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Travel product development in the face of the pandemic
WYSE News | October 14, 2020

As of September, the expected change in demand for 2020 compared to 2019 seems to have levelled out at -70%. After a slight show of optimism (-62%) in June, there has been little change and the picture across world regions is similarly stable.



With few signs of meaningful improvement for travel and tourism businesses, efforts have turned to the development of new products and markets as the global COVID-19 crisis continues. In September, 37% of respondents to WYSE Travel Confederation’s COVID-19 Travel Business Impact Survey[1] reported developing new products for both domestic travellers and digital nomads in September. Digital nomads in particular are being welcomed by some destinations with some governments facilitating this welcome with special visa schemes.

This article takes a look at product development for two particular marketplaces: domestic travellers and digital nomads.

Domestic travel
Respondents indicated that on average, just over 32% of their total business was domestic. North American respondents have the largest share of domestic business (46%).



The average reported decline in domestic travel demand in 2020 was 28%, a much lower figure than for the market as a whole (-70%). This is a strong indication as to why many operators have developed their domestic markets. The decline in domestic travel was highest for the Middle East (-83%), and lowest for Oceania (-6%).




Forty-five percent of respondents indicated that they had developed new products or services for the domestic travel market as a result of COVID-19. In terms of world regions, Oceania had the highest proportion of respondents developing new domestic products (60%), while Asia (33%) and North America (35%) had the lowest levels of domestic product development. In the case of Oceania, the relative isolation and tough travel restrictions have forced operators there to look for domestic travellers. In North America there is already a strong domestic market, so fewer operators would need to develop new products for domestic markets there.



Developing new products for the domestic market is most prevalent in the accommodation, activities, tours & attractions and language travel sectors. These are relatively place-bound operations, and therefore must tap into new markets to replace international clients. Work experience and volunteer travel tend to be more reliant on international travel and are likely finding it harder to re-orientate towards domestic travellers.



The development of domestic travel products has had a positive impact on demand, with those developing new products expecting 11% more demand for the third quarter of this year and 9% more demand for 2020 as a whole.



Digital nomads
Another market development possibility has opened up with the discovery of digital nomads. Digital nomads have been around but have up until now been viewed as a relatively marginal market. With the boost in remote working as a result of the pandemic, some businesses and destinations are looking to digital nomads as a potential new market. Twenty-one percent of respondents indicated that they were actively developing new products for digital nomads. 



Digital nomad product development was most obvious in Central and South America, where nearly 35% of respondents said they are developing the digital nomad market.



The volunteer travel sector is most active in pursuing digital nomads, followed by language travel. In general, digital nomads tend to be slightly older, and may therefore be less attractive for the educational travel sector.



In terms of the types of products being developed for digital nomads, respondents indicated that the provision of online course and services was most common.



Those organisations that have developed digital nomad products generally perform better than those not tapping into this market.



The Youth Travel Industry and COVID-19
To learn more about COVID-19’s impact on the youth and student travel industry, read our report The Youth Travel Industry and COVID-19. The report provides a summary of survey results derived from WYSE Travel Confederation’s COVID-19 Travel Business Impact Survey for the period March – August 2020. Change in demand, business concerns, consumer messaging, digital shift, business recovery outlook and many other topics are covered.

WYSE Travel Confederation
If your business would benefit from unique business insights on the youth travel market, industry representation for common business interests and 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.


[1]Data for this report were collected between 4 and 13 September 2020 by WYSE Travel Confederation, the global association for youth, student and educational travel organisations, via web-based questionnaire in English. The September survey was the seventh in the series.
The September survey attracted 338 responses from 69 countries. Three-hundred and eighteen 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. 

The profile of respondents has remained similar from month to month during this survey series. Youth travel specialists, defined as those organisations with over half their main business in the youth market, have consistently made up 60% or more of respondents over the course of the survey series.