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Coronavirus / Covid-19

What Will Travel After Coronavirus Look Like?

Posted: May 24,2020
by Rosen Valchev
Last updated: August 27,2020

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Travel has all but halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it will eventually pick up again. Business travelers will create the need, and leisure travelers will be itching to go once this is all over.

You most probably have caught yourself dreaming about this trip as well. Unfortunately, there are still many unknowns and nobody is sure when travel will be back to normal.

But with airlines pleading for government assistance, people losing their jobs at record rates, and COVID-19 spreading faster than ever, what can we expect from the travel industry after the coronavirus pandemic ends?

How COVID-19 Affected Travel

The travel industry took a massive hit which is unlike any other in history. Everyone in the industry has already suffered a great loss. From airlines to travel agencies and hotels. Millions of people lost their jobs and are now struggling.

For instance, research by IATA shows how the airline industry was affected. Global passenger volumes declined to levels last seen in 2006 (a solid 14 years back). The air passenger volumes decreased by the unseen 52.9%  almost triple the decline we saw after 9/11.

Another stunning example is the occupancy of hotels in the US which fell by 68.5%. That left more than 75% of rooms in the USA empty. All of these numbers paint a horrible picture.

They get you thinking about the recovery of the industry. How is it going to recover? When is it going to recover? Above all, what is the future of travel after the COVID-19 pandemic?

We can’t hide that the whole situation is shocking. Yet, there are some positives to it. We are going to learn. Not only how to wash our hands properly. The crisis will increase the number of people who have a travel plan – an essential some have ignored in the past.

While we initially saw a major decline in our business as well, lately more and more people are coming to us for advice on their future trips. In these unprecedented times, it’s vital to plan out your trips carefully. But we will get to that later.

First, we need to help you understand what will travel be like post-pandemic.

Infographic that summarizes "What Will Travel After Coronavirus Look Like?"

Phase 1: A gradual return to travel as coronavirus infections lessen

Initially, expect a slow return to travel. For the most part, people will likely stay closer to home, preferring “staycations,” road trips, and shorter domestic travel over longer international trips.

We will likely still have some lingering cases around the world, and even within the United States. The sign of the times will include businesses large and small opening back up, working hard to draw adventurous travelers to take the first steps after coronavirus. Remain mindful of official warnings of travel from the CDC, WHO, and other organizations.

Custodian cleaning an empty stairway in a public building. Travel after coronavirus will see a new focus on hygiene and sanitation.
Photo by Caio Christofoli from Pexels

Here are some things that you should expect as travel gradually returns:

Major Providers Will Be Significantly Cheaper

Airfares will remain low for a little while, as well as hotel rates. If cruises are operating, you can expect them to have the sharpest price drop, but it may not be enough to entice new travelers, considering the risks.

More Focus On Health And Sanitation

Travel providers will pay more attention to sanitation, and so will travelers. You can expect to see an increase in messaging about deep cleaning efforts from airlines, cruise lines, and hotels.

More passengers will spend their boarding time wiping their seats, and hopefully you’ll continue to see a sharp increase in the number of people who actually wash their hands.

Small Businesses Struggling To Re-open

Many businesses, especially local restaurants and possibly tour providers, will still be closed. Some may not reopen, so it’s important to keep this in mind when you’re thinking about what to do once you’ve reached your destination.

Travelers Prefer Domestic Routes And Outdoor Destinations

For those who are ready to get back to travel, expect outdoor destinations to outperform others. People will want to escape the crowds, although we may see unintended consequences that include overcrowding of ski lodges and other outdoor-related venues. This will hold especially true if we see a sharp decrease in infections as we go into the winter season.

Woman taking a photo while hiking.
Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

Still, even people who are generally indoor types would probably prefer open-air activities. People will rent a private property close to the place they live to avoid putting their health at risk. And that is perfectly normal. We advise you to do the same.

However, if you are eager to spend your vacation in an urban area, make sure your health is a top priority. Your health should be a concern of all parties involved in your urban retreat, not only yourself.

That includes your travel agency, the airline you are traveling with, your Airbnb or hotel room in the city. They should all be very transparent and proactive and communicate the measures they are taking. Especially when it comes to sanitation.

Or, if you’re not ready to get back to traveling, consider focusing instead on building your points.

Infographic that summarizes "What Will Travel After Coronavirus Look Like?"

Phase 2: Travel returns to normal after coronavirus

It will come to a point where the pandemic will reach its peak and the virus will either be treatable or avoidable.

Pharmaceutical companies would release their first batch of vaccines to the public while thousands of COVID-19 survivors are now able to donate their blood plasma to other patients.

Meanwhile, the whole world has also learned ways on how to adjust to the new norms on how to distance themselves from the virus.

Listed below are some of the possible outcomes that would happen when the coronavirus is officially under control.

Surge In International Travel As Businesses And Individuals Feel Safer

As the cases of coronavirus infections start to go down and the healthcare industry finds a way to treat the disease easily we can expect international travel to resume.

Of course, we can see an initial spike when some countries “reopen”, but governments will be very careful about the process.

Even though most European airlines are resuming their international flights in July, they say they will do it gradually, in phases. The situation in the US is almost the same.

Some major airlines like American Airlines and Delta are resuming international flights as early as next month. However, there are going to be only a small number of flights. For example, American is going to use only 20% of their 2019 flight capacity.

Despite that, it is highly likely people would rather drive to their holidays’ location at least for the next 3-6 months. After that period the scarcity will slowly disappear. As we become braver we will travel further and further.

Lifted Advisories May Align With Expiring Travel Vouchers

Vouchers typically have a validity period of 12 months at most. Now, since the post-coronavirus period will likely take place 6 to 12 months from now, it could align with the expiration of tens of thousands of travel vouchers and e-credits.

Prices Rise With Demand As Peoples Use Their Vouchers

As more people feel pressured to “use it or lose it,” prices will increase for these businesses as they seek to increase revenue beyond these owed credits.

The price surge would probably last for about a year or two as businesses try to stabilize their cashflow.

On the contrary, in the short term, we expect the travel industry to provide great discounts. This will be an attempt to stimulate people to travel internationally. Be conscious about that and don’t endanger yourself just to get a good bargain.

High-value Packages And Add-ons Will Become Common

While discounted travel will subside, it will probably be replaced by an increase in high-value offers.

Travel providers will have a strategy to make up for lost business, and it will include tempting travelers with package deals, add-ons, and an overall increase in value with your purchase.

It may still be a great time to travel, but keep your health and safety in mind when selecting your providers.

Infographic that summarizes "What Will Travel After Coronavirus Look Like?"

Phase 3: Lasting changes in the travel industry

While it’s hard to say exactly what will happen long-term, it’s safe to say travel won’t be the same for a long time. The industry will almost certainly recover, just as it did after 9/11 and other smaller outbreaks.

Some larger travel providers will likely close their doors permanently, but those that make the push will be stronger, with more value to offer their customers.

Crowded streets in a marketplace somewhere in Europe. As the industry returns to normalcy, consider your health and safety during travel after coronavirus.
Photo by Hert Niks from Pexels

A fresh start for travel allows for a renewed focus on health and safety, but it also allows for new opportunities in sustainable travel.

Overtourism and environmental concerns were significant topics before coronavirus, and we would certainly welcome a responsible, ethical return to travel after coronavirus.

Adopting touchless travel

One of the main ways the pandemic will affect travel is the global adoption of touchless technology. All parties in the sector will begin to adjust their system to accept digital forms of identity verification.

Biometrics verification methods such as iris or face scans could become more widespread.  Physical fingerprints and hand scanners wouldn’t be an option as they increase the risk of infection.

Efforts will be pointed towards avoiding physical touch as much as possible, from the airport counter to your room check-in.

On the other hand, countries and companies have begun attempts to develop passenger digital health profiles. This will help them assess the health risks of each individual passenger. They will use personal data like travel history, age and overall health condition.

Some airlines are already conducting on-the-spot COVID-19 tests and this probably will become the norm. The extensive use of thermal cameras is also becoming a standard at most airports.  

Generally speaking, the travel process will be more tedious than what we are used to. Various types of proofs will be required, especially upon entering the territory of a foreign country.

You will have to verify your identity, your travel purpose and your health condition and immunity by different means.

Handling Your Travel Plans Amidst The Pandemic

Most of you probably have planned trips that were cancelled because of the pandemic. Yes, it’s frustrating but you just need to deal with it since there’s not much that you can really do about it.

Here are some tips that might help if you’re currently experiencing these situations:

You Want To Cancel Your Trips

For trips that were booked in advance, check your flights if they were automatically cancelled by your airline. If not, contact your airlines right away to manually cancel them.

Cancel your flights as early as you can so you can get your refunds right away. You don’t want to get caught in the airline refund fiasco since lots of travelers will also be doing the same thing.

Make sure to document all of your transactions too so you’ll have grounds for your claim.

You Want To Move Your Travel Dates

If you don’t want to cancel your trips, probably because goods and services are cheaper, consider getting travel insurance or travel protection.

Getting a credit card is a great option. Most premium cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve come with buyer protection, extended warranties, car rental insurance, trip delay insurance, and lost baggage insurance. And since we are on the topic we have to mention.

Travel insurance will become a common thing

Every time a dramatic event happens it reminds people of their own vulnerability.

It’s not a secret many of us don’t include extra services like seat selection, extra luggage or priority boarding to our flights.

Unfortunately, many people don’t even bother to insure adequately their health when they travel abroad. However, the chances you include travel insurance to your next trip are high.

Particularly in the times we live in. Think about it for a second. Would you skip that just to save some extra bucks? Is it worth your well-being? And if something happens are you willing to pay thousands of dollars for a medical evacuation?

We genuinely hope this will establish a long-term habit for a large number of people. Insurance is a vital part of any trip. Many have ignored this advice and suffered in the past. 

Travel advisors will be busy at this period

Advise in the travel industry has never been more important than now. We saw many fellow advisers reporting an increased demand for their services as well.

And this is no wonder when you think about how crazy things recently have been. Airlines are constantly canceling flights. People are having a hard time even getting in touch on the phone with these companies. What is left for rescheduling their flight or getting a reimbursement?

The situation with hotels and travel agencies is the same. Many people felt ripped off by companies. Plenty received vouchers for future use instead of a refund.

Bearing in mind many travel companies may go bankrupt it is common sense to worry about your hard-earned cash.

Sadly, if you don’t have insider information and years of experience in the industry it is nearly impossible to figure out things on your own. In these unprecedented times, we are here to offer our support.

We usually help you make the best choice for your credit cards and points redemption with our concierge service. Now, with our coronavirus travel concierge, you can have unlimited access to our team for coronavirus travel consulting. And much more.

We are here to make sure your post-pandemic travel will be seamless.

Travel won’t be the same in the future and we have to embrace it

It is good to remain positive and think that everything will be back to ordinary.

However, travel will probably never be the same again. The pandemic will mark the industry forever and change the way people travel.

That doesn’t mean it is all bad. The new technologies and the regulations travel companies adopt would make travel even more secure. This will give a new meaning to seamless travel in the future.

It will make everybody more cautious about travel insurance.  Last but not least, people will embrace the idea of using travel advisors. Many would find they are actually saving money rather than overspending.

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