Travel, the luxury most of us took for granted up until March, has never felt more needed, with many of us desperate to swap the four walls that kept us safe in isolation for the white-washed stone of a Spanish villa. But from self-cleaning hotel rooms to temperature checks at airports, what will holidays actually look like post-coronavirus lockdown?
The reality is that travel as we know it has changed for the foreseeable future. Gone are on a whim weekend breaks to European cities and nights in far-flung, cheap as chips hostels. As we all come to terms with lengthy quarantines, health checks and levels of accommodation hygiene that would put Queen of Clean Marie Kondo to shame, things are likely to look pretty different when it comes to your annual leave.
The good news is that the desire to travel hasn’t left us. Numerous surveys indicate most Brits can’t wait to get travelling again; Skyscanner’s poll of 2,274 adults found a third want to travel ‘as soon as it’s safe and restrictions allow’, while a survey of Cosmopolitan UK readers found that 54% of readers hope to go on holiday this year.
The question is what does ‘travel freely’ mean in the new era, and are we all on board?
How will catching flights change?
In a bid to meet covid-19 regulations and make us feel safe when we jet off, most airlines have had to introduce major changes which are going to take some getting used to.
Remember when tighter security checks (100ml liquids, clear plastic bags, removing your belt and shoes) were introduced at airports post-9/11? It felt like a hassle but we knew that ultimately it was for our safety, will be true of covid health regulations, too.
Expect temperature monitoring, time allocation slots for arriving at the airport to avoid large queues, social-distancing in all public places, including Duty Free and on transfers, plus a whole new level of cutting-edge technology.
Emirates airline has already started testing passengers in Dubai for coronavirus, while in Abu Dhabi Etihad Airways has trialled self-check-in kiosks that, as well as scanning your passport, can also identify symptoms of the virus using monitors for temperature, heart rate and respiration – it’s hands-free, voice-activated and very sci-fi.
Ryanair might not be quite so high tech, but rolled out early plans to get customers back in the air including online check-in, boarding passes on smart phones, temperature checks and mask-wearing at all times in the terminal and during flights. They also introduced card-only transactions for pre-packaged snacks and no onboard queues for the loo. That’s right, you’ll have to ask permission for toilet access (or cross your legs all the way).
In July and August, passengers will also have to fill in forms outlining where they’ll be staying and how long they plan to visit countries in the EU. It’s flying, but not as you know it.
Nicky Kelvin, director of content at online travel advice site The Points Guy says, “Flying is possible right now, albeit the choice of routes is severely diminished and the freedoms on travel are also limited. Where you travel is going to be dependent on whether there is a flight to your desired destination and government restrictions at either end.”
And the big question is, with less flights and more regulations, will flight prices rise? The jury’s still out. At the moment rates are similar to pre-Covid, with some fares actually lower (fly to Barcelona for £25.99 with easyJet in Nov? Yes please), but the concern is that these are to lure customers back and that when (if) routes return to normal, we’ll see a price hike.
What are the new travel norms?
Outdoor, less populated environments
When we do start travelling abroad, it’s likely to be to places that make us feel safe and happy and, even though we were in isolation for so long, most people won’t be rushing back to busy, built-up spaces.
Justin Francis, founder and CEO of sustainable holiday company Responsible Travel says, “I think the majority will crave space, nature and a slower pace [from their holidays]. We expect to see a surge in cycling, walking and kayaking tours – self-guided and small group.
“People still want to get away – interest in Scandinavian and Arctic destinations, particularly Iceland and Norway, but also Sweden and Finland, has risen. As it also has for ‘bucket list’ experiences, like seeing the Northern Lights.”
Self-drive holidays will experience a rise thanks to their perfect mix of freedom and isolation that’s so important right now. Being in control of your environment and able to adapt your plans on the go is a big bonus. Sign us up for a campervan in France!
Self-catering holidays have never been more desirable, confirmed by Alex Loftus, commercial director for easyJet Holidays. “We’re seeing a rise in customers booking self-catering apartments and villas located on sandy beaches where families and groups of friends can come together for a safe, private holiday after being apart for so long,” Alex told Cosmopolitan.
According to Loftus, Turkey, in particular Dalaman, takes the top spot for bookings followed by the Canary Islands, Balearics, Portugal and Cyprus, with many customers returning to resorts they’re familiar with.
Environmentally friendly holidays
During the great pause, when the sky was silent apart from bird song and we re-evaluated our blossom-filled local parks, many people rethought their impact on nature and consequently their travel practices.
Even before the pandemic hit, the travel industry was on the cusp of change, at a crossroads as questions about sustainability and carbon footprints started to overshadow cheap as chips flights and bargain resorts.
Rory Boland, travel editor of consumer advice magazine Which? confirms that cities such as Venice, which have long complained of overtourism, will benefit and that tourists will too as they seek out second and third cities and quieter, less populous places.
Boland also predicts a rise in train travel, as we struggle with the new flight restrictions and our carbon footprints. “There will be an increased interest in train travel, but it’s not just Corona which has caused this, we were seeing a boom before the crisis.”
As well as going green, travel has also got to be clean in this new era, so expect hygiene to be ramped up in resorts, hotels and rentals.
We’re liking the sound of Brochner Hotels in Copenhagen which claims to have the world’s first ‘self-cleaning rooms’, with walls and floors covered in an odourless coating said to eliminate everything from Ebola to flu.
So the future of travel looks cleaner, greener and, for a while at least, more isolated. Social distancing might put clubbing and holiday romances on hold for a while, but if we can order in food and wine during a sun-soaked self-catering villa this autumn, we can live with it. Bon voyage.
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