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Covid-19 vaccine could see travel recover in six months

Once a Covid-19 vaccine is widely available, international travel could rebound in six months but business travel will remain suppressed, Mohit Lal, chair and CEO of Pernod Ricard Global Travel Retail, has said.

Mohit Lal, chair and CEO of Pernod Ricard Global Travel Retail

Like many companies, Pernod Ricard has experienced a challenging year in global travel retail (GTR) due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The company’s full-year results, published in September, showed a double-digit decline in the channel.

In an interview with The Spirits Business last week, Lal said while he could not predict when alcohol sales in GTR would rebound, he believes that a widely available vaccine would restore consumer confidence in travel, and see the channel swiftly bounce back.

“Tomorrow, if there is a simple drug that is available everywhere that prevents Covid from being anything more than a regular flu, you will see travel get back in six months time,” Lal said.

“If tomorrow there is a vaccine that immunises large populations for a 10-year period with one signal shot, between the time [from when] the vaccine gets widely available and international travel will rebound [will be] a period of about six months.

“But when will these triggers happen, I don’t know. And therefore rather than worry about when they’re happening, our assumption is if it’s happening over the next six months, are we ready? And if we’re ready in six months, what if it happens in three months, what do we need to do to be ready? That’s our key concern.”

Business travel will ‘stay suppressed’

Pernod Ricard GTR is remaining agile in the face of the pandemic, Lal said, and noted that business travel was likely to experience a slower recovery than travel for leisure.

“Business travel is not going to be getting back to what it used to be because businesses have learned to continue to run effectively and efficiently without the need of people who physically travel to different locations,” Lal noted.

“And this is true of my own team within travel retail. Lots of us have not been on a flight for many, many months now, but the fact is we still work effectively as an organisation. So when things normalise, I don’t see business travel coming back to exactly the same levels very quickly.

“It’ll stay suppressed to an extent, maybe 70-80% of what it used to be, but all other forms of travel will, I think, spring back very quickly to normal.”

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