In its study “All Change: How Covid-19 has disrupted the future of long-distance mobility”, the firm Roland Berger provides a snapshot of what the behavior of post-Covid travelers could be. Survey work carried out among 200 experts in the sector and 7,000 travellers, with the aim of analyzing the lasting impact of these trends on the future of long-distance mobility.
And the results are mixed. If at the end of the pandemic, travelers plan to reduce their trips by around 20%, both private and professional, the number of trips should nevertheless increase by 1%, by a catch-up effect and impatience of travelers wishing pack their bags again. According to the firm, demand should take off again in the coming years, but in an unprecedented configuration.
The firm has thus identified three key trends that will contribute to reshaping the long-distance transport of tomorrow: environmental awareness and the search for travel efficiency, the reduction of the environmental impact of travel, and innovation in modes of transport. .
“The demand will be different”
“Our scenarios show that while the recovery may be slow for some regions and modes of transport, particularly in Europe in the air sector and business travel, demand will largely return to pre-pandemic levels in the coming years”, explains Didier. Bréchemier, partner at Roland Berger. “The demand will be different – for example people will travel more by train over certain distances, passengers will seek out environmentally friendly airlines and business travelers will venture away from the office less often, but for longer. »
On this point in particular, the studies follow one another and are indeed similar: business travel should be the most impacted by the pandemic. “The awareness of the impact of travel coupled with a rationalization of travel should continue, leading alone to a 12% drop in business trips to be expected in Europe after the pandemic”, analyzes the firm Roland Berger. At the same time, business travelers are sometimes less motivated to travel due to the adoption of new communication technologies that facilitate virtual mobility. This is all the more true in Europe, where 44% of respondents believe that virtual mobility is the main reason for changing business travel habits, the study points out. Crisis-induced changes in travel and mobility behaviors are expected to persist beyond the pandemic, which will force companies to shift their business travel policies and implement virtual meeting technologies.
International travel down 10%
Private travel, on the other hand, is expected to see a 1% increase, as it catches up after the restrictions, in particular to visit family or friends.
Travelers, increasingly concerned about sustainable development, have already led industry players and governments to introduce regulations on CO2 emissions, recalls Roland Berger. As Europe aims to become a leader in low-carbon long-distance mobility, investments and public subsidies are also flowing into the rail sector in China and the United States. For air transport, the continuous efforts which have generated real positive results on the environment, will continue with the use of biofuels, which will play an essential role, in addition to electric planes for short distances, estimates the cabinet. of advice.
According to the forecasts of this study, international travel should decrease by 10%. Domestic travel, on the other hand, will only decline by 1%, largely thanks to the “staycation” trend (developing domestic tourism trend). The modal split will also be changed, with rail increasing by 3%.
In Europe, travel demand is expected to stabilize and return to pre-pandemic levels in early 2026, the study predicts. On the other hand, business travel is unlikely to return to its pre-crisis level before 2030. Boosted by strong market growth, China is doing well and should recover the fastest, from mid- 2022, from the collapse of demand. Subject, of course, to the evolution of the pandemic.
As a result, players in the sector will have to redefine their priorities in order to overcome the difficulties and develop their activity again. “Sector players must seek out new customer segments, rethink new offers, reconsider their operating models and emphasize sustainable development,” advises Didier Bréchemier.