Travel Winners and Losers During the 2008 Financial Crisis: Lessons for COVID-19

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by Seth Borko + Skift Team - May 2020

Skift Research Take

History doesn’t repeat but it often rhymes. While COVID-19 has different root causes than the financial crisis of 2008 there are still lessons to be learned from the last crisis that apply to the travel industry today.

Report Overview

The current COVID-19 outbreak has put the world of travel on pause and given us all cause to reevaluate how we want to run our businesses. Skift Research is using the moment to look back on past crises and draw upon the lessons they can offer our industry. We recently published a report on what can be learned from the 9/11 and SARS crises, and this report will focus on the impact of the 2008/2009 financial crisis on travel. We will primarily focus on the U.S. market, where we have the most data. But we believe the lessons we draw from the analysis apply to the much broader travel industry today.

We divide this report into three sections, starting with a review of how major travel sectors in the U.S. fared during the 2008/2009 crisis, and how long they took to recover. Next, we present a success case study of how Marriott was able to first survive the crisis, and ultimately embrace the opportunity to reinvent, allowing the company to come out the other side stronger. Lastly, we look at the unsuccessful case study of Extended Stay America that went into the crisis with an overoptimistic outlook and a poor cost structure, which led to its bankruptcy.

We draw lessons learned in each section and come up with 13 principles that we believe are still applicable today.

What You'll Learn From This Report

  • 13 in-depth lessons for the travel industry learned during the 2008 financial crisis that still apply to companies dealing with COVID-19 today.
  • How U.S. consumers shifted behaviors during the great recession of 2008.
  • How different parts of the travel industry performed during the crisis including the hotel, airline, and travel agent sectors.
  • Winner Case Study: What Marriott did well to emerge from the last travel recession a stronger company.
  • Loser Case Study: Why the crisis forced Extended Stay America to declare bankruptcy and restructure its business.

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