In a little over two weeks I will be embarking upon my first trip abroad since the pandemic struck, and while I’m super excited to be exploring somewhere new again, the last few months have given me a chance to reflect on some of my travel habits and whether the pandemic will change them in any way.
The impact Covid-19 has had on the global travel industry has been severe, to say the least. International travel all but ground to a halt during the height of the pandemic, with most airlines struggling to continue operating during those first few months. Row upon row of cruise ships have been anchored in ports and off coastlines across the continent, with no onward destination or passengers to take there.
Things are now starting to pick up again very slowly with the event of so-called ‘travel corridors’ across borders, although the sporadic implementation of quarantine periods between various countries is still causing significant problems for travel companies. In fact, some aviation firms are predicting air travel will not return to pre-Covid levels for at least another two years, with Gatwick airport in the UK announcing on Friday it doesn’t expect levels to fully recover until 2025. But in reality, could the effects of the pandemic on the travel industry become far more deep-rooted than just lower numbers of travellers?
To say that many people will be feeling somewhat apprehensive about stepping on a plane or boarding a cruise ship any time soon is probably a fair assessment, and in the event of a global pandemic it’s not all that surprising that people may feel this way.
Personally, I don’t have many qualms about visiting new places again and travelling to different countries. However, there is one thing that I am ever so slightly anxious about, and that is the plane journey to get there and back. There’s been a lot of information in the news, and from the Government, about the dangers of re-circulating air, being in an enclosed, indoor space, and mixing with lots of different people – all of which is nigh on impossible to avoid on a plane, as much as you may try. On the positive side, my flight is a short one (about two and a half hours) and I will of course be wearing a mask and vigorously applying antibac as well as following all other recommended protocols, so the risk will be as low as is possible in that particular situation.
For others, though, and understandably so, this is still too risky a situation to put themselves in and will be enough to prevent them from travelling abroad at least in the near future. The same goes for trains, coaches and boats – by travelling on each of these you are inevitably increasing your risk somewhat of contracting Covid, and so many may decide against it until the global situation improves.
This could have untold consequences on the already struggling travel and tourism sectors, with many firms in this industry facing huge economic losses and having to implement job cuts. Despite this rather doom and gloom outlook, there are many people itching to go abroad after missing out on their summer holidays earlier in the year and who are looking to get away after spending the majority of their time indoors over the last few months. As more and more countries grapple with getting the spread of coronavirus under control, and succeed, I believe that we will see more and more people deciding to travel abroad once more as we move into next year.
It seems a little insensitive to refer to positives in regard to a pandemic which has cost so many lives, but one aspect that has benefited significantly over the past few months is our reduced impact on the environment. As the countries around the world entered lockdown, planes stopped flying, substantially less cars and buses clogged up the roads, and the eco-footprint of office buildings and workplaces nose-dived as people were sent home. The world as we know it slowed right down, and the natural world took a deep breath. We might not want to admit it, but nature has thrived since we’ve been inside.
And this won’t have gone unnoticed by many, especially by those who are conscious of their own impact on the environment. Perhaps seeing how much we pollute the earth through the millions of plane journeys taken each day, the amount of air pollution from motor vehicles, and the ocean pollution of large cruise ships and ferries as they cart us around the world, will make some think twice about how frequently, and by what means, they travel.
I have always wanted to travel in a more eco-friendly way, and while I do try to pick so-called ‘eco-friendly’ flights with lower C02 output and replace car journeys where possible with cycling and walking, there is definitely a lot more that I can personally do to lower my carbon footprint. And I hope that this will be something other people will think about more too – it would be a real shame to regress back into our old ways and forget how the natural world flourished in the wake of our absence.
An inevitable fallout of travel firms missing out on the summer season and majority of their earnings this year, is likely to be the spike in prices as people start going on holiday again. While a nuisance for me and you, it makes sense for these companies to want, and need, to recoup their losses by putting up their prices as we move into next year and beyond, banking on the fact that people will pay the higher prices after missing out on going abroad this year.
For the past couple of years, my partner and I have been planning a extended trip to South America, hoping to spend in excess of six months travelling the continent next year. That plan is, unsurprisingly, somewhat up in the air right now as we wait to see how the fallout out of the pandemic plays out. And a big part of this hesitation is that the trip is likely to cost us significantly more than it would have done pre-Covid.
It wouldn’t surprise me if others felt the same way about trips they had planned, and decided to put them off a little longer in the hope that the price hike will eventually even out. Saying this, upping the price of plane tickets, accommodations and tourist activities in itself is probably not enough to put passionate travellers off, and if you really want to go somewhere, you’ll pay the extra to do so.
Finally, don’t underestimate the pull of the staycation. This year, people have had little choice but to enjoy what’s on their doorstep, and from both what I have heard from my friends and family, and my own experiences, rediscovering how pleasant holidaying at home can be has been an eye-opener for many.
I was lucky enough to be able to get away for a week to the picturesque Jurassic coast of Dorset, enjoying fish and chips on the beach, a jaunt around the shops of various pretty seaside towns, and even a dip in the sea (as I’m sure you’ve been told before, it’s not so bad once you’re in!). It was a timely reminder that we don’t always have to travel halfway around the world to enjoy ourselves and visit somewhere new, and there are plenty of places to explore without having to travel thousands of miles to do so.
I’m sure that many others have experienced this too over the past few months as restrictions have lifted and people have been given more freedom to get out and about. While I don’t necessarily expect people to choose Dorset over Dubai for their summer holiday, for example, I think there’s something to be said for holidaying closer to home more often.
To be clear…
I love travelling. It’s one of my all-time favourite things to do, and I have missed not being able to explore new places so much. This post isn’t intentioned to cast negativity over the act of travelling, nor throw any shade in the direction of the travel industry. It is simply my speculation as to how recent events may shape the global travel landscape as we move out of the pandemic, and how I, and perhaps others, may alter the way they explore the world in the future.
Fellow travel bloggers, I’d love to hear your views on this and whether coronavirus has made you think twice about your travel habits and expectations. If you’re planning a trip in the near future, let me know how you’re going to go about it!