Changes in travel advisories, restrictions, supplier policies, and perspectives have been occurring at breakneck speed over the last month plus due to COVID-19. With stay-at-home orders in place, we’ve seen a slowdown in the pace of these tactical changes, but I believe we will see longer lasting changes take place in travel over the coming year.
A legal disclaimer before I begin with my predictions: I have neither special insider knowledge nor control over government and travel supplier policies, and this article is not meant as guidance or advice on any potential risks associated with travel.
So here we go, here’s how I predict travel may change in the coming year, perhaps permanently:
Focus on traveler health. Cruise lines have long had health questionnaires for passengers to complete at embarkation, but screening protocols were stepped up before the voluntary halt in sailings. Since at least the SARS outbreak, certain countries have conducted temperature checks at airports and for decades, many countries have maintained vaccination entry requirements (for example, for Yellow Fever). I believe
more widespread health screenings, health certification documentation, and stricter vaccination entry requirements will become commonplace, much like more thorough security screenings became standard post-9/11.
Marketing “clean.” I believe that travelers will demand an enhanced level of cleanliness and disinfection for transportation modes and accommodations. I fully expect airlines, cruise lines, and hotel / resort properties to have branded cleanliness standards that will be spelled out on their websites and included on cards that travelers will find in their rooms or on their seats. Regardless of how high previous cleanliness standards were, they will be higher, and travelers will be frequently reminded of these efforts through marketing.
Greater change flexibility.
This is perhaps more a hope than a prediction. Given travelers’ increased sense of future uncertainty, travel providers -- especially airlines -- may find that there is greater demand for ticket change flexibility. Commercial airlift is a complex web of logistics, but hopefully some great minds will figure out a way to build in more flexibility for when travelers’ plans or circumstances change. For the premium and luxury cruise lines, we may see later final payment deadlines, possibly with greater date change flexibility. These sorts of policies have been rolled out in a temporary way during the COVID-19 crisis, and I hope that modified versions of those policies become permanent. That said, there are ways to book travel smartly with flexibility built in to a lesser or greater degree, even now.
Importance of travel insurance.
I have always been a strong proponent of travel insurance, for so many reasons. By its nature, travel insurance is something you buy that you hope you will not need. Peace of mind and assistance when things take an unexpected turn are, however, priceless. I believe more people now understand the importance of travel insurance and are becoming more educated on the different types of insurance and travel protection policies. At Bluetail, I always provide an optional travel insurance quote and direct insurance-specific questions to the insurance company.
Travel becomes more special.
Sometimes you don’t realize how precious something is until you lose it. I know we all miss traveling right now. When it is again advisable to travel, our desire to “go and see,” as Zane Kirby, President of the American Society of Travel Advisors put it, will be stronger than ever. Armchair travel is great, but it’s no long-term substitute for the real thing. I believe we’ll see an increased mindfulness of how we travel and connect with other cultures, an emphasis on more personalized and smaller scale experiences (to include small and mid-size destination-focused cruise ships), and a greater appreciation of the human connections we make through travel. We may still practice some physical distancing (fewer handshakes, for example), but we’ll see more “social proximating” on a human connection level.
You heard it here first: face masks will be the hottest new travel accessory for future travel. Expect some creativity in styles designed especially for travelers.
Professional travel advisors are cool.
OK, admit it, you knew this one was coming. But seriously, during this crisis, professional travel advisors have been helping travelers get back home, and performed the smaller scale but still important heroics of negotiating refunds and smoothing the details of travel postponements. It’s been a really busy time here at Bluetail taking care of our clients, and I’ve been honored to be of service, even as the business has suffered in the short term. Plan your future travel with a professional travel advisor like myself who takes care of the details, knows how the industry works, and creates an amazing travel experience from start to finish, and you’ll be happy you did. Planning and booking travel with a professional you like and trust will be key.
We will travel again, and I am here for you when the time is right to plan. When planning with flexibility built in, it’s even a good time to plan now for future adventures and start the joy of anticipation. Be safe, be well, and keep dreaming about our beautiful world.
Happy Future Travels,
Photo credits: Photo of bathroom by Andrea Davis on Unsplash, used by permission. Photo of smiling man by Yingchou Han on Unsplash, used by permission. Photo of Christina copyright Christina Schlegel 2020, all rights reserved.