The coronavirus pandemic has brought travel and tourism to a standstill, and no one knows when or if things will go back to normal. For the first time ever, close to 90 percent of the world’s population is living in countries that have put in place travel restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus. As a result, airlines, travel agencies, hotels, and the tourism sector as a whole have been affected greatly with millions of jobs lost and several years’ worth of industry growth potentially lost. But, like many other times before, the travel industry will still find a way to bounce back. People will travel again, but it won’t be nearly the same as it was before the pandemic. These are some of the changes that you can expect to see in the travel industry once the amount of cases finally recedes.
Expect longer stays at the airport
The biggest worry in countries such as China, Singapore, South Korea, and others that have managed to control their outbreaks is new infections coming from outside. To be on the safe side, most countries have put in place tough measures at their airports to ensure that anyone who is allowed to visit does not pose a threat. For one, you’ll have to pass by a screening area where airport staff can evaluate your risk level based on factors like your body temperature or heart rate. This means adding a few more minutes to your waiting time or even hours if the queue is long. Once you get to your destination, you’ll have to take a test and wait for the results before being allowed or denied entry.
Packing will be different
There are some items that have become a must-have if you are going to be spending time in a high-risk area like an airplane. First of all, even though some airlines are yet to make it mandatory, a face mask will be one of those things that you’ll want to have in a plane, or else you risk getting dirty looks from every passenger and crew. You’ll also need to pack some hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean especially on long haul flights. It gets even worse if you have pre-existing conditions that put you at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms if you get the virus. For example, if you have heart disease, it’s a good idea to pack other items such as gloves, wet wipes to clean your seat once you get on the plane, or even a full-body PPE suit to guarantee your safety. Some countries may also require you to have a certificate of immunity if you’ve recovered from the virus or once there’s a vaccine available, especially if you’re coming from a hot spot.
Domestic tourism will recover first
Before strong demand for international travel returns, domestic destinations will be the most viable option for those who’ve been bitten by the travel bug but are still hesitant to get on an airplane. Since there’s a much lower risk of contracting the virus when driving than flying, there will be a faster recovery for drive-to locations as people wait for international travel to become safer. As people get more comfortable, they’ll start going farther away from home, starting with neighboring countries then finally moving to other continents.
Until COVID-19 is under control and efficient systems are put in place to restore mass confidence in travel, it’s too soon to tell when people can start booking again. What you can be sure of is that even when things start to go back to “normal”, travel, particularly international travel, will never be the same again.