Archive photo shows the red bridge in Luxembourg City. Will public transport win back passengers or will health fears push commuters back into private cars?
The pandemic has forced travel and transport-focused businesses to rethink their activities. Four experts and companies active in these fields describe the changes they are seeing and share their expectations for the future.
Difficult to make predictions
Christiane Wagner marketing manager for bus travel operator Voyages Emile Weber
“The crisis has had a strong impact on our activities, which have had to be slowed down or put on hold altogether--it will take us almost five years to recover from this crisis and restore our financial situation. Our activities have since gradually resumed: we have regained 'cruising speed' on our public transport lines, among other things with the resumption of school transport.
“With the reopening of the borders and the possibility to travel again, we have also gradually reopened our travel agencies. Our MICE teams (meetings - incentives - conferences - events), business trips and group travel are still running at a very slow pace with limited staff. Some of the teams are on short-time working, which represents for us a vital lever to overcome this difficult period. In other areas, such as those mentioned above, we very much hope that the situation will stabilise so that we can resume more or less normally as soon as the new school year begins. It is very difficult at the moment to make definitive predictions.
“We really hope that the economy will take off again, that customer trust in travel will once again be restored with the measures put in place. We are concerned that the budgets for travel (B2B) and for the MICE sector will be revised downwards. But we will do our best in the present situation. Regardless of the impact, we must stick together, adapt to circumstances and meet new challenges.”
A recovery for cars
Bruno Magal, head of automotive for KPMG Luxembourg
“After an already bumpy start into the year 2020 with a drop in the European market demand, the automotive sector was heavily impacted by the covid-19 crisis both through a forced lockdown of production and a sharp decline in demand. In the short- and midterm the overall uncertainty and decreased spending power of the population due to the recession will likely further support the negative trend. However, the importance of owning a private car has significantly increased and KPMG’s Automotive Institute believes that there will be long-term effects on public transport since people will move away from public transport and will be willing to spend more money to feel safe. As a result, a recovery in demand for cars after the first shock of recession is a likely scenario. In fact, according to a KPMG Survey in April 2020, 64% of consumers intending to purchase within six months said covid-19 had influenced their perspective on leasing or purchasing a vehicle, out of which 47% were more likely to buy/lease and only 41% were less likely to buy/lease. With the upcoming summer vacation and (partly) remaining travel restrictions, using a private car to travel is likely to be more important and convenient than ever--for both short- and long-distance destinations. Other mobility options (planes, trains, buses, etc.) are operating under increased security measures and reduced capacity.
“In Luxembourg, reduced commuter traffic due to remote working from home for most employees is currently taking off some of the pressure of the infrastructure. Yet, overall, this development has the potential to intensify already existing traffic and parking issues in city centers when entering the 'new normal', as people might prefer to travel individually. Another impact of the pandemic could be an overall move of families from more urban neighborhoods to less crowded rural areas. As a result, having a car becomes a necessity rather than a luxury. Private and public players need to work together in order to find the right solutions in the long run. Going forward, the automotive industry needs to adapt to the possibility of the “new normal” realities and customers’ expectations while remaining competitive in the future.”
Is there light at the end of the tunnel for rail operators? A pedestrian underpass at Luxembourg City's central train station. Photo: Shutterstock
Measures for the duration
CFL, rail operator
“Since the beginning of the pandemic and the measures taken by the Luxembourg government with the statement 'stay at home', very few people have taken the train and we adapted the train timetables according to the different phases of confinement and deconfinement. After several adaptation phases, train traffic has resumed according to the timetable that was in place before the pandemic situation since 8 June 2020.
“Despite the pandemic situation, the CFL provide transport by train, while implementing measures to protect their staff and customers on a daily basis. Based on the recommendations of the Ministry of Health and the WHO, all CFL staff are continuously informed through several information channels about the preventive measures to be adopted. The CFL Group makes its staff and passengers aware of the need to respect the hygiene rules and that wearing a mask is mandatory.
“The rolling stock is disinfected before it enters service. During the day, in addition to conventional cleaning, all contact surfaces, such as handrails, door opening buttons and handles, are cleaned thoroughly and at an increased rate. As long as the pandemic is ongoing, these measures will remain in effect.”
Luxaviation Group, private jet charter operator
“The private aviation sector was severely impacted by the lockdown with most of the aircraft worldwide remaining on the ground. As a major player in business aviation, the Luxaviation Group immediately demonstrated that it takes its responsibility towards the wider industry very seriously. Two of our initiatives particularly marked the lockdown period.
“On 17 March, Luxaviation launched the solidarity endeavour, EBASI, which puts the group’s administrative, financial and procurement resources at the service of smaller operators and fellow contenders during the covid-19 crisis. The initiative was launched to allow these smaller companies to focus their limited resources on keeping their clients and assets safe. We are currently assessing the results of EBASI.
“Later, at the end of June, Luxaviation started to implement the highest hygiene and safety standards for all its operations recently developed by FlySkills together with Socotec, a leader in certifications and risk assessment. FlySkills, is supervising the adoption of these industry-leading standards across operators and FBOs. In times of crisis it is all the more important that experienced companies, like Luxaviation Group operators and ExecuJet FBOs are showing leadership and pioneering projects for the development of the sector worldwide.”