Last updated October 2020
With the continuous rise of cases daily and existing restrictions worldwide, it may seem like there’s no end to the travel halts around the world. However, some countries—and of course, many travellers—are already looking forward to a recovery period.
One thing to remember is that the travel industry has always breathed life into itself. From security threats and deadly terrorist attacks to several big and small epidemics, it has managed to find ways to help people be where they want to be, with little tweaks along the way. This pandemic is no different.
It will not be the same for everyone everywhere. As the pandemic and border situations develop at varying paces across the world, many countries’ tourism industries will recover faster, while many will struggle. But one thing is for sure: travel will resume, albeit in a different form.
Here are a few ways COVID-19 is changing the way we travel and what we think may happen in 2021.
Early 2021 will see a larger interest in leisure travel
With travel bubble arrangements popping up, more countries reopening, and swift development of vaccine underway, many seem to think that early 2021 is shaping up to be the period of “revenge travel” or “make-up travel”. A recent survey found that 39% Americans are “very confident” about traveling in 2021.
Even as we near the end of 2020, there are notable early signs of recovery and hope in places. Many countries that have been among the most careful with their border restrictions are starting to plan a reopening date for international tourists. One such country is Japan, which reportedly is considering to welcome back travellers by spring 2021. Another one is Saudi Arabia with its tentative border reopening date in January 2021.
Recently, Thailand has welcomed a batch of Chinese tourists into the country, a first in close to 8 months. Needless to say, this is an exciting progress sure to be replicated everywhere in the world and early 2021 may see more and more of such instances.
Expect pre-departure requirements to stay
The International Air Travel Association (IATA) has stated that pre-departure testing is key to boosting global air travel connectivity. Many travellers seem to stand behind that statement; in a survey conducted by the organisation, 84% agreed that testing should be required of all travellers.
Many countries have started to require international travellers to carry a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test report in order to be cleared for entry alongside request to fill health form or download tracing app. Once a vaccine is accessible to all, a prove of vaccination may be needed in addition or in lieu of the COVID-19 test document.
At least in the near future, the RT-PCR test report will still be considered a necessary document to carry.
Social distancing measures
Airlines have been quick to jump into enacting drastic social distancing measures, like blocking middle seats. In the near future, they may stick to these measures by selectively seating passengers or enforcing proper distance during queues. This may continue for a while, or even becomes the new norm.
A new preference in attractions and destinations
Social distancing measures will extend to your destination as restaurants, amusement parks, and other attractions will continue to implement social distancing regulations, at least through the first and second quarters of 2021, depending on the development of the pandemic.
As such, this may drive consumers to look more into outdoor, nature attractions, and even remote countries. Crowds have always been a deterrent for some travellers, but even more so in the early months of 2021.
Heightened interest in safety and hygiene protocols
Information about airplane’s air quality is now a fixture in most major carriers’ websites, so is a hotel’s hygiene protocols. These are important additions as travellers will book their flights and hotels on providers that take their safety and hygiene regulations seriously, at least in the near future.
Statements such as making masks compulsory and commitment to regular, heavy-duty cleaning will be important deciding factors when customers are making travel purchases.
Additionally, whether and how a destination country keep the virus under control will also be of interest, regardless of whether it’s open for tourism.
Continued attention to personal in-flight hygiene
One way this pandemic is changing how we live is by forcing us to reconsider how we approach personal hygiene. Once we get to fly again, more people will start to take serious note on how to keep themselves clean and healthy in the airplane.
For one, it has always been socially unacceptable to cough or sneeze in public regardless of whether you carry a virus or not. In the future, the social etiquette of covering up when you cough or sneeze may be observed a lot more closely around the world.
If you’re looking to fly sometime soon or in the future, here are a few tips you can follow to ensure that you stay healthy throughout your trip:
- Pump up your immunity by eating good food and getting good sleep the night before you fly
- Stay hydrated
- Wipe down seats, belts, screens and meal trays
- Bring your own pillow and blanket if you can.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your nose and eyes.
- If you are in a plane with air vents, turn it on to deflect any germs lingering in the air
- Wear a face mask.
Be careful, not paranoid. Learn to relax. Here’s to a lifetime of flying!