How Long Will it Take for the Travel Industry to Recover after COVID-19?

4 min read

How Long Will it Take for the Travel Industry to Recover after COVID-19?


The first COVID-19 cases were discovered in China in December, 2019. Since then, the coronavirus outbreak has spread rapidly all over the world. Most countries are still fighting against the epidemic. 


For many countries, their strategy to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak is to lock down movement  of people to dramatically slow the spread. Around the globe we are seeing governments enforcing stay at home rules. 


By keeping people at home, it can help prevent large-scale infections that overwhelm the medical system. “Flattening the curve” staggers cases over a longer period of time and buys health-care providers time to mobilize — to build capacity for testing, for tracking down contacts of those who are infected, and for treating the sick (From Bloomberg, When and How Does the Coronavirus Pandemic End?


With such measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is no secret that the travel industry is one of the most impacted. The current situation begs the question, “how long will it take the travel industry to recover?” 


In this post we provide our insight on the above question reviewing the current state of travel in major markets such as China, where good news has started to appear. We also highlight trends in travel that will result from the current COVID-19 situation.


Signs of Improvement in China

China has arguably taken the most extreme measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and thankfully those measures have led to a significant decrease in the number of domestic cases over the past weeks. As the measures in place have become more relaxed we have begun to see more activity in the travel industry that points to a turn around. 


A study by Travel and Mobility Tech that analyzed travel application download trends in China provides much-needed optimism for the industry. The study reviews downloads for China-based applications providing air travel, online search and reservation, accommodation, urban mobility (bike, car, and ride-sharing), tours and activities. 


Across each vertical, the trend in downloads of applications in each vertical shows a steep decline in downloads for January and February, but recovery in March. Some verticals are more pronounced than others as you can see from the charts further below. Looking at air travel the chart shows that as of recent, growth in airline app downloads is increasing corresponding with the moment domestic restrictions were listed, leading us to conclude that many people in China are planning to travel again.




  • For each vertical, the study selected the top five mobile apps based on app download volumes within the last 12 weeks in China. They then calculated the week-over-week change in app downloads and smoothed the trend lines by using a two-week moving average.
  • China had resumed business operations in all 30 mainland provinces (except for Hubei) on February 10th, even before the infection rate reached its all-time peak on Feb 17th.


Besides air travel applications, other travel verticals are seeing similar growth trajectories for application downloads. The fastest recovery was witnessed with applications that offer bike and car sharing, likely as a result of people returning to offices.




“Travel bookings, on the other hand – be it flights, hotels, or entire travel packages – usually require a longer lead time and are less of a must-have in people’s daily lives. A business trip can be subsidized through a video conference call; the next vacation can be postponed – hence demand returned slower (from Travel and Mobility Tech).”


It’s worth noting that we’re analyzing metrics that are far from pre-COVID-19 levels, however the renewed consumer interest could point to increased travel bookings in the months to come.


Travel Predictions During and Post COVID-19

Like many other industries, we expect both immediate change in travel habits and lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the travel industry. The changes provide opportunities for businesses to provide new ways of travelling, overhauling booking experiences and much more. It is also very likely that we see entrepreneurial projects jump to the rescue in creating systems to allow people to travel early, including with government accepted COVID Passports


In the short-to-medium-term as different regions progress through the initial shocks of the pandemic, we expect renewed interest in travel, much in the same way as China experienced (shown above). Long term, we have no doubts the travel industry will be back in full swing. For now, there are areas where we predict the most change and renewed interest in travel to occur in the months and years ahead, they are covered below. 


Staying Local

As domestic cases of COVID-19 have fallen in China, the threat has shifted to preventing imported cases. This has led to even more thorough checks and deeper quarantines on international arrivals into China. China is not alone in enhancing measures at its borders to international travellers. Other countries like the US and Thailand have temporarily banned international arrivals from a number of regions. 


The result is likely many more months of very tight (and inconvenient international arrivals) or completely shut-off borders. Travellers not wanting to attempt international travel will opt for local travel instead, so we expect demand for domestic travel and the off-shoot industries. This includes remote domestic destinations, recreational vehicle rentals and naturally social-distanced travel activities like camping, golf and fishing trips.


Accommodation for Quarantines

Many countries have imposed a mandatory 14 day quarantine period for both nationals returning home from overseas and new international arrivals. Instead of returning to family homes and risking passing sickness individuals have opted for hotel quarantines. In such situations hotels offer seamless check ins, safely deliver meals and services without coming into contact with quarantined individuals. 


Secondly, with social distancing being an important element of “flattening the curve”, apartment and home rental platforms should benefit in the near-term.


Corporate Travel Overhaul

Zoom, Skype and Facetime are household names within corporations nowadays as workforces are largely remote. Going forward, remote work will become much more prevalent than ever and as it does, corporate travel will look a lot different. Virtual conference tools like Zoom will replace a lot of non-essential business travel, but quarterly, semi-annual, or annual corporate retreats for remote teams will be common. Plus with the closer integration of work and life, corporates will start to add travel perks to employee benefit packages as demand for temporary separation of the two grows.


Industry Consolidation

Many believe that with every crisis comes opportunity. As the travel industry has been one of the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic we expect industry consolidation in the form of mergers and acquisitions. Upstart companies with unique value propositions plus large online travel agencies and airlines with weak balance sheets and large headcounts will be acquisition targets. Technology businesses with large user bases on the fringe of the travel industry could use this as an opportunity to enter the space.


Think Positive, Stay Strong!

Here at, we are continuing to work hard to provide you the best service possible in these unique times. We’re making the most of the COVID-19 situation and using this time to build our ecosystem and make our platform better than ever. Rest assured that we are well positioned  to weather the COVID-19 situation. Our community can expect resilience as we adapt to changes in the market and stay on top of trends. 


The Team


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