‘Travel debt’ means big business after lockdown

Is there such a thing as ‘travel debt,’ or more specific to our present situation, ‘post-pandemic travel debt’? Broadly speaking, this term encompasses all the backlogged trips that guests may be eagerly waiting to take once lockdowns are lifted and flights are restored.

Think of it like lightning. What we see in a single scintillating bolt represents the built-up static energy of millions upon millions of molecules violently scraping past against one another within a swirling cloud system until a seconds-long discharge is let out with the equivalent power of a nuclear payload.

The travel industry could well move in the same way as all these pent-up travel debts explode through the gates once we are fully free to move about the world once more. And in order for your property or hotel brand to capitalize upon this impending rush, you must first understand the reasons for travel so that you can pick away at one or a few of these niches.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Just as every lightning bolt emanates from a tiny spark, the initial phase of post-pandemic travelers will all have a strong reason for venturing out of lockdown. These reasons can include but are not limited to:

  • Local couples’ retreats, girls’ getaways or even buddy golf excursions where the idea is to alleviate any cabin fever with a quick trip (Canada’s top doctor aptly described this possibility as ‘staycations for the nation’)
  • Romantic getaways in the form of destination vacations where a proposal is the plan, weddings (either grand or private), engagement or stag and doe parties, bachelor or bachelorette parties, anniversary parties, and any manner of elopements
  • Funerals, wakes and celebration of life parties
  • Group meetings, conferences or reunions that were already on the books for summer or fall as well as those that were renegotiated for later in the year
  • Corporate travelers and road warrior salespersons who have a travel quota that they’ve been unable to utilize during lockdown
  • Customers who have a fervent sense of ‘patriotic tourism’ where they feel it’s their duty to help resuscitate the travel industry by supporting businesses with their wallet
  • People who say ‘the hell with it’ and decide to host a post-pandemic get together just because

Choose your targets

As you can see, the impetus for travel after quarantine are manifold. Importantly for each hotelier is that, like before the coronavirus crisis, trying to appeal to everyone means that you cannot excel in one particular area over another. You have to pick your targets whereby deciding upon which to pursue should be a result of intensive senior planning sessions where you discuss what your brand means to guests in the new normal.

All this also precludes two other critical behaviors to consider for what psychographic you choose to market towards in the post-pandemic landscape.

First is budget: COVID-19 has crippled customers’ bank accounts and they will need to be incentivized with fair rates and great packages. Moreover, for the latter this is the ideal time to see what your CRM and past guest data can do for you insofar as offering personalized one-to-one promotions to your loyalty base to help kickstart return visits.

Second is hybrid travel. Alongside all the bottled-up travel debts comes a stark feeling of YOLO (‘you only live once’) or FOMO (‘fear of missing out’) in that travelers will want to seize the moment and see as much of a destination as possible because they won’t know when they’ll be able to take a trip again. This in turn will lead to more business guests wanting to extend a day or so (that is, ‘bleisure’) as well as leisure guests stretching out their stays around that initial seed of a reason that got them out of the house in the first place. In this way, hybrid travel will favor those hotels that have promotions set up that motivate extra room nights.

Taken together, there are many reasons to be bullish on travel coming out of this crisis. The key, as always, will be to put in the hard work now so that you are fully prepared to exploit these opportunities when they present themselves in the coming months.