According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), popular travel destinations welcomed 900 million fewer international tourists between January and October 2020, compared with the same period of 2019. During the same period of time, international arrivals also dropped by over 74%.
This collapse in international travel represents an estimated loss of USD 1.3 trillion in export revenues – more than 11 times the loss recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis.
There’s no doubt that the travel industry was one of the hardest hit during this global pandemic. To better understand the changes observed between 2019 and 2021, as well as what travel could look like in the next few months, the Trustpilot team took a look at global consumer activity on our platform between January 1st 2019 and March 1st 2021.
Here are the findings...
1. The global state of travel before COVID-19
To start, we’re looking at travel service reviews posted on Trustpilot.com between January 1st 2019 and February 29th 2020. This data should help us get a better understanding of how the travel industry was doing before the pandemic started.
But first, let’s define what a service review really is.
A travel service review is a review in which a customer describes the quality of their overall experience using the travel brand’s platform, or interacting with a customer service team.
Travel service reviews on Trustpilot.com from January 1st 2019 to February 29th 2020
When looking at global service reviews, it is clear that in 2019, there was a stable number of service reviews collected each month by travel brands.
In fact, the average number of travel service reviews collected each month between January 1st 2019 and February 29th 2020 was 111,792.
According to the above graphic, the busiest times of year were from July to October 2019 – probably due to summer holidays – and from January to February 2020 – which could be due to people going away on winter vacations.
The service review data above reveals that the travel industry was operating in a healthy manner in 2019 and the beginning of 2020. However, another type of review which is worth looking into are product reviews.
In the travel industry, product reviews are reviews in which customers describe the quality of the holiday itself – from the accommodation to the flight, food, or activities.
Travel product reviews on Trustpilot.com from January 1st 2019 to February 29th 2020
It’s worth mentioning that the amount of product reviews left on our platform is lower than the amount of service reviews we receive. So naturally, here, we’re looking at a much lower volume of global product reviews left on Trustpilot.com from January 1st 2019 to February 29th 2020. In fact, during that time frame, the average number of product reviews written each month was 2,583.
We see a significant delta between winter and summer months here, proving that consumers are more likely to leave a travel product review during peak vacation season – which in this instance, is during summer months.
To complete our analysis of 2019 data, we also looked at Trustpilot Business Profile pageviews for travel companies between January 2019 and February 2020.
Travel Business Profile Pageviews on Trustpilot.com between January 1st 2019 and February 29th 2020
Interestingly, the amount of traffic to Trustpilot travel business profiles tracks the exact same pattern as the global travel service review data shown above.
The stability observed in the traffic to travel brands’ Trustpilot profile pages, with seasonal peaks in summer and winter months, substantiates our previous conclusion that the travel and tourism industry was running successfully prior to Coronavirus, receiving a healthy amount of service and product reviews, as well as profile pageviews.
We now know just how well the travel industry was operating prior to the pandemic. This data will help us understand exactly how much the travel industry was affected during the global pandemic of 2020 and 2021.
2. The impact of the pandemic on the travel industry
Travel service reviews on Trustpilot.com from March 1st 2020 to March 1st 2021
When looking at global travel service reviews during the pandemic, it appears that March 2020 was relatively normal, and received a similar amount of service reviews than in March 2019, probably due to most countries not having any real restrictions implemented yet, and the natural delay between the experience and the review.
From April 2020, as travel restrictions started appearing across the world, we observed a significant dip in global travel service reviews left on Trustpilot.com.
Interestingly, travel service reviews spiked again from June to October 2020. This could be interpreted as the end of the first global lockdown, as some countries eased restrictions and people were able to travel internationally again.
However, even though we observed an increase in reviews left in the summer of 2020, the average number of travel service reviews collected during the pandemic (from March 1st 2020 to March 1st 2021) was 67,417 per month – a whopping 39.7% less than the average number of service reviews pre-pandemic!
Travel product reviews on Trustpilot.com from March 1st 2020 to March 1st 2021
Even though travel service reviews notably decreased in 2020, global travel product reviews left on Trustpilot.com were hit hard in 2020. The average number of global travel product reviews left on our platform from March 1st 2020 to March 1st 2021 was 470 per month – 81.8% fewer product reviews than the year before.
One of the reasons behind why product reviews were hit so hard could be that whilst service reviews were still being left from customer service interactions (travel refunds, travel vouchers, etc.) at the beginning of the pandemic, people weren’t experiencing any new travel products such as activities, food, or accommodation.
Here, we also observe a mirrored pattern in the data, as global travel product reviews dipped in the Spring of 2020 and rose again in the Summer – when restrictions eased.
This data demonstrates that most people probably stopped travelling because of government measures and restrictions, rather than fear of the virus – an encouraging sign for the future of travel.
Travel Business Profile Pageviews on Trustpilot.com between March 1st 2019 and March 1st 2021
Finally, we looked at the amount of traffic to Trustpilot travel business profiles during the global pandemic.
Surprisingly, the pattern here is very different to what we observed with our service and product review data from March 1st 2020 to March 1st 2021.
Here, we can clearly see that the traffic to travel business profile pages on Trustpilot.com was comparable to the data observed in 2019, pre-pandemic. This could be because people were still dealing with refunds, rebookings, travel vouchers and more, in the first half of 2020.
After the summer months, it is apparent that traffic dropped severely, possibly due to less demand in those services.
The Trustpilot travel review data clearly indicates that the travel industry was given a very turbulent year. However, there are some signs that suggest recovery will be strong once government restrictions are lifted globally.
To get a better understanding of what the future of travel could be like in a post-pandemic world, we take a look at current travel trends in our third and final section, and discuss what travel businesses can expect in the coming months and years.
3. The future of travel and tourism in a post-COVID-19 world
As our data suggests, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a large impact on the global travel industry, and even if we hope recovery will be strong, it is possible that travel will not look the same for the foreseeable future.
As we slowly dip our toes back in, we anticipate some worldwide shifts with people being more inclined to travel responsibly, and to really consider their destination before booking a trip.
In 2021 and beyond, travelers will most likely seek quality over quantity, and put more thought into their bucket lists. Whether people take less trips or travel to smaller communities to support local businesses and form human connections, there’s no doubt that more planning will go into each trip. Chances are that eco and wellness tourism might also be on the rise.
As most countries continue to distribute the vaccines, there’s also talk of a “global vaccination passport” – a certificate identifying those who have been vaccinated, and allowing for easier travel to participating countries.
One of the other big trends that has started to emerge is the importance of familiarity to a destination. During the summer of 2020, people stayed closed to home, with 9 out of 10 Europeans choosing a continental destination for their summer holiday. Experts believe that escapism – but close to home – could define the future of travel in 2021 and beyond.
For many, this may mean road trips are the only feasible option. And with staycations continuing to rise, travelers are more likely to be driving across their own country, or may even choose to travel by car rather than by plane when crossing international borders.
No matter what kind of holidays people opt for, traveling smarter will play a huge role in the future of tourism, and given the lingering worldwide uncertainty, booking at the last minute could become the new norm.
In the last year, many travelers have seen flight cancellations, trips left in ruins and refunds taking longer than usual. When looking to book future trips, consumers will be looking for businesses they can trust and rely on in case of an emergency. That’s why capturing and showcasing customer reviews should still be a priority for all travel companies.
Reviews will continue to play a critical role in how travel brands boost their reputations and drive business success. But many travel businesses are still missing the larger opportunity.
Reviews are not just something to monitor and manage. In order to succeed and thrive following the COVID pandemic, travel brands will need to think more strategically about the role review data can play in helping them achieve their business goals. Travel businesses who do not seize this opportunity could risk getting left behind.
There's no doubt that trust and third-party validation can help travel businesses secure a trusted and transparent future in a post-pandemic world.
If you'd like to give it a go, why not set up a free Trustpilot account today? It's quick and easy, just click the link below.