A country’s local sentiment towards visitors, as well as its transparency in sanitation measures, will play a major role in influencing the destination’s speed of recovery when global travel resumes.
These factors have ballooned in priority among consumers who are currently planning their first overseas trips, shared experts at the virtual PATA Travel Mart 2020.
In a TripAdvisor survey conducted over the past six months, more than 70 per cent of consumers across the world expressed concern about how destinations are handling Covid-19 cases and infections.
“More than 70 per cent (of consumers) mentioned the importance of how destinations are creating a culture of social responsibility, such as (being) required to wear masks and practising social distancing. They are also paying a lot of attention to the presence of businesses with measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus,” shared Fabrizio Orlando, global industry relations associate director, TripAdvisor.
He opined that a health and safety guarantee has dethroned price and location to become the main influencing factor in consumer’s choice of accommodation.
Orlando explained: “72.8 per cent of consumers told us that health and safety precautions are now the most important thing they look for in accommodation. 91 per cent say that cleanliness is the main criteria.”
In end-June, TripAdvisor launched a Travel Safe initiative that allows businesses to indicate their safety measures through a checklist. Orlando reported that the clickthrough rates for properties that have adopted this feature increased by 16 per cent, with properties in Asia recovering three times faster than those that have not adopted the checklist.
“Businesses don’t need to completely change their business model. Simply making small changes can leave an impression on customers. For destinations, it’s a matter of understanding that transparency is key. In this moment, they need to proactively shape the minds of people about why they can feel safe in that destination,” he said.
Local sentiment towards visitors can create a large impact on the perceived safety and appeal of a destination, added Olivier Henry-Biabaud, CEO of travel data analytics company TCI Research.
He explained: “Local sentiment will impact visitor experience and satisfaction, as well as destination reputation. Local friendliness is among the top three major criteria influencing visitor satisfaction and propensity to recommend a destination. This makes it more influential than shopping, accommodation quality and cultural attractions. If its locals are not welcoming to visitors, a destination cannot be competitive.”
Henry-Biabaud shared that while some 3,000 in surveyed populations across Asia-Pacific are eager for tourism to return – 73 per cent of residents expressed that their city should continue tourism promotions, and 77 per cent are still “very proud to see tourists” – issues such as cleanliness and environmental impacts of tourism are still perceived as the most pertinent concerns.
This is a spillover from debates pre-Covid-19, when there was “growing resentment” over issues such as overtourism, flight shaming, environmental impact and garbage management in popular tourist destinations.
Some 70 per cent of surveyed residents indicated that while they are eager for tourism to return by the end of the year, their city should “limit the number of international visitors” to prevent the spread of the virus.