Travel industry turned upside down: Insights, analysis, and actions for travel executives

Although the travel industry is no stranger to hardship and has been seriously damaged by the pandemic, we have already seen strong leadership actions that are keeping companies and their people above water while remaining focused on long-term growth.

Many players have acted quickly to retain customer goodwill, tap into new sources of liquidity, and work effectively with unions to agree on voluntary redundancy programs. We have also seen innovation and a focus on customer experience. These examples illustrate the travel industry’s strength that will help it chart a way forward through these challenging times.

Key insights of the report

To see how the industry has been affected by COVID-19 and how it might thrive in the future, we have synthesized ongoing Skift and McKinsey analyses and interviewed travel executives and major corporate-travel buyers. In so doing, we observed five, perhaps counterintuitive, themes:

  1. We see signs of latent demand for travel. Customers are interested in traveling again when restrictions lift, even willing to do so before a vaccine is available at scale. China—which, as of the time of writing, has effectively controlled the spread of the virus—is seeing both the leisure and business travel segments recover domestically. And led by Germany, Europe shows encouraging first signs of recovering travel demand. Other geographies, including the United States, have not yet effectively controlled the spread of the virus; even so, we see a considerable increase in searches and advance bookings.
  2. Travelers are keen to travel but feel restrained. Indeed, due to necessary public-health measures and safety precautions—such as quarantines, closures, and other restrictions—the leisure space may be…



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