This week the team has been looking to the future. The 1 Chancery Lane Thursday Webinar, given this week by Sarah Prager and Richard Collier (and available here), grappled with the future of the travel industry and who should bear the risk of a second spike or future pandemic. At the conclusion of the webinar we rashly promised a briefing note on the possibility of criminal charges arising out of the epidemic; this briefing is not that briefing, which will follow later this week. In the meantime, we give you this week’s industry news.
UNWTO launches global guidelines designed to reopen tourism
On Thursday the United Nations World Tourism Organisation released its guidelines for the restoration of confidence in a safe and sustainable industry. Depending on when travel restrictions are lifted, the agency has warned that international tourist arrivals could fall by between 60% and 80%, putting 100 to 120 million jobs at risk worldwide, and potentially leading to a trillion pound loss in exports. The new guidelines identify seven priorities for the industry, namely:
- Provide liquidity and protect jobs;
- Recover confidence through safety & security;
- Public-private collaboration for an efficient reopening;
- Open borders with responsibility;
- Harmonise and coordinate protocols & procedures;
- Added value jobs through new technologies;
- Innovation and Sustainability as the new normal.
The guidelines aim to put in places measures which will restore consumer confidence in an industry which has haemorrhaged confidence of late, by way of safety and security protocols covering, amongst other things, the implementation of check procedures, including temperature scans, testing, physical distancing, enhanced frequency of cleaning, and the provision of hygiene kits for safe air travel, hospitality services or safe events. Interestingly, the role of technology in promoting social distancing in hotels and tourist destinations is also highlighted.
The UNWTO has recommended that its member states should provide financial and other assistance to the travel industry, including reviewing their cancellation policies (or the Great Refund Saga, as it is known to us), and the provision of clear information to consumers so as to build their confidence in the safety of travel resumption. It calls for the harmonisation of health protocols and procedures at global level, with the implementation of an international tracing app and coordinated common policies on safety and security. It also advocates an acceleration of the pre-existing move towards sustainable tourism, with more resource efficient and low carbon tourism and more effective destination management.
All of these measures appear eminently reasonable and sensible. It is perfectly clear to the author that travel and tourism ought to be governed by globally coherent guidelines, not least in the current crisis, so that travellers know what to expect when they venture abroad. The difficulty for the UNWTO, however, is that building global consensus, and then translating that consensus into action, is notoriously difficult. We have watched as the EU’s commitment to harmonisation and freedom of movement has all but fallen apart in recent months, albeit for understandable reasons; will we now see the global community come together in support of the industry, and of consumers’ desire to travel safely? We can only hope so.
About the author
Called to the Bar in 1997, Sarah Prager has been listed in the legal directories as a Band 1 practitioner in travel law for many years. Together with her colleagues at 1 Chancery Lane, Matthew Chapman QC and Jack Harding, she co-writes the leading legal textbook in the area, and has been involved in most of the leading cases in the field in the last decade.
Predicting future travel trends
With lockdown easing further this week, it seems reasonable to start to tentatively think of the future of the travel industry. Who doesn’t need a holiday by now? Happily, it appears that people are starting to develop the confidence not just to daydream but to commit to future bookings. However, since it seems likely that Covid-19 will continue to influence travel plans for a while to come, it is worth considering what travel in late 2020 and 2021 might look like.
When will it be possible to travel again?
Apparently this Autumn and particularly next Spring are proving to be popular months for those booking now. Certainly, in light of the FCO’s ongoing advice against all but essential travel, it would seem foolhardy to book to travel in the next few months. Anyone travelling against that advice is likely to invalidate their travel insurance. The availability of travel insurance is also likely to influence consumer confidence. In the early stages of the pandemic many insurers simply stopped selling travel insurance. Many of those who have remained in the market still have exclusions in their policies for coronavirus related claims.
Nevertheless it is encouraging to see bookings being made for this time in 2021. These will hopefully ease the current pressure on cash flow in the industry or at least provide the promise of future business.
Interestingly, it appears that popular destinations appear to be those perceived as having handled the pandemic well. Those countries who responded quickly and have effectively controlled the spread will additionally reap the rewards of high visitor numbers.
Unfortunately there is already some evidence that our own response will limit the options available to UK tourists. The UK failed to make the list of 29 countries deemed to fit the Greek epidemiological profile for safe travel. Therefore, while citizens of many European countries with low infection and casualty rates, as well as those from Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Korea, will be able to fly to Greece from 15 June, UK citizens are unlikely be able to holiday there before 1 July at the earliest.
Package or do it yourself?
The continued uncertainty until a vaccine is available could make packages more attractive. Those who book packages will, at least in law, be much better protected in the event of cancellation than those who book all the constituent parts of a holiday themselves, particularly where that involves entering into service contracts governed by foreign law. Further the impact of residual social distancing measures may increase the appeal of holidays in self-contained beach resorts. The enjoyment of city breaks is more likely to depend on restaurants, museums and other attractions being open.
However, consumers may have concerns about the security of tour operators and what happens if they fail over the next 12 months. Last year’s collapse of Thomas Cook is still fresh in people’s minds and many tour operators have been hard hit by the pandemic. TUI, who had hoped to resume package holidays on 12 June have just cancelled all foreign holidays until 1 July, and even some that were due to take place in November. Further, fears about the risk of infection at buffets or in densely populated resorts may encourage travellers to opt for self-catering accommodation.
Rise of the staycation?
Another possibility is that, at least for next year, consumers may turn more to domestic tourism. Anyone who has tried to get a refund from an airline lately may not be in a hurry to book another flight. The uncertainty around Brexit last year had already led many to opt for the perceived greater security of the staycation, turning attention to what the UK has to offer. Of course, some of that uncertainty continues with a no deal exit still a possibility. No doubt some will want to celebrate the end of lockdown by getting as far as possible from home, but if this weather continues, others will wonder what the point of going abroad is. I hear Barnard Castle is lovely this time of year.
About the Author
Ella Davis was called in 2013 and now undertakes work in the cross border field on behalf of both Claimants and Defendants. She has particular expertise in claims involving allegations of fundamental dishonesty and has a good deal of experience in conducting trials around the issues which arise from such allegations.
Is sustainable tourism the future for the travel industry?
There can be no doubt that the travel industry has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19. With the recent news of the government’s implementation of a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for all travellers arriving in the UK, the picture would appear bleak. There is, however, some light at the end of the tunnel. There are some suggestions that, following the lifting of lockdown, the travel industry could rebuild itself in a more sustainable way, which would involve a shift away from city breaks to longer visits in densely populated areas. With the industry needing more of a cash injection than ever, could sustainable tourism be the way forward?
Prior to the pandemic, individuals have voiced concerns about the sustainability of tourism. Pictures in the press showed Venice’s skyline dominated by cruise ships and pollution emanating from its canals. At the Trevi Fountain in Rome, tourists would flock daily to this spectacular landmark, battling with the crowds to take the perfect selfie. Yet, when the pandemic struck, everything changed. As people were ordered to stay indoors, streets became emptier, and nature appeared to re-emerge and reclaim the land. Venice’s canals are the cleanest they have been in years, with reports of an octopus swimming in its clearer and emptier waters. Sika deer have been seen wandering the city of Nara in Japan, and monkeys have descended upon the streets of India and Thailand. As a result, some have suggested that the virus is instead, incidentally, over-tourism; a phenomenon which the global lockdowns have cured. These natural occurrences have provoked a reaction across the world, leading to calls for changes to be made to the way we holiday.
Some tourist boards have advocated for a newer, more sustainable form of tourism, with a view that this may reinvigorate the travel industry. Paola Mar, Venice’s counsellor for tourism, has discussed triggering a “renaissance of the city”. In essence, Mar suggests encouraging tourists to stay for longer and advocates a slower form of tourism, whilst attempting to lure locals back to the city. Other non-profit groups in Amsterdam hope that the pandemic will catalyst a move to sustainable tourism.
It seems unlikely that travel will return to what it was before the pandemic struck. Gone are the days where tourists would take short weekend breaks in a number of European cities. The travel industry has to grapple with the fact that many frequent travellers may not wish to travel as often following the pandemic. This is, in part, due to some anxiety surrounding possible exposure to infection. As such, the desire to travel to overcrowded city centres is likely to wane, and the way we holiday will inevitably change. Nonetheless, the importance of socialising and human contact has resurfaced during the pandemic, as has our appreciation of the environment. Travellers may equally opt for holidays where they experience the culture of their destination and spend more time with locals, rather than attempting to take as many photos of well-known destinations as possible. What can be said with certainty, however, is that post-pandemic travel is going to be different.
About the author
Dominique Smith was called in 2016 and undertook pupillage in chambers under Jack Harding, Andrew Spencer and Sophie Mortimer. Her experience as a pupil in the field of travel law translated into a busy practice, and she is now a highly regarded practitioner within the area in her own right. She undertakes work for both Claimants and Defendants and has a particular interest and expertise in Coroners’ Inquests.
Readers who attended Thursday’s webinar will have read our characterisation of it in the introduction to this briefing with some surprise. Although it is not exactly untrue to state that we dealt briefly with the future of the travel industry, it is only right to acknowledge that by far and away the greater proportion of time was spent discussing Richard Collier’s new haircut. And it would be remiss not to report, fearlessly and without favour, that polling conducted at the end of the webinar revealed that 100% of those who responded considered that his celebrity lookalike, far from being, as alleged, Heath Ledger, is in fact Judge Rinder. Many thanks go to Darren Dyke, our dear friend from Slater & Gordon, for first spotting the likeness, a pivotal moment in history that we think compares with the invention of the printing press or the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.