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LONDON, United Kingdom —The world has stopped, said Rafat Ali, founder and chief executive of business-to-business travel news organisation Skift.
“March will become the month that will be remembered in history as the [moment] the world stopped travelling,” he told BoF Editor-in-Chief Imran Amed in a special edition of the BoF Podcast. “It’s one of the world’s largest industries. It is intertwined with every sector of the world."
As government-imposed lockdowns continue across the globe and businesses remain closed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, international trips are at a standstill — and retailers dependent on the travel market are feeling the effects. In particular, luxury players are feeling the loss of outbound tourism from Chinese consumers, who account for one-third of all global luxury purchases, according to Bain & Company.
March will become the month that will be remembered in history as the [moment] the world stopped travelling.
In the long term, Ali predicts that “the people who had the capability to travel before would still have the capability to travel after.” But in the short term, “the consumption of luxury goods… is likely to be affected.” The industry will unfurl in phases, according to Ali, starting with shorter trips and domestic travel. As flights around the world resume, Ali forecasts increased passenger checks to monitor health at airports, something that could benefit the duty-free luxury goods sector in the interim “because there are people with more time on their hands, spending more time at airports.”
The pandemic has upended the global fashion industry, resulting in a standstill in consumers spending on luxury items overseas, widespread store closures, disruptions to supply chains and cancellations of major industry events. And while some are holding out for a quick rebound, Ali predicts that it will take three to five years before travel returns to a near pre-crisis level. As for this year’s fashion week shows, Ali is sceptical. "It would be irresponsible for the fashion industry to attempt it.”
Tune into this special edition of the BoF Podcast, where Ali and Amed further discuss why fashion and travel are inherently connected.
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