A couple of months ago, all I could hear from the outside world was the crunch of furtive footsteps in the gully outside my house, the unmistakable chirping of birds, the low rumble of a goods aircraft above my head, and the occasional shriek from the neighbour's kids bellowing to each other from across the road at the ungodliest of hours. The world had come to a standstill and an uncomfortable truth dawned on me.
This is it—there is no going back to normal.
As the days pass, keeping track of new cases and recoveries with uneasy trepidation has now become a daily ritual. At this point one can only imagine what the post-covid world will look like. Slowly but surely, the world has started to wake up from its slumber and those weekly grocery runs don’t seem so thrilling anymore. The inner travel beast yearns to spread its wings and soar the skies.
Studies show that despite the pandemic and the travel restrictions it has brought upon us, the desire to venture out in the future remains resilient among the general population, but with an important caveat—health and sanitisation are of utmost importance.
A lot has been said about travel trends in the recent past but now it's time to re-evaluate what the future of travel is likely to look like.
Countries or states that have been successful in containing the virus will allow people to freely travel inside the ‘bubble’ of designated countries as long as they haven’t travelled elsewhere in the past 14 days. The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have already enforced this by screening tests and safety measures along all the borders surrounding them. The move hopes to kickstart the tourism industry and keep the economy afloat. Other countries like Australia and New Zealand—which has recently been declared corona-free—have been planning a ‘COVID-free travel zone’ to allow passage across the Tasman Sea.
Now that work-from-home has become the new buzzword and a reality in many people’s lives, travelling for business purposes or mixing business with leisurely travelling is going to be considered a big no-no. While it is unlikely that business travel will cease to exist, distance and health-related risks will be big influencers while evaluating needs. Work trips to nearby locations will be favoured with most of the travelling taking place within the continent.
Socks? Check. Phone? Check. Vanity kit with mask and sanitiser? You better get on that!
Responsible travellers of the future will see an automatic shift in their priorities as they become increasingly conscious about their health and hygiene while travelling. For many years before COVID-19, a ‘yellow card’ showing that a passenger was vaccinated before boarding an international flight was a must. Thankfully, the improvement in global health and mass vaccination deemed it redundant. Tough times call for tough measures, so it is likely that a new and improved measure of keeping track of potential diseases will manifest itself as a sort of immunity passport certificate which can be accessed via apps or other digital formats.
The Solo and ‘Silent’ traveller
Solo travelling was already purported to boom in the coming years, and now that social distancing is the new normal, privacy in travel is so much more essential. What will play a crucial role is the fear of proximity and the need to steer clear of crowded spots like museums, festivals, bars and clubs. The rise in the phenomenon of the ‘silent traveller’—one who needs no in-person customer service and can rely on their mobile device to guide them—is going to be more commonplace.
The canals of Venice are gushing with clear water once again, Nilgai are gallivanting across the roads in Noida, wild turkeys have ambushed playgrounds in California and Delhi skies have never looked clearer. One thing is clear, the drastic effect of no humans around, has been a boon for nature. Travel trends with regards to sustainability, wellness and community-based travel will no longer be pushed to the sidelines. Observing these phenomena is likely to have a positive effect on the outlook of travellers and encourage them to be more ecologically mindful of their surroundings and the impact they have on the local communities. There will also be a sharp increase in travellers opting for health and travel-related insurance, especially for international trips.
The biggest change seen will be in the number of local spots and unknown locations that are going to be explored because people will want to avoid crowds. The prohibitions on international travel is going to last for quite some time. Couple that with a general insecurity regarding flights and airports, and all predictions say that domestic and local travel will see a huge boom. Places like heritage structures and museums might limit capacity and enable visits only after prior reservations to avoid crowds. Road trips are going to breathe new life and flexibility into domestic travel.
Slow tourism is the opposite of having an action-packed itinerary filled with a dozen activities, ready to be crossed off one after another, and ending up exhausted at the end of the day. Instead of filling up each moment with something new, the new-age traveller will want to lounge on remote beaches, explore the rural side, take a walk through unexplored neighbourhoods and book flights to underrated countries. Instead of being holed up in cramped traveller hostels; lodges, cottages and fort hotels will be preferred. Mass tourism is surely going to die a slow death and from its ashes, the seedlings of slow and selective travel shall grow.
Micro Holidays: Small and Safe
After a pandemic hits, what usually follows is recession and inadvertently a decrease in spending for non-essential goods and services. The travel industry is going to take a hit, as will potential customers due to loss of jobs /pay cuts/ health emergencies etc. Big annual trips may be replaced with short, micro-holidays to nearby destinations. Instead of big travel groups, small private tours will be carried out for tourists.
Worried about human contact but still want room service? Hotels may soon adopt robots as servers and autonomous baggage carts which will carry your luggage to the room for you. Electronic check-ins at hotels and airports via facial recognition systems doesn’t seem very far into the future. Virtual Reality is another exciting trend that will allow holidayers to explore museums, visit street festivals and dive into the deep ocean all from the comfort of their own sofa.