COVID-19 has grounded most flights around the world, but with many countries now containing the spread of the virus, life may return back to normal in the near future.

It’s not like we’ll go back to our daily lives like nothing happened. The pandemic will likely have a lasting affect on all of us. When it comes to travel, things may never be the same and that may be a good thing.

People still want to travel, but their priorities may have changed. It’s also clear that airlines, hotels, destinations and anyone who works in the tourism industry will need to adjust their service to meet new demands.

So what will the future of travel look like? Nobody knows, but here are my best guesses. 

What the future of travel may look like

Things will be much cleaner

Do you remember when that video of Naomi Campbell wiping down her seat on the plane went viral? People thought she was crazy, but many people recognized it was a genius move. Moving forward, you’ll be the crazy one if you don’t wipe down your seat.

I flew from Toronto to LA in early March which was right before the global lockdown. I could count on one hand the number of people who weren’t cleaning their seat and window. 

At the time, some flight staff weren’t wearing gloves or masks, but staff on Asian airlines were taking steps to protect themselves.

Marriott International has already announced new standards when it comes to cleanliness. They consulted with public health officials and plan to go above and beyond to ensure public and high traffic spaces are cleaned with increased frequency. More hand sanitizing stations are being introduced and plexiglass partitions will be in place to protect guests and associates.

Travel priorities will have changed

When it comes to the future of travel, I think travel priorities may see the biggest changes. I suspect demand for international travel will decrease at the start. People just won’t want to get on a long-haul flight unless they have to.

I do think domestic travel will become popular as many people will want to support their economy. During the pandemic, everyone has talked about shopping local. Travelling local or domestically could become a trend. 

I believe people will now consider road trips when it was something they would never have done before. If they can avoid airplanes for a little while, they’ll do so. Plus, road tripping makes the whole domestic travel angle easier.

Eco and sustainable tourism will also be top of mind for many people moving forward. With the world shut down, many travellers have realized how over tourism has affected so many destinations. Being a responsible traveller will be a priority with many people preferring to visit less popular destinations, working with companies that give back to the locals or ensuring they have a low carbon footprint.

There will be some sales

Even though airlines have seen a dramatic drop in passengers and they’re now keeping an empty seat between guests, I don’t think there will be any sales on airfare anytime soon.

Most airlines have already laid off much of their staff. They’ll likely only scale up their operations as demand increases so there’s no need to offer low fares. Remember, every airline was affected by COVID-19 so they’re facing the same problems.

Hotel prices have already dropped and I see lower prices for a little while depending on when you’re booking your room. Hotels price on availability and previous data so if you’re planning a trip six months from now, the nightly rate will likely be the average price it was the previous year. However, if you’re booking a room for dates just a few weeks out, you may see lower prices as the demand may not be back yet.

Big cruise ships are where you’ll see the most deals. I don’t think there will be a price reduction, but I’ve already seen free upgrade promotions. These upgrades include things such as a better suite, drink packages, WiFi, no gratuities and more. 

Airbnb may not be as popular 

COVID-19 has shown the ugly side of Airbnb and it may be difficult for them to recover. Although Airbnb offered full refunds in the end, the process was difficult since many guests had to go through Airbnb directly instead of the hosts. Moving forward, travellers may prefer hotels that have a much better refund policy.

Cleanliness was always a concern for Airbnb guests and it still will be in the future. I’m not saying Airbnbs are dirty, but I think people will trust hotel cleaning policies over Airbnb. 

Here’s the other thing about Airbnb. As a short term rental, it’s been a pain for many residents and cities. As soon as there were no more bookings on Airbnb, many hosts rushed to put them on the rental market. That just showed residents that Airbnb is contributing to the lack of affordable rentals in many cities. From an ethical level, people may not use them in the future.

People still won’t travel with travel insurance

You would think that COVID-19 would have been enough to show the world how important it is to have travel insurance, but I think many people will still travel without protection. The reality is that travel insurance is an extra cost and many people will think they’ll never need it, so they won’t purchase it.

It probably doesn’t help that many people who had travel plans affected by COVID-19 had a difficult time making insurance claims. I don’t think airlines, hotels or insurance providers were being unreasonable about claims, I just don’t think people understood how trip cancellation works.

Yes, it’s fair to say that travel insurance is overrated at times, but it’s still worth it as long as you have the right protection and you understand how the policy works.

Prepare for longer lines at the airport

All airports have social distancing protocols in place and they plan on keeping them there even after the pandemic. This is possible since air traffic is down an insane amount, but I don’t know how they’re going to keep it up when flights start to pick up. Are we supposed to now arrive, 4 or 5 hours before a flight?

Airports also aren’t exactly built for long lines that are spaced out. The majority of people are still going to line up before their zones are called because they’re afraid they’re not going to get any overhead space. Even without social distancing, those lines already block off the main walkways.

I do imagine there will be more contactless points. We already scan our own boarding passes so maybe we need to do the same thing with our passports. Of course, we’d still have to hold our passports up so any airport staff can verify that the passport image matches the person standing in front of them.

Final thoughts

The future of travel will continue to evolve. I do think many of the changes moving forward will be for the positive and it’s good to see companies such as American Express and Marriott have recognized that things will not be the same and have taken a proactive approach.I don’t know when we’ll be travelling again, but I can’t wait. 

What the Future of Travel may Look Like

15 Comments

  1. Richard on May 11, 2020 at 6:47 am

    It will be interesting to see what happens but thanks for compiling these thoughts.

  2. Dan on May 11, 2020 at 9:00 am

    I always tell people that the intensity and allure of travelling will come back again in the same degree if not more. I still think the same but who knows what the future has for us.

    (Leisure) Travelling is definitely non-essential and not on everybody’s mind at the moment so it’s just a matter of when.

    Covid has improved the habits of many people when it comes to health and hygiene, hopefully it sticks post covid. Constantly washing hands and really staying home if there’s a slightest chance of sickness goes a long way for everybody, especially for airplane use.

    • Barry.Choi on May 11, 2020 at 11:45 am

      Dan,

      The lure of travel will definitely come back, but I’m hoping this crisis will teach us all to be smarter travellers. Even for day-to-day stuff. Hopefully, people will now stay home from work if they’re sick.

    • Susan on May 20, 2020 at 4:25 pm

      I think for people to stay home when sick
      would mean that last minute cancellations on everything, tours, hotels, and planes would have to be available.

  3. Ken on May 11, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    I am guessing air travel is going to be a lot more expensive. They probably will have to space people out more and do more cleaning.

    To me this means more road trips and maybe some shorter distance domestic vacations. We will most likely save up for one big trip every 3 to 5 years.

    • Mel A. on June 2, 2020 at 2:52 pm

      If air travel is going to be more expensive, there are many that just will not travel. There will be those that cannot afford it and those that just won’t pay the increased prices.
      Before this, what were the profits the airlines were pulling in? I have very little sympathy if the airlines cannot pack their planes like a sardine can and don’t have the same profits as pre-Covid 19.
      If people aren’t buying their tickets, the airlines that offer vacations, won’t be selling the vacations and, in turn, all the resorts and tourist areas will hurt.

  4. Jeff Lerner on May 14, 2020 at 7:41 pm

    You’ve missed a very important point about travel insurance…you’ve covered trip cancellation insurance but what about travel health insurance…??…as a Canadian, who snowbirds in the U.S., I never leave home without travel health insurance…no insurer who I’ve spoken to is providing any health travel insurance because of Covid….if this doesn’t change, no Canadian is leaving the country…500k Canadians visit Florida every year…that comes to a grinding halt if we can’t get travel health insurance

    Potentially a huge story here…

    • Barry.Choi on May 15, 2020 at 6:11 am

      Hey Jeff,

      Good point. At the start of the pandemic, some insurance providers weren’t giving coverage to new applicants, but if you had an existing policy, you were good. I have to imagine that every provider is updating their policies which will likely not benefit the consumer.

  5. fbgcai on May 15, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    Interesting predictions Barry.
    The one about keeping empty seats between customers is being ignored by Air Canada currently so I can’t see them implementing in the future.

    Overall I think it’s going to get VERY expensive to travel in both time and money until we get a globally distributed vaccination program and that could take years.

    @ Jeff Lerner you absolutely correct for Canadians (or anyone else) travelling to the US re health insurance but in other parts of the world medical care is nowhere as expensive so many would ‘risk’ that journey – imo if you go to the US uncovered you be a full time gambler.

    • Barry.Choi on May 15, 2020 at 4:59 pm

      fbgcai,

      I’m assuming Air Canada will leave an empty seat if they can, but it’s not like they won’t allow people to buy that seat.

  6. fbgcai on May 15, 2020 at 9:00 pm

    Barry, that would equate to AC not caring one bit about “social distancing” – fitting statement of corporate responsibility – pack’em in like sardines to boost the bottom line.
    Personally flying is an extremely unappealing transportation at this time – it was bad enough BC (before covid-19) – now not a chance.

  7. Stephen Cook on May 27, 2020 at 9:12 am

    I won’t say I will never buy insurance coverage again, but I am close.
    I paid for airfare to/fro Europe, last Fall for May travel. I also bought insurance.

    Manulife will not honour the fact that my flights were cancelled, because the airline is giving me a credit voucher to be used within 24 months.

    Excuses from both the airline and the insurance company is that it would cost them too much money to return the funds to the purchaser.

    So the traveler is now supporting both the large airline and insurance company. Cdn laws need to change.

    • Barry.Choi on May 27, 2020 at 10:54 am

      Stephen,

      That’s standard practice for insurance companies. Since you’re getting a credit, you can’t get a refund as it would be double dipping. From what I understand, you could make claim if your credit expires. Of Course, it’s ridiculous that you need to wait 24 months to get your money back.

      • Stephen Cook on May 27, 2020 at 3:39 pm

        Thanks for the clarification Barry – I did not know I could let the credit expire and then make a claim.

        My original frustration is that the airlines will generally not let you make any changes once booked, so I bought insurance just in case.

        Then they make changes to the flight (cancelled in this case) but won’t return my money.

        And the insurance I bought to cover any changes, will not be honoured because the airline gave me a credit that I have no interest in.

        Thanks for the vent opportunity nonetheless.

        • Barry.Choi on May 27, 2020 at 5:36 pm

          Hey Stephen,

          You still need to check with your insurance provider in case you need to start a claim now. I know with American Express, they will issue a refund after the credit expires. I’m hoping I’m able to use the credit before then. That said, I have about $900 in credit with Southwest which I don’t think there’s any chance I’ll use. I’m counting down until 2022 when I can get my refund =D.

          I do agree that some of the cancellation/refund policies are ridiculous. Since the airline cancelled the flight, you/we should be entitled to a refund which is in their own terms, but now they’re using COVID as an “excuse” as the government forced them to cancel flights. It’s so annoying.

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