What will the travel industry look like post-pandemic?
I think it’s getting closer – I can feel it! Italy and Iceland have plans to open up overseas travel in early June, Portugal and Spain are in talks about whether they will have holiday makers there this summer and the UK government has announced a two week quarantine for anyone travelling into the country. It doesn’t seem like it will be too long before we can travel again. But what will the travel industry look like post-pandemic?
Companies within the travel industry are having daily meetings and introducing new measures daily to find ways in which to keep travel safe for people and I’ve read a lot about what travel will be like after COVID-19. So I thought I’d put everything I’ve heard so far into a blog post. This information is being updated all the time and so I’ll try to include updates where I can.
There are likely to be lots of safety measures implemented at airports across the world. In the EU you will need to wear face masks and passengers may be interviewed if they show any symptoms of the virus. Anyone who is not working or travelling will not be permitted inside the airport. Physical distancing should be in place where feasible, however, Heathrow’s Chief Exec John Holland-Kaye said that a queue at the boarding gate for a jumbo jet would end up being 1km long if social distancing was observed (Source: The Guardian.
There have been talks of a “virus passport” with information in it about whether you have had the virus and are now immune to it. Temperature checks or finger prick tests have also been mentioned.
The UK Government have this week announced that people arriving into the UK will need to quarantine for 14 days and if this continues this may make international travel impossible for some who are unable to do this because of work or other commitments.
Safety on flights
Airlines are preparing to resume their flights and they’re making some changes to allow safe travel.
Flights may leave middle seats empty to observe social distancing and they may look at having screens on board to separate people. There may no longer be on board duty free and no food and drinks trolley. On board toilets may be reserved for use by cabin crew only (source: The Guardian).
Aeroplanes shall be thoroughly disinfected between each flight which could lead to difficulties with budget airlines which have a quick turnaround time.
Ryanair have said that they won’t be leaving empty seats on rows as it’s important that families sit together. I’m skeptical of this to be honest and think it’s more just about revenue as they usually charge people to sit together anyway, so they can’t think it’s that important.
I’ve just this week had an email from easyJet letting me know that they’ve launched their ‘Europe with Confidence Pledge’ – a promise to customers that they will protect their wellbeing, commit to sustainability and continue to offer great value.
They are introducing new measures including additional deep cleaning and disinfecting of their aircrafts and making wearing masks compulsory for all staff and passengers. They will also space people out as much as possible on the plane and they have stopped their food and drink service for the time being.
Hotels and accommodation
I think we will see self-contained accommodation like holiday cottages, glamping and camping open up first, followed by hotels. Dorm rooms in hostels and shared bathroom facilities may take a bit longer to re-open as it’s impossible to practice social distancing here.
Global hotel chains have announced measures to ensure extra levels of cleanliness in their buildings including Marriott who have introduced “hospital grade” cleaning standards, Hyatt who will be handing out free masks and hand sanitisers to guests and Hiton who are placing seals on doors of rooms once they’ve been cleaned to prove that no one else has been in there (source: iNews).
Smaller and independent accommodation providers will have suffered the worse during the pandemic and so I’m going to try and support these wherever possible.
Steve Lowy, CEO of Residence Apartments, thinks extended stay properties like apartments in city centre locations will be the first to recover in the UK:
“This is mainly due to the fact the larger cities in the UK are very reliant on international customers, and that will be a challenge for short visits with a 14-day quarantine in place. Corporate travellers or visitors coming for longers stays (4 weeks plus) may see less of an issue with the 14 days in quarantine.
Non-professional Airbnb style homestays will struggle initially mainly due to fears on cleanliness and professionalism. All accommodation providers will be seriously under the microscope when it comes to cleanliness and understanding of the constantly changing rules and regulations and should publish their “cleaning charters” so that customers can feel at ease. It is also essential that staff are trained up to make sure they can implement such procedures.”
I have also heard that this crisis could spell the end for hotel buffet breakfasts, with lots of people touching the serving spoons and handles to open each section. I for one will be devastated if this happens as I love a self-serve breakfast.
The cost of travel
There are many different opinions on this – some saying that the cost of travelling will soar to recoup losses made over this period and some saying that prices will dip in an attempt to encourage people to travel again (fingers crossed for the latter!).
If airlines are unable to fly at full capacity due to social distancing measures, this is likely to make flights more expensive.
However, British Airways are planning to be more efficient which could lead to cheaper flights. Plans include streamlining their aircraft and staff which will sadly mean redundancies (Source: Forbes).
The rise of the staycation
I’ve always loved a UK staycation as I think there’s a lot to see in our own country. The Government has said that the UK hospitality industry can start to open from 4th July (unless anything changes), when overseas travel restrictions will stay in place which means that Brits wanting a summer holiday might not have a choice.
There also might be some reluctance to fly (how many times have you had a cold after a flight?) so travelling in cars for staycations might seem safer.
Steve Lowy, CEO of Residence Apartments, says:
“I feel that rural and coastal hotels will be the first to feel the benefit from the relaxation of lockdown restrictions with UK tourists, with customers coming from within a 1 or 2-hour drive from the location.
I am excited to say that my wife and I have rebooked a weekend trip to the Cotswolds that had been cancelled due to the hotel closing during the crisis in mid-July, and hope that others will follow suit in boosting the wonderful tourism products we have across the UK.”
I’ve talked a lot over the past few weeks about how pleased I am that travel companies and tourist boards have been with their content – hurrying to develop virtual tours so that we can travel without leaving home during this time.
I think this is great at the moment but in the future it will serve more as inspiration for people to take trips once it’s safe to do so, rather than a substitute for travelling. They are great but they don’t really compare to the feeling of discovering something new in another destination.
Although this virus has seemed to set us back a little bit in terms of sustainability – we’re being encouraged to use our cars more and travel by ourselves, instead of taking public transport, as well as planes flying with empty seats – I think there will be more of a focus on sustainable travel. Hopefully over-tourism will become a thing of the past.
I was on a webinar this week with Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures and he thought that people may become more conscious of where they are travelling to and more considered with their choice of destination. Tourists will want to give something back to the people and the destination they are visiting, rather than just take their experiences.
Terms and conditions
With all the refunds that have needed to be processed in the travel industry over the last couple of months, we’ve definitely seen some companies rise to the top with excellent customer service and some go straight to the naughty list with their reluctance to issue refunds and instead pushing people to rearrange or take vouchers.
Of course, this is a really complex issue which can be seen from all sides. For the travel companies, it’s such a lot of revenue to lose that they may find themselves in trouble. For the traveller, we’re not sure when we will be able to/will want to travel again and some people are struggling with their own businesses or worried about losing their incomes so they need the money now.
We might see more flexibility in terms and conditions over the next few months to encourage people to book without worrying that they will have to fight to get their money back if they need to cancel.
It’s without doubt that we will see changes in the travel industry post COVID-19 and, at the moment, there’s a lot of speculation as to what these may be. I’m still looking forward to travelling again as soon as we get the go ahead and I’m sure we will be able to adapt to new practices in order to once again experience the enrichment that travel gives us.