Living in times of a global pandemic where crowd gathering and social interaction has come to a halt, it is unsurprising that the travel sector has become a major victim of COVID-19. China was the breeding ground of the virus and has been affected by this crisis the most. But it is also the nation with a generation that is fond of travelling and also it’s a top tourist spot which has seen a steep decline in its travel demand. The contagious virus, which first started showing its signs at the end of 2019, has given rise to travel bans and closing of borders by many countries. Even though all of these will get lifted, and people will start to travel again once the situation gets under control, the traveling market won’t be the same as before. People will start to be more conscious and aware of their surroundings.
Breeding of a new category among travellers – FIT
With group traveling being discouraged, a different category of travellers is paving its way to give a new shape and angle to the travel landscape post COVID19. The fundamental trait of these travellers is that they avoid traveling in groups and plan their itinerary on their own. And accruing this behaviour they are known as FIT, an acronym for Free and Independent Travellers. Being in the millennial generation, they are Internet-reliant, heavy researches, and are capable of booking hotels, flights, and other important things on few simple snaps on their cell phones.
How is FIT changing the travel landscape
As per the survey of Trip.com, the largest online travel agency in China, the self-guided and independent trips would become the popular way of traveling instead of group tours and tour packages. Also, keeping in mind that the aged group of people has higher chances to get affected by the virus, it would be the younger travellers who would be keener to travel overseas post COVID19.
With the ascend of independent travellers in a post-pandemic world, it is a great way to pick up the economy of small tourism businesses. FITs have above-average income and are more inclined to spend money to try anything new and to explore more off-beat experiences. The ultimate motive of these travellers is to get to know the local culture of the place, which results in longer stays as they perceive traveling as a learning opportunity and not a mere tourist vacation. Moreover, they tend to explore new and unique destination spots. Hence, there is a possibility that many unexplored places or hidden gems will get discovered soon.
This is what we might call the rise of Smart Travel
Smart Travel will bloom and will get prioritized more after the pandemic as FITs are conscious and will take notice of crowd management to encourage social distancing. They will first choose to travel to secluded places where mother nature is at its pristine form to avoid crowd gathering. Initially, these travellers will prefer to visit places close to their homeland so that they can return home as fast as possible in case any emergency arises. The classic road trip will also see an increase after the pandemic, where FITs can take their private vehicles to drive. The car rental companies will also get a boost in their economy, given that the cars will be properly cleaned before they are used.
Apart from social distancing, the hygiene and sanitization of a place will also be a primary concern for these Independent travellers, hence there is a massive need for tourist destinations to grow their health and wellness segments. It is also the time when the hotels should reconsider their hygienic systems and make sure the travellers feel safe and secure.
Furthermore, since China is more stabilized than the rest of the virus affected regions, the Chinese FITs have already started inbound travel, giving hope that the domestic travel market of this nation will recover quicker than the other parts of the world. However, they are also planning for outbound travel as soon as the pandemic is more contained all across the globe.
It’s safe to stay the pattern, and the style of traveling will change after COVID19, and FITs will be a major reason behind it. However, group tours are not going to diminish altogether but now would be executed with more safety measures.
FIT and India
As FITs begin to drive the travel landscape in a new direction, most countries would have to evolve from group travel and make arrangements that suit these travellers’ interests the most as it would help to boost up the travel sector altogether. Although the influence of FIT travellers in India is not as intense as the developed countries, in a post COVID19 world with some changes, India might see a surge in FIT travellers. The hotels in India would have to up their game in hygiene and sanitization of the place to make the travellers feel safe and secure.
The FITS will flock in more if they are sure the city follows all the guidelines that help in curbing the spread of the virus and provides good hygienic facilities. Some of the popular travel places in India such as Goa, Andaman & Nicobar, Sikkim, Meghalaya- have minimum to zero COVID patients, and most of the affected patients have already recovered. Also, Goa has made it mandatory for International tourists to possess a health certificate to visit.
India consists of diverse and unique cultures and offers a wide range of unique experiences which the FIT travellers crave for. Hence, there is no reason why the country cannot be a popular destination for FIT travellers. If India can make sanitization, hygiene, and medical facilities their top priority, they would soon become a popular spot for the FITs. In this way, they can recover from the loss in the travel sector during the global pandemic.