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The experience might look and feel different once the world begins to reopen, but people still can count on the positive impact of travel.
The outbreak of coronavirus and its rapid spread around the world have had an unprecedented impact on the travel industry. Though some airlines are still flying, including rescue flights to repatriate people to their home countries, many carriers have all but shut down for the time being. Hotels are laying off employees by the hundreds of thousands. After several ships were stuck at sea for weeks, many cruise lines have axed sailings through the summer. Travelers are scrambling to cancel trips and get refunds or salvage future plans. In short, the travel industry has never faced panic, change, and disruption on this scale.
In search of insights about how coronavirus is likely to change the way we travel in the future, we talked to experts in the fields of aviation, hospitality, cruising, finance, and even epidemiology. While some provided predictions and projections, the one thing that almost all of them said to expect is a lot more uncertainty for some time to come.
Travelers will focus on health for themselves and others.
Dr. Nabarun Dasgupta, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, says the pandemic will force consumers to factor health concerns into their travel choices even more than before. He recommends checking verified apps like Outbreaks Near Me to take proper precautions before traveling to a new destination.
“I caution people against heading into active hot zones, even if you’re immune, because you don’t know what kind of lockdown you might be subject to if cases suddenly increase upon your return,” he said. “Many countries, and even some U.S. states, now have mandatory requirements for visitors to isolate for two weeks. This should be factored into travel planning.” Dr. Dasgupta also says, “If a coronavirus vaccine becomes available, depending on the safety profile, it would be worth considering even if you’re not venturing far from home.”
Finally, he says, people should start thinking about how their travel plans might impact the health conditions of the places they visit. “As much as we think about our own health when we travel, we should have compassion through realization that we may inadvertently bring the virus with us,” he said. “For isolated, highlight-reel destinations like Rapa Nui, this could be devastating.”
Air travel will restart slowly, domestically, and with social distancing.
Aviation expert Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group expects the travel industry, much like the rest of the economy, to rebound in a staggered fashion as various cities, states, and regions confront different challenges. “You can expect airlines to begin with flights out of their most important hubs and cities where public health conditions are best and demand is strongest,” he said.
According to John Grant, a senior analyst with British aviation data and analytics firm OAG, “That may mean less choices for passengers as the number of airlines shrink and the number of frequencies operated reduce. Some city pairs, or routes, that have been operated with low frequency — say less than weekly — will perhaps be dropped altogether.” He expects passengers will also opt for more direct routings to avoid having to pass through extra airports on layovers.[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AmhOWLnCEI”]
“Once we get the proverbial all-clear,” says Harteveldt, “I anticipate public health officials will still encourage social distancing. Airlines might continue blocking middle seats or limiting the number of people in premium cabins. We may see flight attendants wearing masks and gloves and limiting onboard service.”
Airlines could require proof of good health before allowing passengers to fly, sort of like Etihad’s new trial kiosks in Abu Dhabi. “In terms of boarding, airlines might limit the number of people down the jet bridge at any given time,” says Harteveldt.
Still jittery from fast-moving travel bans and restrictions, mandatory quarantines, and State Department warnings, folks will likely want to stick close to home for a while. That’s also due, in part, to the economic impact on travelers’ wallets. According to Grant from OAG, “There is a piece of research already in China from Ctrip, a major travel company, claiming that 74 percent of Chinese nationals are keen on taking domestic flights in the very near future. But incomes have been hit and disposable wealth damaged, so how it will play out is another part of the whole ‘what if’ situation we face.”
Travel professionals are travelers’ all-around best hedge for quality outcomes.
Travel agents from this point forward will be the best hedge for finding deals and a formal representative for domestic and foreign bookings. COVIDS-19 unmasked numerous organic deficiencies in the most popular booking engines. There is no incentive for booking engine personnel to offer personalized service. As a matter of fact it’s impossible to attempt such a undertaking.
Travel professionals continue to prove their worth to individuals and corporate travelers alike. The untold stories of travel professionals assisting trapped travelers that didn’t book through their respective agency is too numerous to calculate. One thing for sure is the booking engines had no clue where to start in the repatriation process. Remember, when you retain a RJ Travel Advisors™ travel professional you have a highly skilled liaison working in your best interest. When you don’t retain an accredited travel professional, ‘You are on Your Own’.
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