One in two people expect to take fewer flights in the future, according to a survey into how coronavirus will impact consumer behaviour.

Consultancy firm EY said there was a “significantly negative outlook towards the future demand for travel” among 1,050 people surveyed last month.

Slightly over half of respondents – 52 per cent – said they expect to take fewer flights while 49 per cent are less likely to holiday abroad. Under a third plan to switch to domestic tourism – a move that “may create certain opportunities for hospitality sectors”. 

Local public transport also needs to win back passengers’ confidence as one-third indicated needing months – and years – to feel comfortable, and 17 per cent saying they may never feel comfortable again.    

The Malta Future Consumer Survey was carried out in late July, early August and asked people a range of questions on their consumer spending behaviour
It showed that COVID-19 has changed  the way most live and interact, with leisure and travel activities being major concerns, an EY survey has shown. 

Potential threats to demand emerge as a significant number of respondents (67 per cent) indicate increased caution towards spending, and 45 per cent are postponing major purchases.

Most respondents perceive a protracted period until things return to normal, including the return to personal financial stability, with 45  expecting challenges to last several months. 

Ronald Attard, EY Malta Country Managing Partner said: “While some results may not come as a surprise, such as initial decreases in spending for non-essential items and increases for essential items, others provide Maltese businesses clearer indications of the behavioural changes that have been accelerated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Technology’s role

Most people expect contactless payment in restaurants and other outlets, the EY survey suggests. Photo: ShutterstockMost people expect contactless payment in restaurants and other outlets, the EY survey suggests. Photo: Shutterstock

Consumers expect technology to play a greater part in addressing their safety concerns and improving their overall customer journey.
Businesses will, therefore, need to offer more digitalised solutions – and accelerate the transformation process – to be able to compete effectively in future.

In the case of restaurants, the survey shows 88 per cent  of respondents expect digital ordering and cashless payment.

Businesses also need to remain aware of the growing interest in contactless delivery and payment systems – 53% of respondents expect it – and note that 54% will switch to online shopping, increasing to 78% for up to 40-years-old.

The frequency of eating out may increase, 21 per cent suggest, but the trends indicate a preference for local, independent restaurants.

As for jobs, 54% expect work-from-home solutions; 49 per cent expect video conferencing for external meetings; and 35 per cent expect online training from their organisations 

The survey also highlights a growing trend towards digital and remote banking platforms, unrelated to age profile, with 62 per cent willing to switch to telephone and internet banking; 41 per cent unwilling to visit physical branches; and 21 per cent seeking digital banking services. 

Spending cuts

People expect to eat out more - but will choose independent, local restaurants, according to the survey Photo: Chris Sant FournierPeople expect to eat out more - but will choose independent, local restaurants, according to the survey Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Current spending decreased significantly for “discretionary items”, including holidays, clothing, sporting equipment, luxury items and out-of-home entertainment, “as expected”; while it has increased for non-discretionary categories, such as food items, groceries and household products. 

While most respondents across all age groups are comfortable to conduct essential activities, businesses must pay attention to high anxiety levels for non-essentials, such as shopping, going to restaurants, bars and pubs, which are expected to persist for a prolonged period until a return to normality. 

The frequency of eating out may increase, 21 per cent suggest, but the trends indicate a preference for local, independent restaurants.

Affordability remains a concern and retailers would need to align their pricing and promotion strategies, the survey suggests. 

The survey gives no indication that previously purchased products and services will change in the long-term, but younger respondents will buy fewer physical items, suggesting a segment of society may attach more importance to 'experiences’.

On a positive note, the survey also finds, however, that despite decreased spending due to the pandemic, going forward, the expectation is that previous normal consumption patterns across all categories would be reverted to, post-COVID-19. 

The expectation of respondents is that, to a limited extent, there will be increased spending on vacations, mainly driven by people up to 40 years old.

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