The future of travel is uncertain. What will the new landscape look like for the travel business and the impatient traveler? COVID-19 really took the shine off the new decade for everyone. Travel companies are going to go bust. It will truly be survival of the fittest in this already tough industry. Here is my round up of what industry experts think might be our travel experience in the near future.
1. Future travel – the airlines
Running an airline is an expensive business. Huge overheads are incurred even before the first passenger fastens their seat belt. The airline industry is warning that it must lose jobs and obtain state support to survive the corona virus crisis. Carriers around the globe have many of their aircraft grounded.
The chief executive of Ryan air Michael O’Leary has said that ‘social distancing restrictions may make flying to all intents and purposes, impractical, if not impossible.’
There was talk about leaving the middle seat on aircraft empty, but that won’t really make much difference as seats are not 2 m apart. The recycling system of an aircraft means everyone breathes the same air anyway.
Cabin crew and passengers will wear masks, in-flight service may be reduced and hygiene routines increased. Passengers may have to be temperature checked before they enter the airport in the first place and be sent home if they have a raised temperature. Immunity passports could be a thing but only if a vaccine becomes widely available.
2. Future travel – stay home and holiday
Travelling locally will be our first option, and the domestic market will drive recovery. There may be a reluctance to travel too far, or to destinations which do not have well developed health systems. People will resume their explorations closer to home, where they feel safer and know they can get back easily if they need to.
Europe will seem most accessible first. There will be a rise in the road trip. Car travel ensures separation from other travelers. Rural destinations where it’s easy to keep away from others will also be popular. The great outdoors has always seemed the healthier option.
Travelling further afield may seem more problematic, especially if you are worried about flying. The further you travel the more likely you are to have connections in different hub locations which increases exposure to many more people.
3. Luxury travel
Luxury travel will remain a robust market. The best of everything will now also mean the most attention to hygiene, personal service and exclusive destinations which limit exposure to the masses. Private air travel will remain a popular option for the wealthy. Hiring whole properties or even whole private resorts for the very wealthy will be a top choice.
Initially we are likely to be travelling less. So we will want to make sure that the next trip is a good one. We may value travel more as it becomes less easy to do, and we have seen a glimpse of what life is like without it.
4. What kind of travel will suffer the most?
The city break is dead for the foreseeable future. We won’t want to be in crowded places and the emphasis will be on what is around the cities rather than the attractions within.
Party tourism will take a hit. The sweaty bar or nightclub is probably one of the least safe environments in terms of catching the virus. Socialising in dense crowds will seem uncomfortable to us after this experience.
Events tourism, and in particular sports tourism will take some time to recover. Large crowds of spectators are going to be a no no for sometime. Food and drink tourism will also be hit. It’s not much fun doing this kind of thing at a distance. And a mask makes consumption too much of a challenge.
5. Where will we be staying?
Private accommodation will be favoured. Anything that is self contained. Holiday cottages in the UK and villa holidays abroad. Rural destinations will be popular as will all kinds of secluded venues. Hotels will have a real problem in turning a profit if they can only open on a limited occupancy basis. Customers will need reassurance in terms of hygiene and social distancing measures if they are to feel comfortable.
Glamping will continue its pre COVID rise in popularity. The comfort of a hotel but uniquely separate and out in the fresh open air where the virus dies quickly when struck by UV light
The sharing economy will seem less attractive. Air BnB was cheap and quirky but consistent standards are hard to maintain. There are too many varied properties, shared with too many other people.
Renting an island would be the ultimate in post COVID exclusive accommodation. I hear Richard Branson might have one going cheap…
6. What will happen to prices?
There may well be some great sales on holidays and flights coming our way in order to lure travelers back in to their travel habit. But modifications to flights, airports, hotels and visitor attractions all cost money. Together with the huge economic hit of the shut down, it seems inevitable that prices will then have to rise.
7. Future travel concerns
Safety and hygiene will be really important – no one wants to catch the virus. We will want to see visible signs that precautions are being taken. We will want to see people in masks spraying disinfectant about. Airlines and hotels will need to be very clear about what they have done to accommodate customer concerns. Perception is everything, and most customers will need a high degree of reassurance.
8. Rise in sustainable travel
Hopefully, one of the more positive results of this experience is that people will be more conscious about how and why they travel. It will not just be about our carbon footprint, but how we interact with a destination when we get there. People may move about less, and spend longer exploring one destination rather than flying in and out quickly to see certain specific sites. If things are going to cost more then the impact of travel will be more relevant to us than ever. Holidays which contribute to wildlife conservation like Biosphere Expeditions will be even more popular.
9. How can we travel safely again?
Some countries are looking to create ‘travel bubbles’ or COVID corridors. The idea is that countries with a similar risk profile and record of overcoming the virus, work together to promote a safe travel route. Ultimately it looks like travel will be a calculated risk, as to some extent it always was. People will have to judge for themselves whether they are happy to take that risk.
10. Future travel – which countries will be the first to open?
It looks like it will be late summer when the first countries will open again. Greece, a country who has managed the spread of the virus well, plans to open for business in July. The Italian island of Sicily, desperate for visitors to return, is even promising to help subsidise trips to their virus free island. The island of Nevis in the Caribbean has lauded its virus free status.
Other countries will reopen later. Larger destinations may not be back to full capacity until 2024. Smaller and less busy resorts will welcome travelers first.
Let’s face it people love to travel and they will be desperate to get away. I know I am! So whatever we have to do – bring it on!