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.
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.
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.