Humans were made to move. From the very beginning of time, organisms with the ability to explore their environment had the highest chance of survival. They could access resources others couldn’t and effectively move from place to place in times of danger and scarcity. Movement has always enabled people to learn more about themselves and the world around them.
"Global governments continue to advise consumers that the less you move, the safer you are - going against the very thing that makes us human."
"As the re-opening of the world commences, so too will people’s consideration for how they move - even questioning the very need to do so."
Perhaps this is why a lot of people are so eager to move again. Once busy travellers are now flocking to social media, looking back on a time when they could move. Hashtags like #neverstopdreaming #armchairtravel and #whenwetravelagain fill our feeds. From our most recent research, global citizens in Ireland told us they are completely fed up and feeling increasingly claustrophobic. Mood trackers from YouGov tell us that the less people move, the more depressed they feel. Yet the travel & transport industries remain largely grounded and the future of movement is somewhat conspiratorial. Planes are still in storage, borders blocked, streetscapes sleepy, hotels closed and 5km restrictions in place. As the re-opening of the world commences, so too will people’s consideration for how they move - even questioning the very need to do so.
Efficiency Over Experience
Before all this, airlines, travel agents and public transport enjoyed a lot more control. If people wanted to go somewhere, they had to settle for the only available way to get there. Yes, lower prices and convenient schedules might affect which brand of transport takes you there, but consumer choice was limited, services were standardised and increasingly inflexible. Changing flights was costly and air travel in the US was being compared to getting a bus! Cabins were crowded, queues were long, standing on your commute with zero personal space was just accepted.
Movement was fast becoming a service. A blended, multi modular way of getting from A to B. We were darting place to place, country to country with limited geographical constraints and low expectations of service. Looking back, moving didn’t feel like a customer centric experience – the means of doing so tied up in industries geared and optimised for speed, efficiency and, more recently, hyper connectivity. A far cry from the primal loco-motive explorations of our past!
The more cautious traveller
Thankfully, we’re entering a more trepidatious phase of how people will move through this increasingly porous world. One where a cautious and conscious consumer is really in control. A consumer that doesn’t have to travel. A consumer that will choose to move around in a way that makes them feel safe, in-control and doesn’t steal precious time from the activities that really matter to them. These needs are showing up as the following questions travellers are asking before making their next travel decisions.
1Personal Safety First – How safe is it to move?
Until a vaccine is available, the threat of the virus will see people prioritising their health and safety first and foremost. Even in the US, where domestic travel is the norm, most consumers say they will get back in carefully (47%) or test the waters first (42%), with only a brave 11% claiming they will jump right back in.
"You’d be forgiven if you felt the future of how we move was unfolding as an almost doomsday reality!"
A GlobalWebIndex survey found that the top option for inspiring confidence across all markets was by far “When I feel it’s safe to travel again” – scoring 58% globally and peaking at almost 70% in Ireland and the U.S. It scored almost twice as much as any other option, with countries re-opening their borders, travel advice being provided by the government and the removal of stay-at-home restrictions each polling around 30%.
You’d be forgiven if you felt the future of how we move was unfolding as an almost doomsday reality! One of clinical temperature checks at airports, government surveillance, friendly Aer Lingus staff in masks, isolated destinations, incubator restaurant experiences and the waft of hand sanitiser overpowering the sweet smell of sun-cream. However, there is comfort in the fact that cleanliness is the new amenity and consumers want it centre stage. A recent survey found that a healthy configuration is now the top consideration for customers looking to buy a new car in China. At 69%, it’s now considered more important than even vehicle safety (64%) and quality (63%) with germ filters and antibacterial filters of particular interest. Consumers have also said that they would feel more conformable with fellow passengers wearing masks and bringing cleaning efforts to the fore when they are on the move.
2Flexibility & More Choice – How flexible is it to move?
The cautious traveller is now demanding more flexibility than ever. They’ve had to cancel and postpone future travel, and have dealt with confusing refund policies and cancelled routes. They’ve also had to grieve the loss of visits to family and friends, and even once in a lifetime trips. Consumers want to feel empowered to choose a system of movement that now works for them, devoid of potential problems in the high likelihood changes might occur.
" When asked what would persuade them to book a vacation during the Coronavirus outbreak, flexibility was a key factor across all demographics. "
GWI finds 50% of US consumers and 38% of UK consumers report that they voluntarily cancelled, voluntarily delayed, or were forced to cancel vacation plans due to Coronavirus, while 35% of consumers in both markets reported not planning for any travel to begin with. When asked what would persuade them to book a vacation during the Coronavirus outbreak, flexibility was a key factor across all demographics.
Many cities around the world are preparing to facilitate new transport habits. In a recent IMB survey more than 20% of respondents who regularly used buses, subways or trains now said they no longer would, while another 28% said they will likely use public transportation less often. Cities across Europe are introducing new cycle lanes, giving the consumer more choice when it comes to modes of transport.
3Better Boundaries – How worthwhile is it to move?
"Life had become one long travellator."
People who were “on the go” pre-Covid have admitted it was all too fast. They were feeling physically untethered - moving, transient entities asleep at the wheel. Life had become one long travellator.
A series of invisible moving walk-ways pulling weary travellers across to cities in Europe and back again. One big blur of commutes, trips, taxi rides, airports, planes, more taxis, more commutes. Invisibly, the world sped up.
"It took a powerful force like Covid-19 to awaken the consumer from their movement slumber and instil this cautious yet empowering mindset."
The Atlantic recently covered a small but significant study that proves that the average pedestrian walking speed has increased by 10% in a 10 year period (1995-2005) and we imagine that figure would be much higher in recent years. It took a powerful force like Covid-19 to awaken the consumer from their movement slumber and instil this cautious yet empowering mindset.
People are increasingly aware that they were slaves to movement - to going, doing, progressing and are now beginning to really question how worthwhile all that travel was.
The top motivations for travel are shared experiences with people, de-stressing from everyday life and gaining new experiences. Only 28% of people cite exploring new cultures as their top motivation meaning that these top drivers can now be realised at home. Lockdown has made consumers realise what’s around them, and what they’ve been missing. Life is less busy, we have more time for what’s important. There’s a newfound appeal to the smaller world we’re living in - noticing the seasonal changes, a grateful feeling for our parks, beaches and natural spaces. Suddenly, overlooked areas close to home are worth stopping to take another look at.
If you’d like to learn more about the trepidatious traveller, the future of movement and how to enhance this new cautious customer journey please contact us and we’ll take you through a deeper dive and our key recommendations.
Huge thanks to Katie Cleary & Jess Sweetman for their invaluable contributions to this piece. #TravelTrio