Travel today and our hopes for the future

As a young travel business the coronavirus pandemic has had quite the impact. We wanted to share how we've been monitoring the situation, how we're responding as a business, and some hopes for the future.

We've been closely monitoring the government's advice, listening to the opinions of experts, and most importantly, having conversations with the people we're set up to serve - travel lovers across the UK and the world. This has enabled us to define our own plan for bouncing back, along with making some predictions about how travel behaviour may change over the coming months and years. Our findings and opinions are by no means intended to be exhaustive, but they should provide an insight into how we're thinking about things.

What we're hearing

76.6% of people said they're planning a getaway for 'when the time is right'

To help us better understand how our community is thinking about travel now and in the future, we conducted a survey where we asked 240 people a few questions on the topic. One of our insights was that most of the people we spoke to are still planning their next trip away, despite the current travel restrictions. This is reassuring, not just from a business perspective, but to show the pandemic won't stop our community of travel lovers from exploring the world.

74.4 % of people said they'd be comfortable travelling abroad by plane if the government says this is ok, and so long as there are few reported cases in the destination they're travelling to

Digging into this finding some more, it begs the question - how do you judge 'when the time is right'? From our research, this came down to two factors - the government's travel advice and the number of reported coronavirus cases in the destination you're considering travelling to.

"I've wanted an excuse to explore the UK for a long time! And right now I feel like a closed social bubble and car would be best."

As our audience waits with baited breathe for the right time to travel abroad, we're seeing growing evidence that domestic travel will rise in popularity in the coming months. As reported by Airbnb, domestic bookings are currently accounting for 80% of their reservations, with the majority being for properties within a 80km radius of home, so it's easy to make a quick escape if lockdown conditions were to suddenly change (Economist). In the short-term, these domestic trips will be centred around rural destinations, at least until the institutions that sit at the heart of urban spaces begin to open up.

With these changing travel habits, the purpose of travel will change for many over the coming months. We recently spoke to our community to understand the reasons that made travelling so special, and unsurprisingly, cultural exploration - in the form of food, music, art, and fashion - was the most common answer. But whilst we wait for our cultural hubs to come back to life, rural escapes will provide a much needed form of escapism and relaxation, particularly with the stress and intensity of the past few months.

"If the government has given the go-ahead for travel by plane, then it is at my own risk that I travel. Having missed out on a couple of planned holidays this year already, the travel bug is really starting to itch after being stuck at home for the last couple of months so it would be nice to get out and explore!"

When the government's advice eventually changes and we have the option to travel, it's clear that there will be plenty of personal factors at play, such as your perceptions towards risk, that will determine whether to take up that option. At Pluto, we've always found ourselves engaging with a community of early adopters, and from our recent survey, it appears their appetite towards risk extends to their feelings towards resuming travel.

Looking into the future

Firstly, it's encouraging that the results from our survey found no evidence that the coronavirus pandemic will dampen our audiences' desire to travel in the long term. In fact, we found the opposite. 32% said they'll 'travel more to make up for the missed trips' and 54% of people said they would 'probably travel the same amount as I did before coronavirus'.

Beyond the notion that people will get back to travelling as soon as they can, we have a few hopes of how travel behaviour may change for the better in the future.

People will take a more mindful approach to travel

Those often repeated wise words of 'you don't realise what you have until you lose it' are ringing truer than ever for team Pluto. We were never in doubt that we had an unshakable love for travelling, but there's nothing like having the luxury taken away from you to appreciate and reflect upon the moments we sometimes take for granted whilst travelling. When we're able to travel again, we plan to spend less time optimising our itineraries and more time seeing where the moment takes us. Along with focusing less on getting the perfect photo of a landmark, and more time spent looking at it. The topic of mindful travel is something we feel passionate about at Pluto, and a conversation we plan to open up in the coming months.

More domestic travel can be a good thing

Off the back of the growing popularity of domestic travel in the short term, we hope that people will (re)discover the beauty, diversity, and history of their own country, well beyond the time where our borders open up. Whether it's the golden beaches and crystal clear water in Cornwall, or the magical feel of the ancient City of York, the UK has much to offer. Yes, Europe and the rest of the world is fabulous too, but a weekend trip within your own country has the capacity to scratch many a travel itch, along with having a positive impact on the planet at the same time.

A greater demand for culturally rich experiences

Our community are forever demanding culturally rich experiences, but you only need to see the popularity of a TGI Fridays on the French Riviera to realise everyone doesn't share the same desires. The fallout of coronavirus may lead us to what Airbnb's Brian Chesky likes to call 'travel redistribution' - whereby more people look to 'get off-the-beaten path' to explore the less busy cultural spots. Over the past few months, we've been working hard on our travel planning tool, Pluto Pinboard, that should make it easier to discover, save and share travel recommendations for the culturally adventurous.

How we're responding

As a relatively small business, we have the advantage of being able to respond to the ever-changing situation a bit quicker than bigger businesses, but we're also doing what we can now to respond to the changing environment.

With our soon to launch Pluto Pinboard, we've been curating travel guides for cities throughout the UK, to help our audience get their travel plans back on track when the time is right. We're already seeing a couple of thousand people interested in the soon to launch tool, so if you'd like to join them in getting early access, just visit this page to register your interest.

We're working behind the scenes to improve Pluto Cover so we can provide the best travel insurance when we're able to travel abroad again. In addition to ensuring we can cover disruption caused by coronavirus, with features including free videos calls with a GP if you're ill abroad, we're confident we'll be the best partner to keep you and your trip protected.

We're also in the process of creating a travel advice tool that provides simple, relevant and trustworthy information about different destinations to help you decide whether or not to travel there.

That's all for now, thanks for reading!

Have any feedback or questions? I'd love to hear from you! Just drop me a message at [email protected]


Founders

Founders

The two co-founders of Pluto, Alex & Harry.