Don’t depend on ‘revenge travel’. It’s more important for the travel and hospitality industries to strategize on a region-specific basis.

Following the easing of lockdown measures worldwide, the tourism industry is expecting a surge in travel. Coined as ‘revenge travel’, the term describes a surge in travel due to consumers being deprived of that possibility for a prolonged period.

Tim Hentschel, CEO and co-founder of HotelPlanner, is a veteran of the tourism industry who believes that while a rise in tourism within the South-east Asia region is to be expected, the increase cannot be entirely attributed to ‘revenge travel’.

Instead, he advises brands and companies to consider region-specific characteristics as well as the lower cost of tourism in the region. Here, Hentschel answers some questions posed by DigiconAsia:

Tim Hentschel, CEO and co-founder, HotelPlanner

As worldwide COVID-19 lockdowns start to ease, how major a surge is ‘revenge travel’ proving to be – now and in the predictable future?

Hentschel: ‘Revenge travel’ had a very short life towards the end of June, in the US specifically. This is due to the retreat into lockdowns due to an increase in COVID-19 infections resulting from increased testing.

Nevertheless, revenge travel should not be expected to be consistent worldwide. Instead, it should be expected to come in waves – for instance, when travel bubbles are established across specific countries, restrictions are eased for specific visa-holders and others.

Revenge travel is not a matter of where, but when. The current COVID-19 situation sees many changes and unprecedented situations – while no one can predict when travel will resume, one thing remains certain: a new normal will soon emerge.

This allows for capitalization of revenge travel when it arrives, and allows brands that have been improving and readying themselves throughout the pandemic to shine.

While curbs on travel has had a significantly negative impact on the travel and hospitality sectors globally in the first half of 2020, what positive and negative impact would a travel surge have in South-east Asia and other regions in Asia Pacific?

Hentschel: I see South-east Asia having a stronger bounce back in travel than Northern Asia, because of low-cost travel in South-east Asia. Needless to say, due to the social unrest in China, travelers will also choose South-east Asia as a safer option.

Despite this, outperforming Northern Asia will not mean a V-shaped recovery. We are forecasting hotel occupancies will stay at 50% of 2019 levels till the end of the year. South-east Asia recovery will also be dependent on the health of the airline industry. Several airlines like AirAsia and Hong Kong Air are on the brink of bankruptcy; if there is less competition in low-cost careers, prices for air will rise, and higher prices will hurt the recovery.

What are some key considerations for hotels and travel agents in terms of customer experience and employee experience, as they seek to address the surge in demand for travel and hospitality?

Hentschel: The hospitality industry recovery has been slow. This has made it harder for hospitality companies to deliver quality work product, because of lower staffing levels, and increase in COVID-19 protective measures.

The industry should try to keep high staffing levels to provide quality work and product even at low occupancies. Governments can help hospitality companies with this by passing a payroll stimulus plan.

How could technology help to meet these challenges and opportunities?

Hentschel: Technology can help forecast occupancy levels to keep staffing levels efficient to deliver the best product with new COVID-19 requirements.

Technology can also help us with social distancing through the pandemic. For example, virtual meetings at hotels will be the solution to have a 200-person meeting when the max number under current restrictions is at a dismal 50 people per room. Convention hotels have temporary walls in their convention halls; the meeting planner can set up 4 rooms of 50 people each, and tie these rooms together through virtual conference technology with cutting-edge AV systems.