered socially inclusive spaces, shared social and sleeping spaces are now a challenge. How young people will feel about sharing space as a traveller post-COVID-19 also remains to be seen. It could be that younger travellers have less concerns about the health risks of COVID-19 and sharing a dorm room, especially if more scientific evidence emerges that suggests young people are less susceptible to the virus. On the other hand, COVID-19 could potentially accelerate the slow and steady decline of the backpacker that WYSE Travel Confederation has documented since 2002 through its New Horizons Survey. For school groups, it may become more important to educate parents and teachers on the health risks and hygiene protocols undertaken.
For longer-term co-living scenarios of exchange students, in European cities like Amsterdam there is debate as to whether those co-living in student accommodation should be subject to the same (or different) social distancing guidelines as family units. Some students feel it is unfair and unrealistic to expect social distancing rules intended for the public domain to be carried out within the confines of co-living situations – some students have even been fined for transgressing social distancing rules.
Overall, the short- and long-term business concerns of respondents changed very little between March and April 2020. However, there are indications of increasing concerns around placement availability for both the short- and long-term.
The top four long-term concerns remained the same and virtually the same as the short-term concerns. Clearly concerns around placements have increased, with the availability of these moving up into the top 5 list of long-term business concerns for youth travel organisations. Those dealing in work experience and educational travel programmes are particularly concerned about placement availability. Businesses in Africa and Central & South America were significantly more concerned about economic issues. Those based in Oceania are most worried about travel restrictions.
The most frequent action taken by businesses in response to COVID-19, both in March and April, was the modification of cancellation policies. The proportion of businesses reducing capacity rose by April, reflecting the effect of widespread travel restrictions. Respondents were also increasingly likely to be reducing marketing spend and slimming down their product range. However, more businesses were also engaging in diversification.
The main actions taken relating to internal operations were requesting financial assistance and the deep cleaning of business premises.
The move to property maintenance and cleaning activities is logical not only considering the health concerns of COVID-19, but that respondents indicated, on average, that 56% of their business locations had closed in Q1. These closures were most prevalent for providers of accommodation and activities, tours & attractions.
Regarding the move to request financial assistance, on average, respondents reported that they could continue operations for another four months, or until the end of the summer. In view of this relatively short period of time, it is not surprising that forty-seven percent said they are seeking immediate financial assistance. Twenty-two percent said they were planning to seek financial assistance in one to three months.
WYSE Travel Confederation and the COVID-19 Travel Business Impact Survey
If your business would benefit from unique business insights on the youth travel market, industry representation for common business interests, and hopefully soon, new trading opportunities with international partners, we invite you to discover the resources of the global trade association for businesses serving young travellers, WYSE Travel Confederation.
Next survey in the series
WYSE Travel Confederation will repeat the COVD-19 Travel Business Impact Series 1-11 May 2020. As with past travel business crises that we have monitored, it is important for the industry to come together and take its collective temperature, so to speak. Given that youth aged 15 to 29 represent 23% of international arrivals, all travel businesses, regardless of their focus on youth-tailored travel products, are welcome to participate in the survey.
April 2020 Travel Business Impact Survey:
Q2 worse across the globe, but some source markets expecting better for the whole of 2020
Staff cuts, location closures and short survival periods
March 2020 Travel Business Impact Survey:
Youth travel anticipating 30% decrease in business for 2020
Business outlook by youth travel sector
Looking back in order to see ahead
Data for this report were collected between 3-13 April 2020 by WYSE Travel Confederation, the global association for youth, student and educational travel organisations, via web-based questionnaire (in English). The survey was the second in a series titled COVID-19 Travel Business Impact Survey. The second iteration of the survey attracted 331 responses from 72 countries. Two-hundred and thirty-nine responses were retained for analysis. Respondents included organisations specialised in youth travel products as well as those representing mainstream travel products, members and non-members of the association. All respondents were asked about the impact that the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has had on their business in travel. Questions related to change in demand, outlook for 2020, main concerns and actions taken in response to COVID-19 have been repeated across surveys. New questions related to staff reductions, financial risk and potential up-and-coming trends were added to this second iteration of the survey. The profile of respondents to the second survey in April 2020 was similar to that of respondents of the first survey in March 2020, though there were fewer responses from language and educational travel providers and more responses from providers of accommodation and activities, tours & attractions. When comparing the March and April survey respondents, there was very little change in the level of youth travel specialisation of respondents, with over two-thirds of respondents doing 50% or more of their business in youth travel.