A Four Phase Theory to the Return of Travel

Anna Ransom

return to travel blog header

Originally published on Hospitality Net


As members of the hospitality industry, we are full of questions about what the future of travel will look like, how it will evolve, and especially when it will return. As travelers ourselves, full of wanderlust and a desire to see and connect with new cultures, we’re all individually grappling with how COVID-19 has and will continue to impact our lives in the foreseeable future. While there are some predictions being made about when travel will return, we must also consider how hospitality will return and what challenges and opportunities will arise throughout that process.

Regulatory measures put in place by federal and local governments internationally for our protection will significantly impact and provide guidance on the return of travel. Several plans have been released so far and we can see patterns beginning to emerge. While we cannot say how long any one phase will last in any particular region, it seems likely that each region will experience a progression through a series of phases from Lockdown or Restricted Reopening, through to Local Reopening, Domestic Reopening, Continental Reopening, and finally Global Reopening.

Identifying what we can expect in regulations from one stage to the next and how those regulations will impact your property can provide a guidepost for your recovery planning. In each phase, we’ll break down what the regulations may look like and, in turn, how hotels may be impacted. In addition to this outline, we recommend that you reference local guidelines and regulations as you consider what returning to operations looks like in your market.


Lockdown and Restricted Reopening – Hotels Significantly Impacted with Limited Business

For regions in the phases of Lockdown or Restricted Reopening, it is expected that community transmission is or may be occurring. In these phases, borders are closed, non-essential travel is banned or minimized, and travelers are not permitted outside of the region. In these phases, flights are extremely limited, and people are being asked not to congregate outside their own homes or in groups greater than 10 people. Hotels have largely closed or suspended services, with few hotels open to support medical professionals and those in need of a quarantine facility. Restricted Reopening is largely viewed as a test for a broader scale reopening in the region.

Considerations for hotels:

  • Many hotels have furloughed staff, with only small teams maintaining their properties.
  • Reservations for individuals and groups are being canceled or hopefully rescheduled for a later date.
  • Operations teams are planning to reopen their properties by putting new standard operating procedures in place for cleanliness, disinfecting, and social distancing.
  • Revenue management teams are reviewing data to understand when their market will be ready to reopen, what channels they should distribute on, and what rates they should set.
  • Marketing teams are working to communicate plans for reopening to guests, assuring future guests that all the appropriate standards have been put in place for a safe return. Learn more about the focus on a new marketing persona, Generation Clean, here.

Local Reopening – Hotels Reopen for Business

As parts of the world move into the Local Reopening phase, we are seeing regions opening on a small scale with the expectation that transmission could still be occurring. Reopening plans share that interaction between people should be no closer than six feet, masks are required, and telework or shift work is still encouraged. As people are able to move around regionally, non-essential travel resumes, but inter-regional travel is discouraged. While we’ll see several different guidelines for group sizes, the median number seems to be no more than 50 people at a gathering. Some guidelines suggest venues can open at a third to half capacity, public venues can begin to reopen, and local flights can return.

Considerations for hotels:

  • Hotels are rehiring staff as demand returns, training them on new standards and practices.
  • Properties may need to close common areas or update property configurations to adapt to new guidelines.
  • Guests will be local and only small events can take place, rescheduling large events as possible.
  • Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Management teams are creatively appealing to local audiences by developing enticing, targeted packages for staycations and small gatherings where they can feel safe, socially distanced, and find relaxation.

Domestic Reopening – Hotels Begin to See Occupancy Return

It is anticipated that when considering domestic reopening, local regions will see a downward trend in COVID-19 cases and local authorities will have implemented measures to manage potential outbreaks. With this significant change, staffing of businesses can resume onsite at scale, though with new limitations to enforce social distancing. As we’re already seeing in China, restrictions on domestic transport and flights are limited, and people who are at risk are highly encouraged to avoid traveling. In this phase, group size can continue to increase with regulatory suggestions, on average, of up to 100 people indoors and 500 people outdoors.

Consideration for hotels:

  • Hotels can continue to rehire as staff return and begin to relax some of the previous restrictions that closed common areas or required property reconfigurations.
  • Guests will likely travel further from home within their own country and medium-sized events can return.
  • Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Management teams will extend their target audience, looking to regain traction in previous feeder markets. Even with relaxed regulations, communicating cleanliness standards will remain paramount to secure bookings, especially as guests consider traveling further from home and to new places.

Continental Reopening – Guest Confidence Continues to Grow

As we’re currently seeing with Australia and New Zealand, nearby and adjoining countries who believe they have mitigated the threat of COVID-19 will work together to create a “travel bubble,” enabling their citizens to once again cross borders for non-essential travel. With this decrease in restrictions and overall confidence increasing, we can expect that limits on group size will increase in the realm of 500 – 1000 people indoors, but still at three-quarters of previous capacity.

Considerations for hotels:

  • Depending on a hotel’s feeder market, a Continental Reopening has significant potential to increase occupancy.
  • Guests may travel from nearby countries, with growing confidence, though with lingering trepidation about cleanliness and sanitation standards.
  • By this phase, it is likely large events can return and outdoor city-wide events will be possible.

Global Reopening – We Reach our “New Normal”

There’s been a lot of talk recently about our “new normal.” When it comes to travel, we won’t quite know what that experience is until we can reopen travel globally once again, confident that COVID-19 is largely controlled globally. Eventually, we’ll see long haul flights and large events return and border restrictions lifted worldwide.

Considerations for hotels:

  • Your feeder markets may not be the same for quite some time, so continue to nurture new audiences.
  • Group gatherings may permanently see restrictions we didn’t have in place prior to COVID-19. Closely monitor your local regulations and know that you will need to adapt your group offering through each reopening phase.
  • We, as a global community, will have a new perspective after this shared experience. Our priorities when it comes to travel may forever be changed. Hotels will need to address those concerns and communicate to alleviate them.


By leveraging regulatory guidance, we can begin to understand the new challenges we will face through each of the four phases in the return to travel – Local Reopening, Domestic Reopening, Continental Reopening, and finally our “new normal” of Global Reopening. We can, and should, scenario plan to the best of our ability against what we currently know to be true and the reopening plans being put in place by governments around the world.

You can access an infographic of the 4 Phase Theory: The Return of Travel here, along with Amadeus’s guides to Planning for Hospitality Recovery.

Learn more about how the return of travel is beginning to unfold in your market by viewing up to 12 months of forward-looking traveler demand data from our Demand360® solution.



Spain phased plan April 29

Europe update April 29

USA reopening plan

New Zealand alert levels summary

Maine, US plan to reopen April 28




Originally published on Hospitality Net