The coronavirus pandemic of 2019-2020 has had an immense impact on the entire world and may have changed the future of traveling forever.
Many countries currently have entry restrictions in place and there is a new focus on health screenings and tests for individuals making their way from state to state. Traveling is discouraged by most governments and figures for global travel have dropped dramatically as a result.
The questions on many people’s minds are when will they be allowed to travel again and what will international journeys look like in a post-coronavirus world?
Since COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus) spread across the globe, countries and airlines have taken a range of measures to reduce transmission of the virus. Many of these may remain in place long after the pandemic is over.
It is predicted that a number of other changes will soon occur. Touchless travel technology utilizing biometrics, such as iris and facial recognition scans may become more and more common to lower the risk of infection for both travelers and staff.
Digital health passports may also become the new norm, with a number of countries and airlines now focusing on assessing the risk of each individual traveler.
Currently, a number of visas have been suspended and it is likely that certain countries will amend their current visa policies to take into account visitors’ health and any risk of bringing diseases such as coronavirus to their shores. Digital health passports may become a key factor in entry requirements for certain states.
Travelers should check global visa information regularly for updates on the situation in different countries.
While digital health protocols and technology are still being developed, there are already a number of symptom-tracking and contact-tracing apps that can help individuals know whether they are at risk of spreading COVID-19.
It is still unclear which (if any) of these ideas will become standard practice in the long run. However, it is clear that the coronavirus pandemic will have a big effect on the future of global travel.
How COVID-19 Will Affect Airports
Airports have already been affected by the coronavirus outbreak and new protocols have been put in place.
Some airports have introduced distancing rules to keep all passengers 1-2 meters apart at all times. Hand sanitizers are widespread and the Transport Security Administration (TSA) in the US states that travelers should thoroughly wash their hands for 20 seconds before and after security checks.
If electronic check-in kiosks are available, their use is recommended to avoid unnecessary contact.
Others, such as Hong Kong International Airport, are trialing new technologies, such as a full-body disinfection device that kills microorganisms on skin and clothing and autonomous cleaning robots that move around the airport destroying germs with ultraviolet light.
Some countries are now offering rapid COVID-19 testing to passengers prior to boarding flights.
Even when the pandemic has been brought under control and travel restrictions are lifted, some people believe that these measures will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
The chief executive of Intrepid travel group, James Thornton said the following regarding the changes in travel procedures:
“Just as taking out liquids and devices before going through machines has become the norm, so too will new social distancing guidelines. It’s possible we’ll see the introduction of an immunity passport.”
The Future of Flying After Coronavirus
The majority of airlines have been quick to improve their sanitation procedures. Tray tables, seatbelts, and armrests are all thoroughly disinfected — a trend that is likely to continue long past the pandemic.
Cabin crew and passengers may all have to wear masks for the foreseeable future to prevent the transmission of viruses and other harmful microbes.
Korean Air has said that it plans to provide its cabin crew with full personal protective equipment (PPE), including gowns, gloves, and eye masks.
Many airlines are also refusing to allow all seats to be booked. In particular, middle seats are being left vacant to leave space between passengers.
However, this means that many flights will only be operating at ⅔ capacity and will likely be making a loss unless the cost of tickets is raised, which is a distinct possibility.
However, while some believe that the cost of travel will rise due to this, others say that the need to encourage people to travel again will lead airlines and travel agencies to lower their prices and come up with great offers for holidaymakers.
Gary Leff of the loyalty blog View From the Wing had this to say:
“There are going to be great deals – both with miles and cash – for quite some time because there will be empty seats and empty rooms that need to be filled.”
Holidays After Coronavirus
Holidays could be very different once global travel opens up again. Various tourist locations are working on ideas to promote social distancing and give travelers confidence in going on holiday abroad without risking their health.
Some European countries are said to be considering limiting hotels to having only half the rooms occupied to give the guests more space.
Others may be planning to only allow a certain number of hotels to open.
Beaches are another area of concern. In the past, Mediterranean beaches were frequently full of people, with towels side by side.
Limiting the number of people allowed on the beach is one option. According to Ulf Sonntag of the Institute for Tourism Research, Italy is contemplating dividing its beaches with vertical sheets of plexiglass to separate sun loungers and keep beachgoers apart.
When Will Travelling Be Allowed?
Some travel is still permitted, notably for individuals returning to their home countries. Many sovereign states that have ostensibly closed their borders and canceled flights are making exceptions for repatriation — of both their own citizens returning and of foreign nationals departing.
In addition, a number of countries have not banned all visitors from entering, only restricting travel from certain badly-affected areas.
Some governments in locations where the number of new cases of COVID-19 is falling have started to de-escalate the containment measures put in place. However, in most cases, travel restrictions are likely to be one of the last things to return to normal, if they do at all. In some cases, visa requirements may change with regards to visitors’ health.
It is unlikely that global travel will open up again until the pandemic has been contained by the majority of countries around the world. When it does, it is possible that procedures, requirements, and prices will be different from 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.