While it´s clear to all of us that humanity and the travel industry will overcome this pandemic, there is no doubt that it will leave a footprint on the way we travel. Though the following is all speculation, but this is how we believe travel will change after COVID-19.
Decrease in Business Travel
This outbreak has proven that many meetings can take place virtually just as effectively. Expect small business to reduce business travel, at least, for the immediate future. This drastic measure will be done both to reduce costs in an effort to balance out loses due to Covid-19, and also as a health precaution.
That said, I do expect conferences and conventions will continue to attract the large crowds. We might see event agendas with more time for one on one meetings and networking.
Temperature Checking at Airports
I believe border control will also include temperature checking, thus causing extensive lines. This is not far fetched since this is already being done in Asian countries which have slowly began to travel again. Whether our temperature will be monitored by handheld temperature scanners or body heat cameras is yet to be seen.
The main question will be if this will be done in the country of origin, upon arrival at your destination, or at both. It actually makes more sense that this take place prior to departing your country of origin, to prevent infecting other passengers. If the temperature check is done prior to departure, we will be expected to present proof of the temperature measuring.
I also foresee that once a vaccine exists, travelers will need to provide proof of vaccination. This is similar to the yellow fever certificate required by certain countries when returning from South American countries. We can kiss goodbye the days we arrived to the airport 60-90 minutes prior to taking off.
Health Heroes Perks The undeniable heroes in the Covid-19 crisis have been the healthcare workers. Tributes to healthcare workers around the world have been going viral, and I expect that they will enjoy certain benefits when traveling as well. Hotels around the world are already offering free rooms to healthcare workers. I wouldn´t be surprised if airlines, hotels, transportation companies, activities and restaurants offer extended promotions and discounts to show their gratitude towards healthcare workers worldwide.
Increase in Costs
It’s yet to be seen what will be the social distancing requirements once the pandemic is controlled. Until a vaccine is ready, nations stand at risk of a second wave of outbreaks once borders reopen. Due to this, airlines might be required to remove seats in order to enforce social distancing aboard the flight as well. Another possibility is that the airline will only be allowed to sell up to a certain percentage of their capacity and space out the passengers. Either one of these measures will increase flight costs drastically.
Hotels will be eager to recover from the heavy blow to their revenue during the pandemic. Hotels might incline to increase prices, especially if they fear that a second wave might shut their business down again. This will be quite risky, since many travelers might not be willing to pay a premium for a hotel during a recession. If hotels start selling high and arrive closer to the check in date with low occupancy levels, they might drastically lower prices in an attempt to sell the room no matter what. Travel companies can leverage these drastic price fluctuations by using Pruvo Revenue Maker to monitor hotel prices and re-book once the price drops.
Longer wait times between flights = fewer daily flights
Thorough disinfection of the seats and trays will require airlines to increase wait times between flights and thus resulting possibly in less daily flights. I wouldn´t be surprised if we see airlines use disposable covers on the seats which will be replaced after each flight.
Last minute bookings
Monitoring social media during this period, I have come across many angry travelers who were not refunded their money even though their flight was cancelled. Although many airlines did give 1-year vouchers, with so much uncertainty looming, travelers expected cash back. Though I cannot judge the airlines who are in a fight for survival, I do believe this might cause a mid-term distrust between travelers and airlines.
Until a vaccine is available, I foresee an increase in last minute flight bookings, where “last minute” I define as 2-3 weeks prior to the travel date. This way, travelers will try to protect their finances by making sure they are only paying for tickets they are 99% sure will not be cancelled.
Borders will open gradually
Since each country is at a different phase in it´s internal “curve flattening” process, we might see countries opening their borders gradually. Italy, Spain and other countries like Malta and Slovakia with minimum amount of cases might open their doors prior to other countries like the UK, which applied stricter measures relatively later than the of the continent.
Travel essentials and practices
Talking with my wife, we were brainstorming as to what precautionary measures we will take for our mid-June vacation (yes, I am optimistic it will not be cancelled). Besides some obvious measures such as carrying alco-gel, N95 masks and sanitizer wipes, we discussed more drastic measures such as purchasing a face shield, bringing a pack of latex gloves and even carrying extra disposable clothes we will throw away after each leg of our flight. Adios travelling light.
Ancillary revenue from sanitary add-ons
Travel companies might create a new ancillary revenue stream by selling certain sanitary products and protective gear to travelers who might have forgotten to bring their own.
Increased domestic travel
I believe that countries hit the hardest will see increased domestic vacationing by locals, in an effort to help boost local economy. Since domestic travel is cheaper than international travel, travelers who were hit the hardest by the economic downturn might prefer to stay local for a while. In addition, travelers will experience less restrictions and control when travelling domestically.
Cruises will never be the same
I believe the overall consensus is that cruise lines did not manage correctly this entire crisis. I am not necessarily referring to how the Diamond Princess case was handled, since it was still relatively early in the global outbreak. However, despite major outbreaks on Diamond Princess and Grand Princess, cruise companies were encouraging travelers to go on cruises until the second week of March.
Unfortunately, I foresee that many companies will either go bankrupt or will be bought out by larger brands. In addition, I sense demand for cruises above 4 nights will decrease overall.
Travel insurance disruption
Travel insurance companies are taking some heat due to the lack of willingness to cover COVID-19 related cancellations. Some travel insurers, including World Nomads, TravelGuard Group and Allianz Global Assistance, have posted notices on their websites about how their policies will or will not cover cancellations due to the coronavirus.
I believe that travel insurance policies that will include coverage for force majeure related causes, will increase in popularity. What I would love to see is a technology company like Lemonade democratize the traveler insurance industry and offer complete coverage to protect travelers in all scenarios.
In summary, this is just my personal opinion as to how travel will change once Covid-19 is a thing of the past. All that´s left to hope for is that the industry will bounce back quickly and stronger than before.