The long road back to normality

Wednesday 21 April 2021, UCAS advice

by George Gallot

The long road back to normality

George Gallot

It’s been a long year of appreciating the smaller, rather than the finer, things in life.

Long dog walks with the family are the closest most of us have come to travel, banana bread the height of culinary prowess. And whilst being deprived of the normal opportunities for leisure and enjoyment has been a struggle for all, far greater has been the impact on these global industries as a whole.

For those venues lucky enough to have outdoor space, the race is now on for an April recovery, when current policy allows them to reopen. Pubs, bars, and restaurants are in full preparation mode for what should be the start of a much brighter spring than last, but takeaway providers might not be so positive.

How, when, and where students eat

Of the select few businesses to benefit from stay-at-home orders, takeaway providers sit at the heart. Able to indulge our need for restaurant food, our lack of motivation to cook after working at the kitchen table all day, and deliver a treat for getting through another week – they’ve been a pinnacle of lockdown life.

Students have always been a safe market for takeaways, especially since the industry went through its digital revolution with providers like JustEat, Deliveroo, and Uber Eats making it much easier to order. This might be the reason why three quarters of all students order in every month, at least once a month.

But the same applies, restaurants will be glad to hear, to eating outside of the house. On average, students spend £30 on this every week (up to £45 during freshers) and 42% of them mentioned ‘eating out’ as one of their pastimes in our recent survey.

When you combine this with the fact that almost every supermarket has seen three years of falling custom from students, are we going to see less and less home cooking from the on-demand generation?

Families and friends reunited

It’s a quirk of the British education system that so many of our students live away from home for university. It’s quite rare around the world, and brings with it some unique challenges for UK students, not least of all the need for travel to see their family and hometown friends.

In a COVID-19 world, where even domestic travel has been under some form of restriction for most of the 12 months, this has been hard for students away from home. In fact, 42% of first years didn’t plan on making the journey at any point during term time, and almost half of them don’t feel safe using trains, tubes, or buses. For those without a car, they faced little choice other than staying put.

The impending end of lockdown will, for thousands, mean the first real chance to see their loved ones for months. But as universities welcome students back to campus, will travel behaviours have changed for good?

A long road to recovery for travel

The travel industry has less to be excited about than hospitality does. For airlines and resorts, nothing will change when many restaurants reopen in April. It’s a month later, as summer approaches, when international travel will have its first tenuous chance at a restart.

And students look set to be among the most avid holidaymakers of all, with 54% of them telling us that the pandemic has made them want to travel more in the future. A newfound appreciation of the precarious nature of normal life has given them an enthusiasm injection, and not a little of it has come from also seeing that life can be short indeed.

With a year’s worth of frustrated wanderlust stored up, how will a rush of student travellers shape the travel industry’s response to post-lockdown life?

To find out the answers to these questions and more, please download the final chapter of our Lifestyle Report 2021: Food & Travel.