This text is an outtake from our Mobility Special, originally published in Scandinavian MIND Issue 2 — The Great Tech Infusion in July 2021. The special investigates the modern-day traveller’s need to address the four pillars of transportation: time, price, comfort, and sustainability. Read about 22 startups and companies that are taking this trajectory at the bottom of this page.
Historically, when we’ve travelled from point A to point B, there have always been sacrifices to make. For the last 200 years, we’ve had to consider the time, price, and comfort of our travels in leisure, work, or transportation. But only looking back 10 years, in the age of gloomy environmental news and Greta Thunberg, another factor of mobility needs to be taken into consideration — climate impact.
These four pillars of transportation are complex to take into account concurrently, for both mobility consumers and services. The successful mobility service of the future needs to cater for all four.
The past 18 months have made us rethink virtually everything we do. We have been digitising everything from baby showers to funerals simply because we’ve had to. Physical retail and hotels have already sustained decades worth of damages, whilst gaming- and streaming services have made progress at a pace they couldn’t have dreamed of since the turn of the decade. But what does the future hold for mobility and travel? Industries that rely so heavily on physical transportation from point A to B.
Unsurprisingly, travel has seen a drastic decrease over the last year and a half. In January 2021, Brandwatch released a report with data from Apple Maps, which included routing requests for walking, biking, driving, and public transport. In total, we’re travelling 18% less than before the pandemic. And then there’s air travel. When it was at its worst, flight numbers were down 71 %, and the aviation industry is still only turning over 45% of the industry’s total revenue from before the pandemic.
Perhaps the COVID-19 virus was the final nail in the coffin for traditional travel. Major businesses have realised that business travel is, and perhaps always has been, redundant. Zoom meetings make for an awkward and tiresome experience, but businesses will most certainly opt-out of travel costs and lodging for their employees after the pandemic too. And if time is money, businesses will double down on financial savings with digital meetings. Even though researchers are raising red flags on Zoom fatigue, business travellers will have to bite the bullet — your next pitch meeting in New York will take place in your living room. Simultaneously, leisure travel seems to go through a reconstruction as well. Generation Z-ers demand climate-friendly travel and if it can’t be guaranteed, they turn to domestic or nearby travel destinations. Outdoor and adventure travel has grown immensely in popularity during the pandemic with fully-booked campsites and B&B’s all over the Scandes, Alps, or wherever people can get their outdoor fix.
This means that we will still travel, but moving about might look a little different. On a micro-level we will take more trips, but shorter ones. You will probably need to travel in some shape or form for that digital business meeting in Dubai, but the long haul flight to the Middle East is replaced by a short morning commute to your office where you make the actual Zoom call. And getting to your office allows for endless means of transportation, where many of them can be completely carbon-free. Using old and outdated means of transportation has suddenly become the progressive choice, mostly because they’re carbon-free and they can handle shorter trips. For instance, international bicycle suppliers have struggled to keep up with demand during the last year and a half, and bike ridership on trails in the US peaked at a threefold increase compared to pre-pandemic times. At the same time, MaaS (mobility as a service) companies are rubbing their hands when demands for short and spontaneous trips get more popular.
Experts are torn on when, or if, we will go back to pre-pandemic travel habits. We will still travel the world, just not with the same guilt-free approach.