It started with a touch, and in the blink of an eye the coronavirus went global. Medical scientists will be sorting out exactly what happened for years to come, but we know for sure that travelers contracted a new, local virus and spread it around the world.
We’re now paying the high price for our mobility, and travel will never be the same again.
COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire, and every organization involved in travel is now focused on one thing: How do we get through this? But looming in the distance is their next challenge: What can be done to minimize the damage when this happens in the future?
We don’t have a crystal ball, but our social-distancing time has given us an opportunity to consider some of the issues facing travelers going forward. These four predictions may or may not come to pass. But the world of travel is about to undergo a seismic shift, and a bit of forethought will help us all be better prepared.
1. Air travel will get dicey.
The phrase “too big to fail” entered the lexicon during the financial meltdown of 2008, and as the crisis unfolded, the business world learned that there’s no such thing. Lengthy, widespread travel bans will test the financial strength of the entire travel industry, but the predominant businesses in the crosshairs will be airline companies.
“For airlines this is already bigger than the SARS epidemic, the aftermath of 9/11, or the 2008 financial crisis.” —Alex Cruz, CEO and chairman of British Airways
Undoubtedly, some of the smaller, less financially flush companies will fail. What this means for the flying public will be less competition between the surviving companies, and a corporate desire for a quick return to profitability – which will almost certainly lead to higher prices and fewer choices when you fly.
2. Immigration will insist on a note from your doctor.
Whatever the concerns were in the past, one of the top priorities for immigration officials Post-COVID-19 will be ensuring that visitors entering the country aren’t carrying an infectious disease.
The approach being used at most airports now is screening by temperature. But in a Washington Post article, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital said a simple thermometer isn’t the answer:
“The biggest problem is that temperature screening can miss cases, unwittingly sending sick people through. It can also deliver false positives, potentially sending healthy people into spaces where others are seriously ill. A thermometer, if calibrated and if used appropriately, can detect a fever. Great. We are all happy about that. But is it an effective method for screening people for COVID-19 infection? The answer is no.”
Screening at borders is a complex question for the medical community to answer, but we wonder if travel in the future might require a medical visa? Will immigration officials require a letter from a doctor confirming that you are infectious-disease free?
3. Cruise vacations will go to the bottom of your list.
Given the popularity of cruises, it’s obvious that many vacationers enjoy the fun and relaxation of travel without the hassles of planning and logistics. But the pandemic has shown that as an instrument for spreading communicable diseases, a cruise ship is ideal. All the essential ingredients are there: a large group of people packed into close quarters with lots of shared facilities and unlimited opportunities for person-to-person spread. What was once seen as a low-risk way to travel is now anything but.
This is a watershed moment for cruise lines, and it’s difficult to imagine that all these financially battered companies will make it through the loss of income, lawsuits, and damage to the industry’s health reputation.
4. “Close-To-Home Travel” will have a new cachet.
Most of us are in uncharted territory today, but it’s unlikely that everyone will suddenly lose their desire to travel. It will be a long time before the uncertainties and risk of international travel abate; so until people get comfortable traveling abroad, many might consider shorter, simpler, less-expensive options close to home. Why worry about expensive airfares, quarantine threats, and immigration hassles when you can load the kids and bags into the car and drive to a national park in a few hours? Or why leave town at all? Why not take a fraction of your normal vacation money and plan a staycation near home?
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This long-predicted, global medical emergency has been a wake-up call, and it will cause a sea change in the travel world. Now more than ever, each of us should think about our own risk tolerance, take reasonable and prudent precautions, and make informed decisions about traveling. And even though it will be a different world, it will be waiting when we’re ready to go.
Have any predictions or ideas? We’d love to hear them.
Happy Trails and Good Health,
James & Terri