Although nobody knows exactly what will happen, one thing is clear; we won’t be able to travel as freely (without consideration for our health) as we used to…at least for the foreseeable future.
Before COVID-19, exploring a crowded city would have been exciting and invigorating. Wandering through bustling markets, enjoying dinner at a bistro brimming with locals and visiting tourist hotspots were often the hallmarks of a fulfilling holiday.
In a post-COVID-19 world, travellers will be much more cognisant of the need to travel to destinations that make it easy to maintain social distancing practices. Tour operators will need to get creative by designing itineraries that avoid public forms of transportation and crowded tourist areas, as their customers will expect this more considered approach to travel design.
It’s clear that travel and tourism need to be sustainable; for the planet, the community, and the industry in general. Taking the principles of sustainable tourism into consideration, socially distant travel is even more important. While promoting safe health practices is, of course, going to be beneficial for the health of the travellers, it is also for the good of the community.
In a post-COVID-19 world, it will be more important than ever for travellers to stay connected as they travel. Gone are the days where people can easily go ‘off-the-grid” as there is now a critical need to stay informed and up to date with the latest travel guidelines. Tour operators that can provide their travellers with detailed online and offline itineraries will be top of the mind for travellers concerned about staying informed.
Travelling in a group can be an appealing way for people to meet others, enjoy a unique experience or simply to save money on travel. However, in 2021 this option is likely going to become increasingly unattainable. Travelling with strangers widens everyone’s ‘bubble’ and also increases the reliance on others to practise safe behaviours.
There should be two variants of travelling now. One option could be to pivot completely from group travel to 100% FIT travel. Another may involve continuing to offer group travel but only to those groups who already know and trust each other and regularly interact.
In the future, we may see destination popularity being dictated by how well that country or region has controlled the coronavirus. The precautions that are in place, and how the initial outbreak was handled, will reassure travellers that they will be safe while in a particular country or location. This may also, unfortunately, result in hot-spots that were popular prior to the pandemic, disappear due to the crisis and lack of tourism.
Not only will popular destinations change, but this mentality is also likely to impact how people travel to and within a destination. The choice of the airline may no longer be solely price driven, rather decisions will be influenced by hygiene standards; e.g. if masks are compulsory or not, seat occupation spacing etc. Within the country, travellers may be more interested in opting for private transport or upgrading to a business class train carriage so that they can stay safe and avoid crowds.