I’ve been arguing for a while that we need to change the way we travel. Many countries and communities rely upon tourism for their livelihoods, while others are threatened by overtourism. And we all need to be aware of our impact on the environment. Now the world is in lockdown, and change is being forced upon us.
I am reminded of the Maori concept of Te Ao Hurikuro, the idea that we live in a “forever changing world”, in which the past influences the present, and the present influences the future. I first came across this concept in Christchurch, New Zealand, three years after the earthquake that destroyed much of the city. Then, as now, a terrible event contained the seeds of future change.
It will be a while before we can travel again and the initial focus is likely to be on more local journeys. But in the meantime I asked seven bloggers for their ideas on how coronavirus will shape our future travels.
More Sustainable Travel
Starting on a positive note, Coni Fernández from Experiencing the Globe hopes for a move to more sustainable travel.
One extremely positive change to future travel habits is that people will focus on being more sustainable. Through this crisis we’ve seen how nature has flourished while we’ve been locked away in isolation. The Venetian canals have clear water; fewer ships on the oceans have allowed lonely whales to communicate more easily; the reduction of pollution in India has meant that cities that haven’t seen the Himalayas in decades now have a clear view. Undoubtedly, the environment is thriving.
Travelling consciously and having a positive impact on our planet feels more important now than ever, since the lockdowns have given us a unique opportunity to witness the effect our actions have on the environment. Now that we’ve seen it, we need to act accordingly, so everyone should take steps towards being a more sustainable traveller. Even small changes can have a big, deep impact, so it’s up to each one of us to allow the planet to keep blooming when we leave this crisis behind.
Focus on Small Group and Independent Travel
According to Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan, sustainable travel will lead to more interest in small group tours.
When people start travelling again, they will be reluctant to join big bus tours with 50 other people. And cruise ships filled with hundreds of people will be even less appealing. I believe that, instead, travellers will turn either to independent travel or to small group tours. The tour companies that benefit in the long-term from this situation will be those that deliberately keep their group sizes small.
Fortunately, the companies that already do this are generally the ones that also focus on sustainable, eco-friendly tours, and who facilitate genuine interactions with members of the local communities they visit. So I believe this transition will have many positive benefits. This is true both for the tour group participants, who will have a more meaningful and enriching travel experience, and for the communities and ecosystems that they visit. And since COVID-19 and the majority of other infectious diseases are zoonotic diseases that jump from animals to humans, we will also see many fewer activities involving animal exploitation included in tours. The rising interest in vegetarian and vegan tours will only continue to grow.
A Move to Online Booking
Julie Laundis of Wandering Sunsets looks at the ways in which popular sites will try to control the flow of visitors.
As countries begin to reopen borders and start allowing tourists to visit again, limiting crowds at major tourist sites will be crucial, especially for indoor monuments with enclosed spaces. Before COVID, the most popular sites in the world such as the Taj Mahal, Christ the Redeemer, or the Eiffel Tower, often operated at maximum capacity during peak tourist season. To reopen safely, the maximum capacity on site will be dramatically reduced to permit a degree of physical distancing. Some places may modify their opening hours to allow for more visitors in a day, and even perhaps consider staying open around the clock.
Popular sites may choose to introduce a mandatory online reservation system and to do away with people waiting in line altogether. The system would enforce a daily cap on tickets and inform visitors of available days and time slots. All tickets would need to be prepaid and uploaded to your smartphone, then scanned at the entrance to make the experience entirely contactless. Any money or ticket exchanges at an entry booth would be entirely eliminated. Once inside, it is likely that a very specific path would be followed to explore the site or monument, as opposed to crowds moving through different rooms and levels as they please.
Once the COVID-19 threat subsides and social distancing rules can be safely be eliminated, some of these changes will be likely to remain. Waiting in line outside a monument or museum to purchase a same day ticket may never be an option again with tour planning moving online entirely. Waiting times and crowds would be dramatically reduced, making for a more enjoyable experience for visitors and staff.
More Outdoor Activities
Emily Mandagie from The Mandagies thinks there will be more visits to national parks and outdoor spaces.
I think one change we will see in future travel habits will be an increase in domestic travel, particularly to national parks and open spaces. Many people believe that being outside (as opposed to in a crowded city) will allow better social distancing practices. Lots of countries have national parks, and these are likely to become popular tourist destinations.
Negative side effects may be an increase in overcrowding of popular parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite. However, I believe that many of these parks are preparing for a much more regulated future. In the United States the National Park Service is stepping up their hygienic services, spacing out campsites reservations to prevent reaching capacity, and educating people on safe park use.
We may also see an increase in less-used areas of some parks. For example, there is likely to be an increased desire to find free backcountry camping sites, experience multi-day backpacking trips, and take scenic driving routes to continue to practice social distancing outside. All in all, I think national parks will see an increase in visits after the pandemic, with both positive and negative effects.
An End to Self-Service Buffets
Jenni Fielding of Cruise Mummy predicts the end of the self-service buffet.
Before 2020, I used to love a self-service buffet. Cruise ship buffets were my favourite as they had hundreds of dishes from around the world to choose from. With so much choice, the main challenge faced by holidaymakers was how to make it to the far end of the buffet without running out of space on your plate. But, sadly, times have changed and I think that self-service buffets, especially on-board cruise ships, will be a thing of the past as we move into the “new normal” in 2020 and beyond.
Cruise ships have always had handwashing stations by the buffet with staff members supervising to ensure that everybody washes their hands. But even so, the thought of touching a pair of salad tongs which has been touched by hundreds of people in the past hour just doesn’t sit right any more.
So, will buffets disappear completely? I don’t think so. But it’s very unlikely that they’ll be self-service. Instead, I expect to see food behind a screen with guests being served by members of staff. As well as being more hygienic, this should also reduce food waste. And it might encourage me to only have one dessert, instead of three, which is a good thing!
What Will Happen To Airline Prices?
Demi Johnson of Around The World With Her discusses the future pricing of airline tickets.
A big question mark still surrounds the future of travel after Coronavirus, and whether it will be more, or less, expensive. There are arguments on both sides. However, I work in the travel industry, and my personal prediction would be that, unfortunately, we are likely to see a rise in prices.
We have already seen some flights leaving middle seats empty. This means they are operating at no more than two-thirds of their capacity. They must make up the huge losses somewhere, so potentially ticket prices could rise. There is also the possibility of airlines going bust, and we have already seen some airlines begging for government bailouts. If some of the larger airlines stop flying, others will gain. If an airline has a monopoly on a certain route, they can raise their prices as they know people will have to buy the ticket.
I do believe we may see some cheap fares in the very first weeks after the lockdown is over, as airlines try to fill up seats quickly. However, after that there may be a big price jump.
Travelling With the Family
Finally, Kerrie & Woody of Just Go Travelling look forward to more travel with the family.
For those of us with a sense of wanderlust, recent times have hit particularly hard. We don’t know when we will be able to safely travel again, to sunbathe on foreign beaches or to explore the cultures of other countries. However, when we do travel again, we believe we won’t travel in the same way we did before.
With families being in lockdown together it has usually gone one of two ways. Either pulling each other’s hair out or making stronger bonds. I think the latter has happened significantly more: enjoying the time together with family and friends in lockdown where we wouldn’t previously have had the opportunity. We have also appreciated going outdoors more, even if it is just for a simple walk around the block.
With these stronger bonds between families, and this new-found gratefulness for the outdoors, we believe we will travel more with the people we love. People will feel safer with the comfort of family. At least if we get stuck somewhere, we will get stuck with the people we cherish the most.
Do you have any further thoughts on the ways in which coronavirus will affect travel in the future? Let me know in the comments below.