Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

As the world sinks deeper and deeper into a doomsday mood over the spread of Covid-19, one of those whois delivering dire predictions for the travel industry is also offering hope.

Adam Sacks, president of the Tourism Economics analytics group that last week predicted fallout from the virus will be six times more damaging than that from 9/11, said he also believes there will be a strong and fast recovery, particularly for the luxury sector.

"I think that one of the most difficult things in a crisis like this -- and I can remember feeling the same way after 9/11 -- is that resignation that it will never be the same. And I am convinced that is a false premise," he said in an interview on March 20.

"I'm convinced of that because our industry has been through crisis after crisis, disaster after disaster. In the midst of it, it feels like we may never emerge from this the same. Yet each time the industry has emerged into a strong recovery. And I hold that as a reasoned position and one based on historical precedent, that there will be a strong recovery."

He did emphasize that "the timing [of recovery] is anyone's guess. But in all likelihood this is not an indefinite situation."

Because lower-income workers, who were among those most affected by the financial crisis of 2008, are also most likely to be most affected by the economic fallout from the pandemic, the luxury travel sector figures to see the fastest recovery, as it did after the Great Recession.

Indeed, that is when luxury took a one-two punch, first from the financial crisis itself and then from what came to be known as the AIG effect, a backlash against luxury sparked by news reports that the insurance giant was holding a retreat at a luxury resort after receiving a multibillion-dollar government bailout.

Not only did luxury end up coming back faster and stronger than ever, it also helped fuel a rise in social responsibility and community give-back programs by luxury hotels as well as more experiential-based rather than bling-based travel, a trend that over the last decade has become the norm across all travel sectors, not just luxury.
What that will look like and whether we, as a result of this crisis, will again see a fundamental shift in priorities and travel trends is anyone's guess at this point.

In the meantime, he advises companies to use the opportunity to keep their brands front and center on social media and through public relations.

So whether it's later this year or early next year that we really see travel come back, Sacks said, companies now should be focused on a developing a robust recovery communications plan, to ensure "you are locked and loaded as soon as the all-clear is given."

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