How will we travel after COVID
Now almost all of our hotels in China are reopening and we are seeing a steady increase in demand. Reservations in other countries are starting to recover, first in the USA and then in Europe. Currently, these are vacationers. Business trips will take some time to return. I have spoken to many executives, especially our largest clients, and they are looking for ways to implement a more hybrid work regime for their employees. Now they work remotely.
It is clear that the chains with the lower prices – the economy class, budget, and mid-range hotels – are doing better. This is partly due to their location: many of them are located near airports and on highways. But over the next six months or a year, the balance will be restored, and when freedom of travel returns, the time will come for luxury hotels. Definitely, the situation will be in favor of hotel brands (compared to rent from the owner). With platforms like Airbnb, I just don’t understand how cleaning modes and safety protocols can be consistently implemented.
Some of the solutions we have found will work well for our business in the long run. We organize hybrid weddings using streaming video, distributing guests around the hotel to maintain a distance. This format can be used further so that relatives who cannot come from afar take part in the celebrations. Or there are new dining solutions – a kind of “buffet” with delivery. You can go in and choose what you want, and then it will all be brought to your table. Or you can create a mobile buffet where you can put certain items in a trolley and carry it between tables like Dim Sum.
Steve Hafner is the co-founder of the search engine Kayak and the CEO of the restaurant booking platform OpenTable:
We knew that COVID-19 would affect our business because we operate in China and Asia. After seeing the decline in travel demand [over there], we realized that if this virus spreads, it will have a similar impact on our entire business. Airlines and hotels are large companies with good funding. Restaurateurs are another matter entirely.
If you visit the Kayak website right now, the main page is the rental car. I never would have thought that this would happen, but this is exactly what people need now. Until they buy air tickets to London.
In OpenTable, we now have the ability to book a queue to a grocery store. We have enabled restaurants to act as stores and sell items such as paper towels, baked goods or meal kits. We have introduced reservations for bars. If they’re used to be a long line before entering the bar, that was great. In the COVID-19 world, things are different. You need to control visitors. And if, God forbid, you need to trace the contact, you should know everyone who was in your institution. From retail stores like Nike to college canteens, we are now approached by everyone who needs to open physical points of sale and control the number of visitors.
I think reservation and bandwidth control are with us for a long time. If you’re used to booking a table, you won’t want to queue anymore. And if a business owner got the opportunity to know who will appear in his area tomorrow, then he will not want to work blindly again.
Joe Gebbia – Airbnb Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer:
There are three things that we think people will need. First, they will want to travel more locally. Second, they will need affordable options. Third, they will prioritize cleanliness and privacy.
We do not think that people will willingly return to airplanes for the foreseeable future. The increased interest in domestic travel will remain with us for years to come. It does not depend on the [appearance of] the vaccine. People will have different risk tolerances. Also, given the economic situation, people are looking for affordable travel. And sometimes the most affordable travel is in your backyard.
Between May 18 and May 31, more nights were booked on Airbnb globally for domestic travel than in the same period in 2019, which is astounding. I think that the longer people are forced to stay at home, the more they want to go somewhere or just leave the house.
I don’t think business travel will remain the same. We all made sure that things are going well without personal communication. Doing business digitally is no longer burdensome and technically difficult. Everything went to this before, the pandemic simply accelerated this process.
But new things are also emerging, such as our online experiences. This is something we could never have imagined. The head of the department of impressions proposed to transfer them to the Internet. And we tried it. And of course, there are many online experiences on Airbnb. We have a host in Portugal who offers online sangria making lessons and have already booked over $ 100K in the first two months. I myself took a meditation course with a Buddhist monk from Japan. Using a laptop, while in San Francisco, I learned to meditate like a Japanese monk, with a real monk. And it cost about 30 bucks. We’re trying to find more experiences that can be transferred online.
The idea is also in the air that you don’t have to work from home. I would call it to work from anywhere. And this is a very cool idea.