Of all the industries most affected by Covid-19, the travel industry is one of the most affected, and if we are honest, the least likely to recover soon. As we contemplate our future as a tour operator, offering wonderful travel experiences, it can sometimes be overwhelming to consider when things will return to a semblance of normal.
But then I think of our clients, and of all the millions of other people who really miss travelling. They are deprived of life-changing experiences, cultural inter-actions, new sights and sounds. So rather than considering when will we be back in business, let's consider when you, the travelling public, will be able to get out of your daily routines to enjoy travel again.
Should I book travel now for later in the year?
As states start to roll out their methods for reopening, travelers are more inclined to start planning their next trip. They’ve been cooped up for months now and are anxious and ready to explore the world again. This is an optimal time to look for deals and better values. In fact, some of these lower prices, more flexibility in change fees and waivers, refundable cancellations and the like may extend for the next 18 to 24 months, in an attempt to inspire people to travel again.
If you have a flexible mindset and are willing to accept the fact that if you do plan travel for late 2020, that it might have to be postponed yet again, then yes, it’s a good time to start browsing. For example, we have seen rates in the low hundreds for flights to South America, and less than $200 for flights to Central America. And many of these flights are for travel 6 months or more from now.
Risk Free Booking
And while we cannot be certain when travel will reopen, we do pledge to approach reopening with flexibility and trust. That's why we have initiated a policy to allow travel plans to be cancelled without penalty up to 2 weeks before travel. More details are found at our Risk Free Travel Page
When will it be safe to travel overseas again?
Foreign travel is going to take longer to “open” up than domestic travel. This will depend on when countries reopen their borders to travelers and what requirements they’ll have in place, i.e., mandated health certificates or visas, online or in person health screening. Many of the international destinations are taking remarkable steps to ensure their own populations are safe, and currently numbers of infections are very low compared to other regions of the world. In the end, this will bode well for the safety of international travelers.
What will airline travel look like in the future?
Airline travel as we knew it is likely to change quite a bit, at least for the foreseeable future. Let’s start with health and safety guidelines. Most airlines are already requiring flight attendants to wear masks and many are requiring that passengers wear them as well. Some are simply handing out sanitizer and masks, while not requiring passengers to use them. Airlines are also limiting the touchpoints between attendants and passengers by offering pre-packaged food and sealed beverages, blocking middle seats from reservations and reducing passenger count on flights.
Some airlines are limiting the number of people going down the jet bridge at one time or boarding only 10 people at a time. Look for more automation in check-in and ticketing, again, to reduce touchpoints. In the short term, expect fare reductions of as much as 40 percent (according to a survey conducted by the Overseas Leisure Group in April 2020), and more flexibility in changing and cancelling a future flight. And of course, planes will be meticulously cleaned between flights. Despite these concerns and the new precautions we’ll all be dealing with, the OLG survey reflected that 78 percent of travelers would choose air travel for their next vacation.
Frequent flier? Jump on any deals being offered right now. The airlines are trying to fill empty seats so there are plenty of mile and cash incentives to scoop up. As soon as things return to normal, those same award seats are going to be harder to come by.
What will hotel travel look like in the future?
Chip Rogers, President and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, expects that the US hotel industry will be operating at 70 to 80 percent of its pre-coronavirus status at around this same time next year. In the meantime, you can expect new check-in policies, with the standard social-distancing rules applying and perhaps more automation, like self check-in via app or concierge and food service via tablet. More rigorous cleaning protocols will be put in place for the foreseeable future. As with airline travel, expect savings of up to 80 percent if you are booking now, with more flexible change and cancellation policies than in the past.
One thing to note: family travel and extended-stay travel will be the place to look for the best rates, as hotels are tempting these types of travelers to book with them. Look for free night offers, kids stay free and connecting room deals.
Where are people likely to travel after the threat of COVID-19 has passed?
It is expected that travelers will start slowly when traveling once again, first to drive-to destinations within two or three hours or their own home, then to places within the US (via longer car rides or train travel), then move on to overseas travel. Industry experts predict that travelers will be more likely to start planning their bucket-list trips so something like the current pandemic doesn’t derail their dream trip again in the future. Health and wellness-based trips, nature destinations, yoga, hiking, spa and national parks are all likely to jump in popularity as folks tend to their mental and physical well-being after being cooped up for months.
We can feel fairly confident that “this too shall pass,” in terms of our desire and ability to move about the globe. Travel will return and be as positive as ever. Travelers will look for off-the-beaten-path, authentic, life-changing trips … with the knowledge that just as they are reaping the benefits of travel, they are contributing to a destination that no doubt needs some love and resurrecting as well. Think of it as a huge reset button. Maybe we’ll travel less, but more in depth. Maybe we’ll make more of a point to connect with people in our chosen destination – artists, cooks, farmers – and learn about their lifestyle and what their world looks like. And, with the obvious effect that global travel has on climate change, we can all be thinking more about sustainable practices no matter where our jaunts take us.