For the last 4 months, every day has been spent reminiscing travels from the past, while hoping that we get to get out of our homes, to some pristine outdoors and exotic destinations sooner than later. After all, this time that we are living is a chapter of world history being written. When else, in centuries had something so fatal hit the world to the point that the whole world had come to a standstill… not for days or weeks, but for months. These are unprecedented times and once all this is over, we will be stepping into a world of norms. The way things were before the pandemic may no longer be acceptable, the factors that were conveniently ignored may gain more importance. The world will have a new normal, a normal which we will all have to get used to. It would be fair to say that this era, will be termed as Before COVID and After COVID.
At this time, many countries are on the verge of announcing themselves COVID free, many are still struggling to flatten the curve. Many have already begun resuming the new normalcy, trying to reinitiate tourism activities, opening borders, and welcoming visitors. But the stark truth is that there is no vaccine and there is no clarity as to when full-fledged tourism will begin again. There are attempts, hopes, and speculations.
As we prepare to step into the new normal, here are some of the changes and trends that we are expecting will hit the travel industry.
- When will it be safe to travel again?
- Welcoming the new normal | Post-COVID Era
- Sanitisation and safety measures will be the new marketing messages
- Increase Virtual/ Contactless services
- Shared spaces will see a decline
- Offbeat destinations will be the new hype
- Road trips will be preferred over air/train travel
- Airfares are predicted to go up
- Domestic Tourism will see an instant boom
- An added layer of health checks and security
- Limiting numbers for crowd management
- Outdoors will be the go-to-choice
- Travel could actually boom
- Flexible booking policies
- Travel Insurance will be essential
- Countries that have responded well to the pandemic are likely to see a tourism spike
- Many countries and regions will be pumping in extra efforts and initiatives to promote tourism- hence, there will be a surge in concessions, add-on offerings, etc.
- New versions of traditional experiences await
- The situation will be dynamic for the first few months. The results in this duration will help shape the future of travel for at least the next 5 years
When will it be safe to travel again?
Right now, there are three types of people- the first one, who are eager to travel after being locked in their homes. The other who are certain that they shall only travel once the pandemic is over and a vaccine is available. The third kind is probably the ones who aren’t too concerned about travel for various reasons.
But the burning question here is, ‘When will it be safe to travel again?’
Days, weeks, months, or perhaps, even years, no one has a certain answer. Not us, not WHO or the governments or tourism boards across the globe.
On the bright side, as per the current turn of events, travel is likely to resume soon; it already has in many parts of the world.
But when will it be safe to travel depends on multiple factors- your country, your state, your city, your vicinity, and the development of a cure for the vaccine!
Domestic travel has started opening up and many countries have also started opening their international borders to tourists. And yet, it’s going to take a while before international travel will feel normal and safe again.
Flight operations have already resumed for many important routes, but the new normal of travel feels rather scary at this point.
The deciding factor can only be a medical intervention- a vaccine or drug to fully cure the effects of the virus.
Welcoming the new normal | Post-COVID Era
The next few months, probably the next couple of years will be dynamic with regards to travel, while the new normal sets in. After careful consideration of various factors and opinions, here’s what we think will be the defining travel trends in the post COVID era.
Sanitisation and safety measures will be the new marketing messages
The on-going pandemic has brought to light a new priority- Sanitization and hygiene. Prior to this, hygiene was considered an important factor, but not important enough to be the deciding factor or the face of the brand. Most tourism brands focused on the marketing message of amenities, offerings, and pricing.
In the post-COVID travel, expect every brand to focus on their sanitization and safety measures as their prime offering, to reinstate people’s faith in their brand.
In fact, many hospitality brands and airlines are likely to include safety and sanitization equipment like masks, sanitizers, face shields in their list of complementary and premium offerings.
Increase Virtual/ Contactless services
Given the current circumstances, more and more alternatives for contactless processes- payments, check-ins, delivery, etc will become a widely practiced norm for a long time. This could also extend to preferences in experiences such as museums, concerts, events, etc.
Hostels, shared transport services, public transport and similar trends of shared spaces is likely to see a decline given the reluctance of contact and need for sanitization and safety. Unlike pre-COVID travel, price points alone will not be enough to make these options the preferred choices for people.
Offbeat destinations will be the new hype
Despite people’s needs to travel more and more, to stay outdoors and enjoy the freedom of nature, crowds could likely add to anxiety and concern while considering travel. Hence, popular destinations like Barcelona, Rome, Milan could bear the brunt of the situation. Instead, more and more tourists are likely to consider more offbeat destinations and experiences to cater to their travel needs. This could mean, lesser-explored destinations could emerge as alternatives, rural tourism might see a spike, and cities could take a fall.
Road trips will be preferred over air/train travel
A key aspect where crowding can cause anxiety is in transport options like airplanes, trains, and public transport. In the immediate future, more and more tourists are likely to first consider road trips for getaways- both domestic and international tourism.
Road trips are the best bet to be in better control of safety and sanitization methods, also a rather convenient option to reach remote, offbeat destinations with lesser connectivity.
Airfares are predicted to go up
Airlines around the world have been out of operations for over 3 months, and have suffered tremendous losses. Airfares are most certainly bound to go up and travel may not seem as affordable as it did. However, some trends also suggest that airlines along with government restrictions are likely to cap their fares and keep the costs
So far, most airlines have been selling tickets in the regular fare window of pre-COVID travel. The best part about these tickets is not just the regular fares, but the flexibility feature of the tickets which make room readjusting date in case of any further unprecedented events.
Domestic Tourism will see an instant boom
While every country today is hoping to open international borders at the earliest, when it will actually happen is rather questionable. Even after the borders open up, there will be many factors that will come into account for international tourism to spike again. On the contrary, domestic tourism will open up rather sooner as countries begin to flatten the curve. This will mean that travelers will be able to travel within the borders of their country, sooner than heading abroad. Many governments, like the Government of India, are likely to promote domestic tourism initiatives to pump up the country’s economy and help local businesses to come out of the financial crisis.
An added layer of health checks and security
Much like health safety and sanitization taking precedence for tourists, governments and brands are likely to introduce various levels of health and security norms to their processes.
The President of France, Emanuel Macaron in one of the press briefings during the pandemic announced that as soon as the vaccine for Coronavirus will be available, all tourists will be required to be vaccinated as per the prescribed dose to obtain a French visa. Similar measures or parallel options will soon come into the picture (including getting tested for the virus or obtaining a health certificate prior to the travel dates, health checks at the arrival airports) and are likely to be a mandate until a proper solution for this virus or any similar issues become available.
Limiting numbers for crowd management
Irrespective, people will prefer social distancing both out of fear and habit after the pandemic. To keep up with the social distancing norms, pre-booked slots and limited entries will become a norm in places like museums to ensure that only a limited number of people are in the premises, without over-crowding it.
While cities like Dubrovnik have already tried to implement such a rule in the past to maintain control over the number of visitors in the old town, many cities are likely to follow the suit to avoid overcrowding.
Outdoors will be the go-to-choice
Having spent months cooped up in tiny homes across metro cities around the world, the need for outdoors is only obvious. Given the potential threats and fear of crowded outdoors, activities like trekking, hiking, drives, offbeat homestays will find the preference of the early travelers. This could also turn into a longer trend.
Travel could actually boom
While many have predicted that the travel industry will go down the drains, the result of the lockdown and all the time indoors will encourage more and more people to travel to get rid of the psychological pressures created as a result of the pandemic.
To put this point in perspective, one of the key examples to be considered is the boost in shopping post the lockdown in China. Many economists have termed this phenomenon as ‘revenge shopping’. Companies like Shanghai Disneyland have also reported record bookings after announcing reopening for post COVID travel. This could be well in line with the ‘revenge shopping’ phenomenon, as seen in China post-pandemic.
Flexible booking policies
The pandemic has brought under light the uncertainty of events and the importance of flexible booking policies. Airlines, transport, accommodations, activities, and services will need to come up with flexible booking policies in order to get people to make bookings, especially in the initial few months. This could turn out to be a trend that shall last longer than most.
Travel Insurance will be essential
Travel insurance has always been important. However, both, the demand and the willingness to get travel insurance will be on the rise in the post-COVID travel era to cover any emergency situations, health scares, evacuations, canceled bookings, etc.
Countries that have responded well to the pandemic are likely to see a tourism spike
Countries like New Zealand, Finland, Iceland, Germany that have set positive examples in dealing with the pandemic and have also emerged as early winners in successfully tackling the pandemic have created a vote of confidence amongst travelers for international travel. Their capacity to deal with such pandemics and to be able to impose strict and effective measures will influence decision-making abilities for future travels to travel to these destinations.
This one factor could be the real boon for tourists in the post-COVID travel times. Destinations, hospitality brands, service providers are very likely to create lucrative deals and discounts to encourage more tourists. Bulgaria, Japan, Mexico are already offering deals like a free night’s stay, allowances for travelers, free testing, etc.
With World Travel opening up slowly and steadily, the number of deals is going to rise to maximize results.
Tip: Read the terms and conditions carefully for such offers and book when you find a lucrative deal.
New versions of traditional experiences await
The on-going pandemic has resulted in the delay of some of the most awaited events around the world, which resulted in event-based tourism. Right from the Tokyo Olympics to a range of awards, concerts and entertainment shows have been postponed to 2021 or indefinitely.
It will be interesting to see how some of these events unfold in the new normal, given the fact that these public events have been crowd-pullers since inception. A range of security and sanitization measures will be put in place to organize these events. However, these basics are only the tip of the iceberg. Social distancing may be against the principle celebration of these events, so it will be worth waiting and watching how the new normal will settle in for these experiences.
This is the most important point. Given the scale of the pandemic, the dynamics within the travel industry- destinations, businesses, rules, requirements, pricing, etc are most likely to see volatile changes over the course of the first few months. A lot will depend on the vaccines, government policies, and the stabilization of the current situation and financial health of businesses for a long-term change in the nature of travel.
Much will be decided by the consumer behavior in this age, which is likely to make or break new businesses and destinations. On the other of this pandemic, we shall eventually find the travel trends which will decide the course of the next 5 years or more. Till then- all’s a chance and a choice.
The travel industry will certainly bounce back, but in the light of reality, it might take longer than expected. A lot will be defined by the solutions- prevention and cures for this pandemic and the time required for each solution. Never has the global situation been so uncertain in our lifetime or of those before ours, but this is history being written, my friends. While we learn to travel again, let’s learn to sit by our home windows and ogle at the time, hoping things return to normal again.
What are the precautions you are looking at maintaining when we can start traveling again?
Reminder: We do not advise traveling during the pandemic. Make sure to follow government advisories. Do not get impatient and venture out. Wait it out, that way, we will all be able to travel soon again!