The coronavirus crisis has hit the world hard, with millions of people infected across the globe and hundreds of thousands dead. And with worries about a second wave and beyond, the future of social interaction, including post-COVID travel, remains very much in doubt.
With flights grounded around the world, moving around has suddenly become very difficult. Even the handful of flights that are still operating have empty seats, and hundreds of tickets are going unsold.
Fear of travel is understandable, but the global COVID-19 pandemic will not last forever. With dozens of promising vaccine candidates in the pipeline and emerging treatments on the horizon, it is only a matter of time before the COVID-19 nightmare is over. Hopefully, when that happens, the world will wake up into a much better and more sustainable reality.
Post-COVID travelers may look far different than pre-pandemic tourists. Here are some of the ways travel may change for the better in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rediscovering a New Sense of Community
In the days before the lockdown, travel was easy, with cheap flights circumnavigating the globe. Giant cruise ships plied the seven seas, filled with tourists who expected to see the world — but were often consigned to tourist traps selling overpriced jewelry and off-price colognes.
Even adventure travel had taken on a cookie-cutter mentality. Ziplines stretched across jungle canopies and so-called adventure tourists snapping selfies with the local monkeys. That may have been fine in a pre-pandemic world, but an older and suddenly wiser generation is sure to emerge once the lockdown is over.
This new generation of travelers is likely to shed traditional tourism in search of authentic experiences. Instead of crowding into the Taj Mahal for yet another photo op, these post-COVID travel enthusiasts may find their way into villages, meeting real people and looking for unique ways to build a better global community.
Post-COVID Travel: The World Together
If there is one thing the global pandemic has taught the world, it is that everyone is connected. In a world on lockdown, everyone has one thing in common, and this sense of sameness is already fostering a new idea of what travel should really be all about.
Whether you are talking to someone in Australia, Zambia or the United States, you know one thing about them — they have been impacted by the coronavirus. You also know that they are probably social distancing and that this isolation is causing real hardships in their lives.
Once the lockdown is lifted and people around the world start to emerge, they will come into a brand new world — one that has been changed forever by an invisible enemy.
If the new normal creates a new way of travel, one that focuses on people instead of tourism, that could be the silver lining of this horrible time.
Taking Care of Ourselves – and Each Other
Human beings are social creatures by nature, and the current lockdown is creating unprecedented levels of fear, anxiety, and depression. The social distancing the world is experiencing is designed with public health in mind, but the difficulties it has imposed are just as real as the virus it is intended to prevent.
The good news is the lockdown, is sure to be temporary. At some point a cure will be found and a vaccine will be developed. When that happens, waves of pent-up demand could jump-start the travel industry. But travel will likely look a bit different than it does today, with a new focus on human connections and finding common ground.
Post-COVID Travel: Solo and Small Groups?
The social distancing habit may be hard to break, even once the COVID-19 pandemic is in the rear view mirror. Young people who come of age during the coronavirus pandemic may have a deep-seated anxiety about emerging threats, like as yet unknown viruses and pathogens.
As a result, there could be a rise in solo travel; think backpacking through Southeast Asia or traveling the lesser known corners of Europe. Instead of booking a packed cruise to Alaska, adventure travelers might opt for the stark beauty (and sparse population) of Antarctica. Those choices would give new life to underserved destinations and create a new revenue source for resourceful travel operators.
In the end, no one truly knows what post-COVID travel might look like. The devastation the virus has created for the travel industry is truly unprecedented — as has the response designed to save the airlines and other travel providers.
With billions of dollars in taxpayer money headed their way, airlines big and small will be working hard to position themselves for a post-COVID world. Right now, they are dreaming up new ways to get wary travelers back in the air and on their way to exotic destinations around the world.
When those travelers eventually pack their bags again, they may pack a bit lighter, and they may opt for destinations they may not have considered before. Whether its meeting the locals in an Egyptian bazaar or hanging out with the penguins in Antarctica, the coming generation of post-pandemic travelers will be different from their predecessors.
In the end, that could be a very good thing.