The question that seems to be on many people’s minds these days: When will travel return to normal? But that’s not the right question. Instead, we should ask ourselves: will travel change after the pandemic? The short answer is yes. The journeys will have a purpose, but the way we perceive them will be different.
To understand the future, let’s go back to December 2019 – Americans scheduled more than 79 million flights and vacation travel broke all-time records. But less than weeks later, people started to learn more about the coronavirus and the world finally brought this pandemic to a halt as scientists raced to develop a vaccine.
It has been a difficult year and the virus continues to ravage parts of the world. Americans are hoping the right tools are in place to fight Covid-19.
So, yes, our idea of travel has changed, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Here are a few ways.
The reason we travel will change after the pandemic.
In the future, travel will serve to deepen personal relationships. And that means creating shared experiences – something I’ve always advocated for.
Since the business community has yet to make a significant move to embrace meetings (which often influences leisure), personal travel will boost motivations. And playing on our emotions by encouraging pure exuberance for escapades has worked. But, is it the right thing to do?
Most people haven’t had a chance to leave their hometown for over a year. They are therefore easily attracted to states and other places that present themselves as open for business but with no concern for health and safety. I personally hope that this will not continue.
The reasons for leisure travel will change after the pandemic.
Leisure travel will eventually become even more popular than it was before the pandemic. Prior to the arrival of Covid-19, leisure accounted for nearly 80% of all travel. I predict it will increase and drive up to 90% through 2024. And as I reconsider my own reasons, post-pandemic leisure travel will include:
- Spend time with friends and family
- Visit small towns, historical places and museums
- Discover cultural sites and national parks
- Return to nightclubs and casinos – yes!
- Taste local cuisine and gastronomy
- Hire guides to get personalized local insights
- Hanging out in the sun, if that’s your desire
Where we travel will change after the pandemic.
Domestic travel will overtake international travel for some time, probably until 2022. And I’m not surprised that airline seats on domestic flights are full again. Depending on the experience you want, the United States offers plenty of places to go even during the pandemic.
But don’t rule out the future lure of international travel with Americans post-pandemic. We will fill seats on international flights as countries take reasonable steps to open up and experiences normalize. International travel is definitely on the minds of Americans — who hit an all-time high of nearly 45 million flight departures in 2019 before the pandemic.
Almost half of those who travel abroad by plane go to Western Europe (my favorite destination too): the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain are among the most popular. These countries appeal to the reasons why we love to travel. And I’m ready to go back.
Various international destinations are trying to take advantage of the pandemic to disrupt travel and win new visitors and money. They offer easier entry protocols. I will skip the related ethical issues. Yet many fear the very real possibility that post-pandemic travel will go to the other extreme and require numerous Covid-19 tests at every stage it passes.
To be sure, local spots within three hours will gain popularity – long weekends on the road (I’m planning one of those this summer). It’s easy to get in your car, drive down the highway, and arrive — often in less time than it takes to find your way to board a plane. It’s socially distanced and you can rely on your own cleaning standards.
(Airports: you should know that clean facilities and simple logistics will also help your post-pandemic travel reputation.)
Vaccination against Covid-19 will change the way we travel after the pandemic.
There is a lot of talk today about the inevitability of having a post-pandemic system that confirms that travelers are not actively carrying and transmitting Covid-19 within countries and around the world. There’s also a lot of debate on both sides – those in favor of a passport and those with individual choices and privacy concerns.
Today, domestic travel in the United States relies heavily on the honor system, including various quarantine orders around testing periods, etc. Individual states step in with political commentary. International countries frequently request a clean Covid-19 test before, during and before returning home. The United States wants you to take a Covid-19 test when you return and/or wait a required number of days before socializing.
In the longer term, the United States, the European Union (they already have a digital green certificate that verifies complete vaccination), the World Health Organization and others are already planning a streamlined system of documentation and standards .
The fact that we ask this question should give some insight into what to expect from post-pandemic travel. And I’m curious if we might also be asked to share digital certificates for US domestic travel in the future.
Airline mileage points will change after the pandemic.
It’s safe to say that the incentives will remain after Covid-19: deadlines will be extended, reaching higher tier status will be easier, and bonus offers will look enticing.
Every airline and every hotel will make their points programs and rewards quite attractive. After all, few people have had the opportunity to earn points while traveling since February 2020.
However, what is missing from the conversation is that, to say the least, fewer people will earn points from business travel. And that’s how many people earn a higher status – thanks to the volume of air segments and the upgraded passenger seats they get when traveling for work (not to mention how business travelers preferred to extend their stays in the past to appreciate the local hospitality). Get ready to earn those miles by spending dollars on credit cards that offer post-pandemic rewards points.
What we wear for travel will change after the pandemic.
Masks have been part of everyday clothing in Asia before the pandemic for a long time. And I believe they are here to eventually stay on the faces of Americans and Europeans, including when traveling post-pandemic. Some people will eventually be able to freely choose whether or not to wear it depending on the health requirements of local destinations. The question is: will people continue to judge those who wear masks or not?
Regardless of the impact of Covid-19, the reasons we travel are constantly changing. I am convinced that this will change for the better after the pandemic.