What is the future of travel after COVID-19? Since vaccination is an imminent reality and proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is near, we can assume that global travel will rebound as soon as pandemic is over or at least when it is on a downwards spiral.
We can expect that global vaccination will be in full swing by end of June 2021 and that will be able to achieve some kind of immunity and to lower risk from COVID-19 infections. This means that summer in northern hemisphere will be again available for international travel for many passengers especially from Europe and northern America.
But, will it be that simple? Certainly not. COVID-19 was a global disaster which shook all our foundations – social, health, financial, economic, logistics, you name it, from its roots. And science is claiming that this is just one of many possible pandemic’s heading our way. Meaning that, another virus might resurface sooner than later. Not necessarily in a pandemic level but still. This is something to count on and consider when thinking about future travel.
The importance of travel
Travel and travel industry are both very important in their own right. Travel as a leisure or necessity is essential to humans’ life especially in the last 50 years with international and continental travels available to almost everyone. Since the WWII, when economy grew rapidly, so many people had an extra cash to spend on leisure activities, travel has become one of the top lucrative industries in the world. Nowadays travel industry employs one in 10 people in most of the countries with popular destinations and attractions. That’s a significant income for the countries’ GDP and obvious boost to overall economy outlook. Travel and hospitality services are in the permanent growth and being improved daily.
Having all above in mind, let’s see what is the future of travel after COVID-19.
Travelers will have to be better prepared
We have already written about what will change after pandemic and how our travels will change and especially travel planning. Future travelers will have to be more aware about what is happening and to be ready to act in case of any possible disaster such is COVID-19 or any other mass epidemic. This will require bit of a research about destination country, its infrastructure and medical services. Countries might be using as a competitive advantage their medical services available in case of emergencies.
There will be boost in local tourism
Lockdown during pandemic have showed that if one wants to travel will have to rely on domestic tourism. As we learned during the pandemics, countries were closing their borders or imposing two weeks quarantine, on average, on all inbound travelers. This will make international travel impossible, and especially leisure travel. So, for people who still want to travel during the holidays, the best bet will be travel within the country you are currently in, without the need to cross borders and get locked down in another place.
Travelling might become more purposeful
We might be heading to a new era of travel with purpose. We hope future travel will not be just a search for best bang for a Buck, meaning quantity, but also purposeful travel experience. Generic mass travel packages to the most popular destinations and attractions might become less popular and even things from the past. This of course might not be the case when it comes to destinations such as Paris or London, where people will want to travel no matter what. But getting into crowded areas all the time and exposing yourself for any type of medical challenges might not be a peoples’ cup of tea in the future.
New travel destinations will surface
If our travel aspirations change and we would wish more purposeful travel experiences, travelers will start looking for new destinations, landmarks and attractions not wildly popular and thus avoiding crowds.
This will change tourism landscape of many countries and it will give opportunity for some new regions to develop their tourism industry. It will be kind of disruptive innovation in the tourism sector and destination offers. This will certainly be an enormous opportunity with still ‘undiscovered’ countries, meaning countries not immediately considered as popular tourist destination.
RVs are already becoming more popular
As opposed to mass travel, several options for individual or small groups (or family travel) will surface in incoming months and years. Recreational vehicles or RVs are already showing increase in popularity throughout the world. Although being moderate initial investment they can be paid off by travelling independently throughout the country or the region and having your own isolated accommodation. This will in turn change another area of tourism landscape – the trailer parks and camping ground areas.
Virtual tours will become a regular thing
We already wrote about the virtual tours around the world during the global lockdown. While going fully online for many museums and attractions was the only option during the lockdown to keep themselves relevant and available to the possible visitors, there will be upward trend to prepare virtual and interactive presentations for tourist destinations, attractions and landmarks.
As the improvement of technology and availability of software and platforms for creating virtual tours and 3D interactive sessions becomes more affordable, this trend might really take off. This will become a norm and the necessity for everybody in the tourism – airlines, hotels, museums, galleries, attractions will all have virtual tours so they can connect with future customers and visitors even before they decide to visit.
This might not be future of travel per se, but it will certainly help travel industry.
Will we become ‘better’ travelers?
Well, yes and no. Unfortunately, many people will still travel to destinations they can afford into the arrangements they can fit into their budgets. Meaning that will still be the rule for must group travel as it is now. In that area there will be little bit of change – it will stay mostly the same with people wanting to get as many destinations and attractions with as little money.
Of course, there will be people who will want to travel and make the experience more purposeful and less invasive for the destination. This will also mean that travel experiences will cost more, so they will be affordable only to certain group of people.
Travel providers will need to change approach
We have witnessed massive collapse of travel industry in past year during the pandemic. Airlines are going bankrupt, different travel providers as well, and many hotels had to close, all over the world. This will hopefully prompt mainstream travel providers to rethink their approach in delivering travel services. This means that focus on growth and growth only will not stand another challenge of global pandemic or similar disaster.
For an example, airlines and their business model to fit as many passengers and as much cargo they possibly can in every single flight no matter what is turning back airlines from being travel providers to simple transportation companies. And they were trying to escape this definition for decades. Rethinking and reinventing travel services will be ongoing project for all levels of travel industry.
Hotels will have to fight not only disruptive competitors such is AirBnB, but also not to turn into simple dormitories but become integral to overall travel experiences instead. Top hotels are already doing that and offering incredible range of services, while hotels with less stars might need to adapt.
One of the opportunities might be going fully digital, where guest can fully customize his or her experience by going online and select amenities and arrangements for the stay. Some hotels already have these services and airlines as well (online check-in, selecting seat, custom meal, downloading inflight magazines, etc.).
Travel insurance might change a bit
There will be changes in travel insurance policies to cover possible future disruptions and cancellations. This might include also getting sick before the trip or getting infected during the trip and have to cancel all your travel arrangements. This will also increase overall prices of your future holidays. So called CFAR insurance (Cancel For Any Reason) will have to add option such as “stuck on a cruise ship for three months because of COVID-XX”.
Business travels might change as well
There will be changes to business travelers as well. COVID-19 lockdown has shown that many jobs can be done from home and that meetings can be effectively conducted via online platforms: Zoom, Skype, Teams etc. This makes travel for business purposes unnecessary for most of the time. People will be more inclined to meet online then travel thousands of kilometers to meet in person and discuss things, meet for seminars or trainings.
Many companies have saved millions on business travels during this year, while they were able to conduct business by working and meeting remotely, and this will most probably become trend in a future.
Speaking of working from home, commute travel might not make sense anymore in the future. This of course applies to professions which don’t depend on being physically present such as developers, customer service, online teachers, etc. There is already a trend of people moving out of the city centers and enjoying calmer environment with lower rent.
Many things will change in our lives (and many already did change) and travel and travel industry are no exception to this. We have listed few aspects that might change, but given the rate of things moving these days, we might need to update this article soon. Safe travels!