As a travel professional, I am often asked what you can expect in terms of pricing post COVID-19? There are two distinct trains of thought, each of them with their own merits.
Some people seem convinced that travel services should come down in price; the argument being that, with airlines, hoteliers, travel guides and cruise ships having suffered such a major financial hit this year, they are sure to want to lure clients back with cheap deals. We have heard Qantas CEO Allan Joyce allude to $19 airfares between Melbourne and Sydney. Such a statement is, in my opinion, rather misleading. No airline, no matter how popular, can sustain such low prices and still make a profit, remembering that airlines are businesses after all, and exist to make a profit. Therefore, if such low airfares do come into play, I would expect they will be short-lived, introductory specials that are not likely to include arrival and departure taxes, nor the obligatory fuel surcharges. These considerations alone would increase the airfare to anywhere from $80 – $100; no different to what we were used to pre-COVID. As such, Joyce’s comment was a way to dangle the Qantas carrot at a time when people are dreaming of travel. In addition, this comment also came at a time when their competitor, Virgin Australia had just announced they would be entering voluntary administration. The ACCC were quick to respond to Joyce’s $19 airfare lure, stating they would ensure a new Virgin Australia would not ‘die at birth’.
The second point of view claims that travel pricing will be more expensive post-COVID-19, precisely because the tourism industry has been the first hit, the hardest hit, and will be the last industry to recover.
My opinion? I think we can expect to see a combination of both. Australia’s domestic market will be the first to make a comeback. It would make perfect sense for family destinations such as Queensland’s Gold Coast to offer specials. This would serve to not only encourage families to return to the popular holiday town, but it would also give travellers a well-deserved break after the stringent lockdowns forced upon us by COVID-19. It would also help to restore traveller confidence not just for themselves, but also for the rest of the country and possibly also worldwide.
Other Australian destinations such as the Northern Territory and Western Australia are already looking forward to the travel boom post COVID-19. They, however, are in the process of preparing their hotels and tour operations to welcome not only the visitors who had to unexpectedly cancel their trips in 2020, but also to welcome a new influx of Australians who will now be more inclined to explore their own back yard. These states are unlikely to be dropping prices significantly, knowing they will have a good chance of recovering lost income.
In terms of international travel, I believe price increases are almost inevitable. Why? Because, for international airlines, COVID-19 has been catastrophic. In preparing to recover from the (almost) 12 months of travel bans, they will have other challenges to deal with. They will not only need to wait for traveller confidence to return (which, I would estimate, will take another 6 months after the bans are lifted) but they will also most likely have far less flights operating than they did before the travel bans. Therefore, there will be less availability, and less frequency of flights.
Furthermore, most airlines have offered clients the option of credit, or of postponing their holiday anywhere between 12 – 24 months. That means many of their future clients for the next 1 – 2 years will be travelling at 2019 prices. I cannot see intelligent businesses such as Emirates, Qatar and Singapore Airlines operating from a place of desperation. Such airlines will surely operate from a place of power – just as any business should, no matter the challenge.
One thing is for sure, when travel resumes, whether domestic, or international, Touchdown Tours will be here to guide and assist you, making sure your holiday plans are seemless, and safe.