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The pandemic transformed industries like travel and home improvement. These are the changes that will stick

April 26, 2021, 2:24 PM UTC
Home Improvement Trends-Garden
Home improvement—including outdoor spaces—has boomed during the pandemic.
JACK HANRAHAN—ERIE TIMES-NEWS/Imagn Content Services/Reuters

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has disrupted many of the world’s biggest industries. But as the vaccine rollout has gained traction and case counts in some parts of the world begin to drop, the focus has shifted to which of those disruptions and new trends will carry on into a post-pandemic future.

On Thursday, leaders from two of the sectors that have experienced the most dramatic changes over the past year spoke to a virtual gathering of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women about what developments they expect to last even as the virus, hopefully, fades.

The travel industry has inarguably been one of the hardest hit. But Booking.com chairwoman Gillian Tans said her business is on the mend, and is adapting quickly to the changing needs of travelers. One major shift has been a transition from international to domestic travel; she says domestic trips now account for 70% of the company’s business. Not surprisingly, there’s also a new focus on safety and what travel providers are doing to ensure the health of their guests. Travelers are also looking for flexibility, says Tans, such as the ability to book or cancel last minute (and the option to make such changes on their phones).

While Tans expects these trends to continue, at least in the near term, maybe the biggest shift—and one she expects to be long-lasting—is the move toward “workations” or what some in the industry are apparently calling “bleisure” travel. “People are saying, ‘Well, if I don’t have to be in the office every day, I might as well wrap it into a trip,’” she said. That means looking for places with good Wi-Fi and a place to get on their laptops during the day, she noted.

While the pandemic temporarily crushed the travel industry, it had exactly the opposite effect on home goods and home renovations, according to Houzz CEO Adi Tatarko, who also spoke to the group. During lockdowns, “people really changed their perspective and how they think about their homes.” Before, many people really experienced their homes as places where they spend mornings and evenings. Suddenly, people were in their homes all day, every day, noted Tatarko. The result: “You want to utilize every single inch of your house.”

That’s meant a renovation bonanza. At Houzz, Tatarko reported a 60% increase in people looking for home improvement professionals, compared with pre-pandemic times. Interest in spiffing up outdoor spaces, meanwhile, has tripled since 2019. And people want that work done as fast as possible, the CEO said, a trend that’s still going strong. “The boom is continuing,” Tatarko noted. “The home is not going to go back to what it was before—we need it for much more than it used to be.”

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