After a year which has rocked the world, with a pandemic that has led to more than 1.6 million deaths worldwide, and the devastation of the travel and tourist industry, we enter the New Year.
So firstly we would like to wish all of our readers a very happy New Year.
We hope that 2021 is not only a better year for you than 2020 but also becomes a year that lives long in your memory for all the right reasons. Hopefully that will include some travel.
Revolution Not Resolutions
Most years we would spend the start of the year with our resolutions for the year ahead. Most people will have failed in their resolutions by the end of January if not before.
Of course 2020 was like no other year and it is likely that 2021 will be similar.
So instead of resolutions we look at the revolutions that the travel industry may have to make and should make to help make our experiences more pleasant in the future and help build international tourism again.
We also look at the changes that travellers may need t make or be prepared for when they travel internationally.
It’s Safe To Fly
We recently published our insight into how people feel about travel in the Covid and post-Covid (hopefully) world and what people need to be confident to restart international travel.
It’s clear that most people will need to have confidence that the whole flying experience from check-in through to arriving at your destination is Covid-safe.
Airports will need to introduce many measures, including more automated and contactless transactions to ensure customers are happy with the experience.
Boarding is likely to take longer with less people being allowed onto the plane at any one time.
The in-flight service may be reduced or you may have to pre-order meals. Cleanliness will take on an increased importance.
Movement around the plane may be restricted and there may be a formal queueing system for the toilets.
Expect to take longer to exit the plane and you may even only be able to approach the baggage claim once your bags have arrived.
Digital Passports To Reduce Physical Interactions
IATA have been working to develop their Travel Pass which is due to be launched in the first quarter of 2021.
The Travel Pass is designed to be able conduct much of the future travel process in a contactless form.
Stored on your mobile device could be a digital version of your passport, travel documents, vaccination records and Covid results.
Your Money Is Safe
Despite there being a whole raft of protections in place, especially in Europe, many people have struggled to get refunds for cancelled flights and holidays.
Travel firms have been faced with an unprecedented surge in cancellations and simply haven’t had the resources to repay customers until they have received refunds from airlines, hotels or their insurance companies.
Travel insurance policies have been slow to pay out and many have claimed obscure terms and conditions to try and escape their liability.
Some transactions have been referred to credit card companies to refund through their protections.
Customers have been offered vouchers for future travel, which have had to be reissued as the pandemic has continued.
Many travel companies are now putting measures into place to protect customers money and give added confidence that their holiday money is safe.
More people are likely to book packages, at least in Europe, which have greater protection that independent transactions, unless they have the confidence that their money is safe.
Will the pandemic spur more people to be conscious about the impact that their travelling makes on the world?
We have seen pollution levels in many areas of the world reduce and wildlife returning to areas where they have not been seen for years.
Will consumers see this and change the way they travel in the future to help minimise their impact on the environment? Will we see more carbon offsetting?
We have seen an upsurge of concern and environmental action over the last couple of years as people recognise the impact of travel, especially flying.
There are few options than to fly to a long-haul destination. However there are often excellent options to internal or short-haul international flights. Why take an internal flight in Vietnam if you could jump on the incredible Reunification Express train? The overland borders between Malaysia and Singapore or Thailand and Cambodia are well travelled and served by public and private transport.
People who have previously taken multiple international trips each year may choose to have extended single trips and supplement that with local trips.
However there are also likely to many people who think nothing of their impact on the environment as they take multiple trips to make up for their year, or more, of lack of travel.
Many airlines and accommodation providers may need to work harder to attract tourists.
As the travel industry begins it’s recovery supply is likely to greatly outweigh demand which means that customers will be able to cheery pick the best providers.
Some will still be focused on cost, past experience or even Tripadvisor reviews.
Many though will be looking at what measures have been put in place to make sure that customers are safe and looked after well.
We may see a new rise in service standards as providers with poor service will be under more pressure to survive.
Location, Location, Location
It is likely that, for at least a time, that many people will be less comfortable visiting crowded cities or resorts.
Many travellers are likely to be looking for more remote locations or at least accommodation that provides some seclusion and privacy fro other travellers.
We may see the rise in popularity of trekking and nature holidays.
Cycle tours in Vietnam, exploring the north of Thailand, the mountains of Bali and the islands in the Philippines may all increase in popularity.
On the flip side will people be happy visiting Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur during the peak seasons?
It is difficult to predict what the consequences of the pandemic will be on prices in the fututre.
Some have sepculated that prices will fall in the short term as providers look to attract customers again.
Others have said that prices will naturally level out at pre-pandemic levels once more significant people are travelling.
Many though are predicting price rises. Transport and airport providers are having to make significant changes to ensure that they can demonstrate that they are Covid-safe. Some may be forced to reduce capacity to do so. They have also mostly seen the worst year financially and will need to look to try and recuperate some losses even if it is over a long period. There may also be increased costs for them to ensure that can provide financial assurances for customers in the event of more travel restrictions. Airlines face considerably fewer numbers of business travellers as many businesses have realised that they can conduct much of their business through virtual meetings.
Expect temperature checks at airports, hotels and even shopping malls and restaurants. Medical questionnaires will also be commonplace and you may be required to download and use a track and trace app when you enter a country.
I hope you are getting used to wearing masks as they may well be compulsory in many public places.
Street food may be severely restricted or even non-existent in some places as additional precautions are made to prevent the spread of infections.
Be prepared that not all locals may welcome foreign travellers. Although many people may be dependent on income from international travellers, there is also likely to be many people nervous about international tourists and the increased risk of bringing the virus with them.
Brave New World
No matter what the future holds for travel it is likely to be quite different to that of a year ago.
Whether we see a return to the old days in the future is hard to say at the moment. We can only hope that most restrictions will disappear over time and hopefully the future of travel for most of us is even better than it was before the pandemic
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