Very few industries weren’t directly impacted by a global pandemic, but there may be few that felt it as much as the travel and tourism industry. That being said, the industry didn’t simply die so much as it changed drastically. To begin with, while people were still traveling through most of the pandemic, they generally chose locations closer to home where they could drive rather than fly. Even when they did fly, they generally flew domestically rather than internationally, thanks to numerous travel bans in place. Still, the increase in domestic travel was not enough to offset the losses to the industry caused by the reduction in international travel.
Prior to the pandemic, travel and tourism accounted for 10% of global GDP. In 2020, airline industry revenues plunged roughly 60% in comparison to 2019, which is largely due to a 70% decline in international tourism between January and October of 2020. Even as travel restrictions begin to lift, however, it is unlikely that the travel and tourism industry will return fully to pre-pandemic norms. Perhaps partially due to the pandemic, but possibly due to other factors that existed even before the pandemic, tourists are showing a much stronger desire to travel to more rural and sparsely populated areas rather than large cities and densely populated areas.
For the moment, this is most likely still directly related to concerns regarding Covid, but as vaccination rates rise and borders begin opening again, there is a good possibility that travelers will continue to show a rising preference for ecotourism agrotourism and more sustainable forms of travel. While the pandemic certainly had a massive impact on travel, it also may have simply accelerated some changes that were already happening.
In addition to tourism, business travel also took a huge hit, with offices around the globe shutting down due to lockdowns and other pandemic measures. Unlike tourism, however, business travel is expected to not only rebound in 2022 but potentially grow exponentially. According to a recent report published by Bank of America, the fifth survey taken since the start of the pandemic, 56% of respondents now expect to travel more for business in 2022, while two-thirds of Chinese & Japanese respondents expect their 2021 travel to be at or above pre-COVID levels.