Travel firms are not expecting business to return to “near normal” levels until the first half of 2021.
A survey of more than 200 delegates attending Elman Wall’s Covid-19 online seminar on Thursday (30 April) found that 46% thought trading would get back to pre-crisis levels in either the first or second quarter of 2021.
A further 25% said sales would not return to normal until the second half of 2021, while only 17% thought trading would bounce back in the final six months of 2020.
As for the shape of any recovery, 42% said it was likely to be “U shaped” meaning a “long and bumpy decline with an equally long and bumpy recovery”. Only 14% predicted a “V shaped” recovery with a sharp decline followed by a strong recovery.
Deborah Potts, founding director of Summit Advisory, which is part of Elman Wall, said: “It will be a very long and bumpy recovery, and will be subject to countries opening up.
“There will be a recovery in domestic travel – ahead of international travel - and certain markets will be slower than others, such as older travellers and large groups.
“The ski industry is more hopeful of a V-shaped recovery if the ski season goes ahead. But nobody knows and there may be a lot of wishful thinking.
“A vaccine is determined to be what will return full confidence to the travel industry and consumers, and the recovery will be consumer-driven.”
A wider survey of the travel industry is also being conducted, with Potts adding the early results were “a bit more pessimistic” around the timing of a potential recovery.
When it comes to corporate travel, Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association (BTA), said: “It’s all about next year. We will see domestic travel coming back in 2020 in some slow way.
“It may be at least 12 months from the end of the crisis before we see a real recovery. We’re thinking Q3 to Q4 of 2021 before we get back to 2019 levels.”
For the inbound market, Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, added: “Things are looking very, very challenging.
“In terms of the recovery, it will start with local, regional and then more domestic travel, and will be mostly visiting friends and relatives. It won’t be massive for hotels, transportation, restaurants and bars.”