We find freedom in traveling. Every grain of sand that we step foot on at pristine coasts; every masterpiece hanging at an arts epicenter that we soak in; every foreign culture we absorb from people at the fringes and intersections of life, adds another layer to our ever-evolving self.
We take in the wonders that this world has to offer, from the natural to the man-made. We get drunk in the beauty and excitement of the novel experience. We feel free.
Unfortunately, a third of the world’s population is under pandemic lockdown (though this is set to change as cities start to re-open), and there is a whopping 93% of people live in nations enforcing COVID-19 travel bans. Given these measures, many aren’t able to satisfy their adventurous side and wanderlust. We’re forced to stay grounded and be indoors – for now, that is.
The world may have slowed to a standstill with the spread of COVID-19; but global problems have not. In the travel and tourism industries, for example, the only thing that seems to be commuting from border to border is the virus. We are currently in the dark as to when the pandemic will end, and until a vaccine has become available for all, the travel industry won’t be rebounding anytime soon.
Travel costs will increase
For some regions of the world, peak season for travel occurs right about this time, particularly in the Northern hemisphere as temperatures start to warm. In pre-coronavirus days, airports would be packed, hotels and resorts would be full and tourists would be flooding their social media accounts with travel selfies. Since the pandemic, businesses operating within the travel, tourism, hospitality and events sectors have come grinding to a halt. To make up for the loss of income and profits of airlines, hotels, resorts, adventure activities, travel prices will increase.
Not everyone will start packing their bags and book flights as soon as restrictions have lifted though. Many will proceed cautiously, wary of a second wave of the virus. If people are still reluctant to book a domestic getaway or international trip, in the short-term, airlines may decide to bring down the prices to incentivise people to start planning trips.
Costs of operations may increase to follow the new safety measures such as investing in full thermal scans, disinfection and cleaning technologies and sterilizing robots. Performing these screening processes will take time, and may even delay flight schedules. In our post-pandemic world, these practices will be crucial. A thorough examination of each passenger must be conducted before allowing them to board and with governments enforcing border restrictions and strict quarantine protocols, we can expect waiting times and delays to increase.
Some countries won’t be lifting travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine periods just yet, especially for visitors arriving from countries with high infection rates. According to Boston Consulting Group, a health certificate showing traveler’s clean bill of health may even be required by some governments before allowing entry into their country.
Higher unemployment rates
Travel restrictions and border closures have impacted businesses and this has had a domino effect on workers, with closures leading to job cuts, layoffs and reduced hours, more people are facing financial hardship and economic insecurity. Naturally, traveling for leisure drops in priority as individuals and families prioritise debts, mortgages, rent and utilities.
Given low demand, some businesses within the travel and tourism sector will either close or will be forced to lay off more employees. It is a vicious cycle that only governments with stimulus packages and progressive economic policies may be able to stop.
Eco-tourism and sustainable travel industries centred around environmental protection will also be affected as there is less income to continue conservation efforts.
The pandemic’s effect on tourism is expected to stretch into the next couple of years. Philippines-based sustainable tourism operator Eco Explorations, an organisation with a focus on eco tours and environmental education camps, are doing what they keep to keep their conservation workforce afloat. They have collaborated with the Giving Hero app in their online fundraiser to provide aid for these environmental front liners to help secure their financial future.
“People’s desire to travel is resilient,” TripAdvisor said in a statement to business-focused media publication Insider. “What we’ve seen through SARS, Ebola, terrorist attacks and numerous natural disasters is that the travel industry has always rebounded.”
When travel is given the green light, we can expect a sluggish return to normal for the industry but it will bounce back. People will begin to start feeling safe and comfortable around crowds of strangers and once they have slowly regained their travel confidence, others will be spurred on to join in.
Travelers will initially dip their toes back into road trips before booking in for an international trip. Within a year, we will see a gradual transition from road travel to domestic travel, before international flights begin to take off. Travelers will likely stay in vacation homes and Airbnbs rather than in large hotels to reduce the risk of contact with lots of people.
Until the virus is under control and better systems and safety measures have been adapted, the nomad in us will have to be restrained. We can still indulge in our love of travel in isolation via virtual tours, watching nature documentaries and travel programs. So for now, stay home and stay safe. Your wings may have been clipped, but they’ll grow back and you’ll be exploring the world again soon.
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Cover image by Taryn Elliott.