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Food & Travel

Service with a Nod: The Future Is Contactless for Travel & Dining

August 2020 Edition

Key Findings
Food and Travel

Travel and dining are so much more than just experiences. For many, it’s a way of life -- outlets for people to break away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life -- to relax, reset, expand horizons and create new memories.

For people stuck at home, anticipation to return to travel and dining has been mounting. Yet people are forced to curb their enthusiasm and rethink plans amid restrictions and health risks. As travel and dining face a longer road to recovery, contactless technology can help make people feel safe while continuing to build on the convenience of digital experiences people already expect from hotels, airlines and restaurants.

With no assurance of health and safety, travelers rethink vacation plans

Travel plans came to a halt at the onset of the pandemic as health concerns and regional restrictions prompted travelers to delay vacation plans and stay at home.

Chart: In the past 3 months, have you delayed any of the following?
Chart: Why did you delay purchasing a vacation, trip or flight?

However, according to our research, people want to return to the normalcy that out-of-home leisure provides – but only when the time is right. Though travel is a significant priority for future discretionary spending, the types of trips people are willing to take in the near future are closer to home. Only eight percent say they’d prioritize flights, with many opting to delay travel and other purchases entirely until the pandemic subsides in their region.

Chart: Which purchases will you prioritize first?
Chart: Which of the following have you delayed purchasing?

Travelers’ propensity for domestic ventures depend on regional readiness and level of pandemic recovery, which remains uncertain across the globe.

According to GlobalWebIndex (GWI) research, New Zealand and China have the largest proportion of travelers who say they plan to travel domestically after the pandemic subsides (44 percent each). In the United States and United Kingdom, government guidance and ease of lockdown restrictions continue to play a larger role when making travel decisions, especially for those facing economic hardship (41 percent).

In Sweden, close to half of travelers did not change their vacation plans, but they say they would decrease spending on leisure activities like visiting amusement parks, zoos and museums. More than 60 percent say they would consider staying in a hotel over the next six months.

Transparency or No-Go

Hotels and airlines are places that invite large crowds – something travelers are hesitant about, especially at a time when social-distancing measures are largely enforced. Hotels, airports and airlines have an obligation to ensure travelers understand what precautions they are taking to ensure passenger and visitor safety. These efforts play a major role across the entire decision-making process, including what airline people prefer to fly and the hotels they trust to book with.  

At a glance

Travelers say they would feel safer flying with airlines that limit the number of passengers on a flight, ensure the health and safety of employees and use advanced cleaning technologies. Testing while onboarding, guaranteed entry into ports and staff use of masks on flights is more important for Gen Z travelers than other generations. At hotels, employee safety and cleanliness are top concerns.

Chart: People are more likely to fly through an airport that offers health and safety assurances and procedures
Chart: People are more likely to fly with an airline that offers health and safety assurances and procedures
Chart: People are more likely to stay in a hotel that offers health and safety assurances and procedures

Companies are working to meet these new health expectations. For example, the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City, which endured one of the largest outbreaks in the U.S. at the onset of the pandemic, has implemented practices such as taking guests’ temperatures and limiting the number of staff and guests in common areas. Other companies have turned to strategic partners. Hilton Hotels & Resorts partnered with Reckitt Benckiser, the makers of Lysol, to launch its CleanStay program, complete with a comprehensive online guide for visitors to learn more about what to expect when staying at one of Hilton’s 6,000+ worldwide locations. United Airlines’ CleanPlus program, in partnership with Clorox, provides a similar online resource for passengers to find health information, including what to expect during a trip and how travelers can keep safe while in transit.

Restaurants and Dining
Restaurant with people seated and social distancing
Graphic 74% of diners cite health and safety procedures as one of the top three factors influencing choice
of restaurant

Like hotels and airlines, in-person dining has been largely restricted or subject to strict social distancing guidelines. Though diners have expressed interest in trying new restaurants throughout the pandemic, people express similar concerns over employee safety and limited seating when considering returning to physical locations.

Our research finds that 74 percent of diners cite health and safety procedures as one of the top three factors influencing choice of restaurant.

Chart: People are more likely to dine in a restaurant that offers health and safety assurances and procedures

Contactless interactions fuel the future of travel and dining

With health and safety at the forefront, accelerating digital and adapting dining and travel experiences through contactless technology is an important measure to not only address anxiety around social distancing, but to alleviate it.

When asked what would make people feel more at ease, travelers and diners cite digital and contactless services like mobile check-in, booking and payment, reservation confirmation, curbside pickup or delivery and self-service kiosks as preferred ways to interact with restaurants, hotels and airlines. Across all three categories, contactless technology was the most important factor after health and safety measures.

78% of travelers choose contactless technologies as one of the top three factors influencing choice of hotel, perferring mobile check-ins/check-out, touchless room keys, and paperless invoicing

Quick-service restaurants were among the first to accelerate already-existing contactless services like digital menu boards, in-app ordering, self-service kiosks and mobile payment options, while placing a larger focus on take-out, delivery and drive-through. For example, KFC restaurants in China are using QR codes to help diners quickly access menus and place orders on their mobile device. In the United States, Colorado-based burger chain Good Times is using AI assistants to automate order-taking and payment, giving staff more time to focus on preparing food and reducing in-person interactions.

Opportunity to enhance digital experiences

Though demand for contactless services is increasing, digital is already an inherent part of travel and dining. Continued integration of contactless services will further enhance digital experiences many travelers and diners already expect from restaurants, airlines, airports and hotels.

A closer look at Singapore - traveler stats

Of the travelers we surveyed, people from Singapore are more likely to go online to research travel (61 percent), activities (64 percent) and dining (62 percent), book accommodations (65 percent) and flights (66 percent) and check-in (62 percent) using digital channels – making travelers from that region more inclined to manage the entire travel journey using technology when compared to travelers from other regions.

Charts: When it comes to planning, booking and participating in vacation activities, most participants favor using digital tools over having a person help them
Chart: When it comes to planning vacation activities, most participants favor using digital tools over having a person help them
Chart: When it comes to booking vacation activities, most participants favor using digital tools over having a person help them
Chart: Age is a stronger factor for the preference for digital while on vacation. Those 65+ are least likely to have a digital preference with the exception of checking in for a flight

Travelers are more willing to travel through airports that offer contactless services

Hotels, airports and airlines also have opportunity to integrate digital tools people find elsewhere into the travel journey. In-app mobile ordering and more robust digital loyalty programs are both areas of opportunity to elevate airport experiences for people looking to shop and dine while in transit.

Chart: Digital experiences that people find elsewhere - such as mobile ordering and loyalty programs - can extend to airports

The Digital Life of Travelers and Diners

Travel and dining were a coveted part of pre-pandemic life that already benefitted from digital experiences. As people look hesitantly towards the future in this “new normal,” travel and dining companies have the opportunity to elevate experiences, while keeping the health and safety of guests in mind.

Make people feel safe

With health and safety a primary concern, travel and hospitality companies should focus on creating experiences that make people feel comfortable and safe. Provide transparency around cleaning and employee health procedures, and communicate options that allow people to feel more confident when making travel and dining decisions.

Expand contactless services

Make contactless options more accessible with services like digital menu boards and optimized mobile apps that give diners and travelers access to services while limiting in-person interactions.

Create more integrated travel journeys

People already expect digital services to be a part of the travel journey. Personalized services that connect across all touchpoints elevate these experiences and promote brand loyalty.

Graphic of colorful shapes
Graphic of colorful shapes

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Chart of Research participants demographics