Travel will make a return, though we will have to expect a lot of changes.
Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. Photo taken by the Scrubba Team.
While many businesses have been affected by the coronavirus crisis, the hardest hit has been the travel industry. With eerily quiet terminals, cruise ships docked and hotels closing their doors, there is much uncertainty if and when things will run back to normal. The question on everyone's mind is when can you freely travel to any chosen destination? The sad reality is no one knows precisely how long this will pan out; some experts think it may take until 2023 for air travel to revert to its usual schedule.
One sure thing is that travel will come back. Though it certainly won't seem the same as before, higher authorities are trying to find new ways to make travel a safe prospect. Travelling is important in our lives as it can help improve our mental health, understanding and appreciation of other cultures, expanding our social connections and supporting tourism. Travel can have negative impacts on the planet however, with carbon emissions causing more global problems when travel is not approached sustainably. Since government-imposed quarantines have forced millions around the world to work/stay at home, we've seen glimmers of hope for the natural world amongst the horror and uncertainty of a global crisis. From crystal clear canals in Venice, heavy pollution reduction in cities like India, and local wildlife moving into urban areas. Here are some of the current and possible changes that we may see across aviation, cruise and hotel industries.
Since the process of travel will gradually return, borders won't open as fast again. Most people may use this time to reflect and probably come to the realisation of how little they may have travelled in their own country. It is a better time to support your local economy, explore and see all the hidden gems closeby. A survey conducted by LuggageHero suggests that "a quarter of participants will try to avoid big cities and public transportation and 21% will choose domestic travel" Christopher Elliot. People will drive to domestic destinations like national parks so that they can quickly get back home if another outbreak occurs. With this in mind, caravans/RVs and camping may make a resurgence with families and couples liking the idea of being self-contained with all the facilities you need to head out to the backcountry. The Scrubba wash bag can help you distance yourself from others by avoiding the use of public laundry facilities. The financial impact of this global pandemic may change the duration of trips as people may not be able to travel for as long as they previously did. With low petrol prices, road trips are a budget-friendly and more sustainable way to take a trip.
With travel gradually starting again, we may be cautious about staying outside our homes or vans. The hotel industry usually follows a pretty high standard of hygiene however, they will increase the cleaning of key touch in places like the check-in area, lifts, and doorknobs to remain safe post COVID19. Hotel chains such as the Marriott and the Hilton have already announced new guidelines and procedures that they will adhere to good hygiene to improve confidence in guests. Online check-in is strongly encouraged with keyless entry to hotel rooms using a smartphone to enter. Limited staff will be present at the main counter; they will be behind plexiglass, similar to our supermarket checkouts. Buffet breakfast may be a thing of the past where your more than likely to receive a la carte service. Forgot about some of the extra features in the rooms from the mini bar, coffee machine, pillows and hangers everything will be kept at the minimal to facilitate fewer objects to be disinfected. Housekeeping may only occur before and after a guests stay to minimise contact.
Aviation over time has managed to bounce back from catastrophic events like 9/11 with stricter security regulations, this time around we may see airports add in health screenings to combat any future pandemics. Domestic flights in the coming months will gradually come back, with some governments allowing neighbouring country citizens to visit without a proposed quarantine. Since the outbreak, airports have added sanitization stations with some airports like Singapore's Changi Airport installing no-contact temperature scanners. Even Hong Kong airport is trialling new technologies through decontamination tanks called " Cleantech". These booths claim to kill any bacteria or viruses on both clothes and exposed parts of your body in a matter of forty seconds while Emirates have begun running instant blood prick testing that can identify COVID19.
Among the new health and screening tests, we may need to be prepared to be patient and expect long queues. Most airlines will also limit the amount of contact with their staff and encourage travellers to check-in online and use a self bag drop. As planes across the globe are pretty empty; this has allowed for some airlines to block off middle seat selection.
Once air travel picks up again, airlines will have to find other alternatives as this option is not economically sustainable for the long run. Since the removal of the middle seat has turned into a debate, Avoininterirors an Italian design firm designed a set of solutions which could pave the way an aircraft may look going in the future. They have come up with two designs; one is a plastic barrier in between each seat in economy, and their other model has a middle position reversed in every row. Qantas has boldly mentioned that they would not eliminate the middle seat, removing it would only provide 60cm of social distancing; social distancing is impossible to follow on any aircraft.
To make flying safe, they will have increased sanitizing between every flight; they will provide gloves, masks antibacterial wipes for both passengers and staff. The HEPA filters in an aircraft filter out 99% of airborne microbes just like the air quality in an operating theatre. By not using the middle seat, it would instantly double airfares, which would not be an attractive option. To counter these airlines may be similar to pre COVID19 but there may be additional charges for baggage and onboard food and beverages. We have to get used to having less service on the plane and expect packaged food instead, and extra items like blankets and headphones may not be offered. Boarding on a plane probably will work out better, in the long run, minimising contact with others by entering back to front.
Cruise ships docked for longer.
While air travel will recover from the pandemic, cruise ships will likely be in troubled waters for an extended period. After incidents like the Ruby Princess, being quarantined in a small cabin with sick passengers doesn't sound inviting. It is unlikely that cruise ships will ever return to normal, everything from booking a cruise, dining, excursions will need to change. Before cruises can even think about embarking, they have to improve their health screenings and hygiene on board. Along with aviation, temperature checks will become the new normal, and higher risk travellers may have to get medical clearance before they can step onboard.
Onboard significant changes to the medical units will see dedicated isolation units and better life-saving equipment along with better emergency protocols. When cruising returns, there will be lower passenger capacity so that crews can adhere to social distancing guidelines. Shorter cruises will be more favourable as not every single port will reopen. A higher frequency of sanitization and disinfection in high touch areas will be cleaned hourly, sanitizing stations and automatic doors.
One of the rare positives for cruise travel is that there will be better flexibility within the industry to cancel or change your booking if your flight gets cancelled or you fall ill.
With most initial trips likely to be restricted to destinations within your home state or neighbouring countries. Regardless of where you go, social distancing will still be encouraged, so make sure you pack your Scrubba wash bag to avoid needing to use public washing machines or shared facilities.