A lot has changed in our lives over the past few months and, unfortunately, not all of it is going back to normal when the spread of COVID-19 eventually slows down. And, while it is true that people often display an incredible (some might say irrational) ability to forget, some of the changes in the travel industry are probably here to stay.
1. Domestic travel is back. Most international flights have been grounded, governments are turning foreigners away and everyone is (or at least should be) concerned that wherever they go, they could end up stranded there indefinitely. Luckily for us, Canada is a huge and diverse country with endless recreational options. Expect a lot more people to steer clear of complicated international travel and instead explore their own country this year, particularly focusing on wide open spaces – hiking, camping, boating, swathing – that they can reach by car.
2. All-inclusive beach resorts will undergo a serious overhaul. Social interaction and physical mingling are practically mantras of the hedonistic all-inclusive holidays Canadians love so much. While this season is obviously finished, these resorts should be open for business again by next winter and there are probably going to be some very good deals to be had. But the key is going to be convincing potential guests of impeccable standards of hygiene. Buffet servers, industrious teams of workers constantly disinfecting all common areas and hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere are just a few of the innovations you can expect.
3. Being a snowbird just got a lot more complicated. As if border restrictions, isolation recommendations, age risk, and health insurance exclusions weren’t going to be troublesome enough, the reckless behaviour of some returning snowbirds this year is going to reflect badly on the group as a whole. While most snowbirds returned to Canada in a timely and careful manner, the irresponsible few that ignored precautions, potentially spread the virus from town to town all the way through the U.S and then refused to isolate upon arriving home is going to mean added scrutiny and suspicion next winter.
4. Focus on safety and hygiene. Travellers are going to be far more selective about their destinations. Instead of just watching out for armed conflicts and recent natural disasters, now people will be scouring all the latest COVID-19 statistics and travel restrictions before booking that next trip. Then, once they hit the road, it is going to be all about disinfecting, obsessive hand washing, and avoiding hotspots like water fountain buttons and busy door handles. We’re already learning just how much we can accomplish using our elbows.
5. Changing attitudes. On the one hand, travellers should probably expect a less enthusiastic welcome in most parts of the world. If this whole fiasco has taught us one thing that we’ve been teaching our kids for years, it’s “stranger danger”. If it has taught us two, the other is to not suck our thumbs. One benefit, however, is that when (not if) we are allowed to travel freely once again, we are going to appreciate it on a whole new level. For at least a year or two, then we’ll go back to complaining about having to take our shoes off in security and resume shaking our heads at the people who stand up as soon as the plane stops. It’ll be fun while it lasts, though.
Of course, the list goes on. Here are a few more aspects of travel sure to be affected by the greatest tragedy of our generation:
6. A lot of people will return to using a travel agent to book their trips.
7. The cruise ship industry is in for a major overhaul – fewer cruises, fewer passengers, more stringent hygiene standards and, potentially, big discounts.
8. The next year or two might be the perfect time to see the world’s most popular tourist attractions without the usual crowds.
9. When possible, people are going to save up for one longer trip instead of taking several short trips.
10. There are sure to be some surprisingly cheap hotels, tours and package deals available.
11. Free cancellation and date changes are going to become standard when booking flights and hotels.
12. Expect a serious increase in airport security and safety measures, including requiring proof that you have already had COVID-19 or on-site testing for those who haven’t.
Don’t worry, travel isn’t dead. There have been countless disasters over the years that have impacted people’s desire and ability to travel and the industry always bounces back. Just don’t expect it to look the same as when you left it.
PHOTO CAPTION: Photos of spaces where tourists would normally be are now empty