The global COVID-19 pandemic has riddled the world with anxiety. Much of this worry comes from the continued cancellation of major events and travel plans and the uncertainty surrounding what life will look like after the proverbial dust has settled. Government-mandated lockdowns, travel restrictions, and closed borders have created a nightmare for anyone with a suitcase packed. 

Rest assured, the tourism industry is remarkably resilient. Whether for work or leisure, once travel bans are in the rear-view mirror, it is likely that people will be back out and at it, albeit traveling a little differently than before. 

The price of travel 

So many air and cruise line operators are suffering major financial deficits during this global crisis. Because of this, travel and economic experts are predicting that the price of international travel, particularly flying, for eager tourists will soar. Airline bargains will be harder to find immediately after quarantine lifts. These high ticket prices will be exorbitant as a way for companies to make up for lost profits and in an attempt to rehire redundant staff.

The good news is that, in time, as the industry recuperates and people gain a sense of normality back, tour operators and travel companies will release special discounts as a way to entice travelers with a greater value for their money. It doesn’t necessarily mean that ticket prices will be cheaper, but it will mean there could be an increase in bundle deal and vacation package offerings. 

Cruise Ship

What it will look like

At first, travel will commence slowly. Individuals with plans to go on big international trips may rethink their getaways in lieu of going somewhere closer to home. This is mainly an issue of consumer confidence. Travelers who have been stranded will be apprehensive of being stuck in similar situations again, and rightfully so. Hundreds of thousands of tourists have been stranded across the globe during the coronavirus outbreak, many with the knowledge that travel insurance companies aren’t paying out for costs accrued due to the pandemic. It is unlikely that anyone would want to repeat that experience.

With vacationers staying closer to home, those brave enough to travel to bucket list tourist destinations may have the places mostly to themselves, if international travel restrictions and quarantine laws loosen globally. This will depend on each country’s government and what safety precautions are put in place. It’s probable that domestic travel and day trips within driving distance of peoples’ homes will see the majority of benefits from tourism — i.e. where people will spend their holiday cash. Being closer to their homes will eliminate the risk of being stuck anywhere unwanted and will help build up traveler confidence to eventually fly around the world once more. 

Where to next

Once government lockdowns are lifted, travel trends for international destinations are largely unpredictable. 

A point could also be made that urban destinations are likely to take a hit in popularity. For people who have been forced to stay inside the four walls of their apartments or homes, it seems silly to think of concrete metropolis as more appealing than a lush natural landscape. On the bright side, this could mean a swing towards more eco-tourism and a boom in bookings for eco-resorts or rural destinations. A weekend in the woods might be preferred over crowded cities where people are in closer proximity to one another. 

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The million-dollar question

The question everyone is asking is when traveling will resume as “normal”. In short, no one knows. Travel plans will resume, but no one can know for sure when or what protocols will be put into place. Some travel experts have estimated that travel will kick off as early as June or July, while others are cautiously estimating October or November. Others still say that without a COVID vaccine, international travel is a pipe dream. 

Many countries are lifting their lockdown policies in the coming weeks. The UK has extended its lockdown by 3 weeks and New Zealand is lowering its security level to Alert 3. This is a hopeful sign that communities are flattening the curve of the virus, allowing for travel to resume. 

Not when, but how

Regardless of when we can return to traveling, advocates for responsible travel hope the focus shifts. Instead of worrying about when we can head off again, perhaps this ordeal will allow us to concentrate harder on how we travel once we’re allowed. This unplanned halt in everyday life has forced us all to take a good, hard look at our priorities. The sliver of a silver lining that has come from all of this is that it has allowed the world to breathe a bit. There is clearer water around urban centers, animals are venturing into new regions, and the air in some of the world’s most polluted areas is cleaner than it’s been in decades. 

Perhaps, travel after COVID-19 will garner more gratitude from those privileged enough to immerse themselves in worldly explorations. The aim is that we may never again take for granted our interactions with fellow wanderers, the privilege of our passports, or the beauty of all the places we will once again have the freedom to go.