For the past few months, when I have been getting used to the #newnormal (like everyone else), I have started thinking about the future. It no longer matters how it all started, who is responsible, or how did the situation become so worse. All that matters is how we cope with the future, which is definitely going to change.
I had started this blog as a travelogue, and ever since the onset of COVID-19 and the travel bans/ restrictions that came with it, I was advised by many to change the genre of my topics, as people will no longer travel, or be interested in the topic as they used to for the next couple of years. However, I am optimistic, and why not – everyone loves to travel, and I am sure that even when people are at home, thinking about the risks of getting the virus whenever they step out, they are also imagining their next travel destination when all this is under control.
We cannot be certain about how exactly travel will change for the future, at least till the vaccine has not been developed and administered. We also cannot accurately forecast how travel develops during the foreseen recession. March and April have been heavy quarantine months in most places of the world, while May has been pushing into a more ‘light’ quarantine zone slowly. Just 3 months of reductions in travel have created a drastic effect – the positive side of reduced carbon footprint which has blooming evidence of a refreshed mother nature in many parts of the world, with the negative side of the loss of millions of jobs in the travel industry, What I can see is that post COVID-19, travel is going to definitely change triggered by both changing behaviors of travelers, as well adjustments to the business models that the travel industry needs to undertake.
How will travelers change?
- Choosing Local destinations
Travelers over the next months are gonna stick close to home. Outdoor destinations offering nature and to some degree isolation will be preferred. Beaches, hiking spots, and remote resorts will be in demand, whereas party destinations will take a backseat in the next year.
- Taking more road trips
Travelers will opt for more road trips, over air travel, or travel by train, whether it is a shorter one within the country or long road trips to nearby countries when the borders open up.
- Paying for more comprehensive travel insurances
Travelers will be more cautious when it comes to booking flights and trains and will invest more in travel insurance due to the uncertainty regarding cancellations and rebookings in the next year. Travelers will also prefer to make direct bookings over using third-party websites due to more transparency over policies, easier claims, and refunds.
- Staying at hotels
This is still difficult to predict, but the general tendency will be to trust more of hotels over Airbnbs when it comes to sanitization. Major hotel chains have already adopted measures to comply more with the new demands regarding disinfection, cleanliness, and social distancing protocols, and have started advertising it, compared to smaller motels, guest houses, and vacation rentals which will need to invest more to obtain the trust of travelers in the next year.
- Practicing social distancing (ALWAYS)
Travelers will choose to visit places, including sight-seeing and restaurants, where social distancing will be possible. They will also pack and use more hand sanitizers and face masks wherever they go and err on the side of caution.
How will the travel industry change?
- Rethinking business models
Airlines, Cruise companies, Train operators, Hotels, Tour operators, Travel agents – all need to rethink their business models. The World Travel & Tourism Council estimates over 100 million job losses in the Travel and Tourism sector. Governments need to step in to save the sector, but individual companies need to rethink and implement their new business models fast, following social distancing requirements, diversifying into new service offerings such as car rentals where possible, and creating more ‘digital’ jobs.
- Adjusting facilities and processes
To allow for social distancing, the entire supply chain needs to be reconsidered and facilities need to be adapted. This means the closing/ restricting of common areas such as dining and smoking areas at airports, resorts n spa hotels, increase in thermal checks, use of more thermal guns, hand sanitizers, face masks, adapting processes for baggage collection, check-in, and check-out procedures, as well as capacity control for public sites, historical places and museums will have to be implemented to allow for social distancing. Apart from the procedural changes, more attention to the disinfection of public places, handrails, and deep cleaning of everything that is touched by multiple people will become a norm. This does seem a lot, but in order for the industry to sustain itself for the long-term, these changes will be a necessity.
As I said at the beginning of this post, I am quite optimistic that travel will also return to a #newnormal, a better normal than ever before. All we can do till then is invest the extra free time in planning our future travels!!