How Travel Will Change After the Pandemic

A man with a red backpack overlooking a lake
Philipp Kämmerer

As we plan for the “new normal” after the coronavirus pandemic, it seems like something might never return to normal. Work will be different since more people have the capacity to work from home than ever. Bars, theatres, and restaurants are still adjusting to safely attract as many occupants as possible. And perhaps no area has changed as much as the travel industry.

Airlines have already taken major measures to attract flyers. Most major airlines eliminated change fees, giving travelers more flexibility with their bookings. Plus, people have already been forced to re-think how and where they travel. When the pandemic finally ends, some things will return to their pre-2020 norms, but what might change permanently about travel after the coronavirus ends?

Destinations

Various countries have some degree of travel restrictions in place as a result of the virus. Presently, there are only a handful of countries that Americans are even allowed to travel to. While these limitations will eventually be lifted, traveling habits may remain changed into the future.

“People will be more focused on local travel and travel within their own countries,” Caroline and Craig Makepeace, the founders of yTravelBlog, told RENTCafe. “They’ll be avoiding plane travel for some time and so road trips will be popular. I think people will head to smaller towns and seek quieter and more isolated experiences in state and national parks.”

Many experts predict that international travel will slump and airlines will continue to take a hit. In addition, crowded, popular destinations may see less traffic in the future. Travelers are expected to shy away from crowds and may choose more nature-based vacations as a result.

Safety First

Hotels and airlines have taken major strides in making sure that passengers and guests are as safe as possible. Both are limiting capacity and increasing their hygiene efforts. Not only should we expect many of these precautions to stay in place, but we will also likely see more pop up.

Universal Orlando, for instance, has introduced virtual lines, replacing typical lengthy queues for rides. Now, park visitors can log a time in advance and show up at an attraction when scheduled, and avoid potential hours in close proximity with others. Trains, planes, and other modes of public transportation may shift further toward digitized boarding passes too, avoiding physical interactions or exchanges. You’ll likely be getting your temperature taken a lot more than usual, before boarding anything or entering parks.

Cruise companies will need to adapt as well, and some experts predict that lengthy cruises-to-nowhere might become obsolete. “I think in the beginning, we are likely to see more focus on shorter cruises and on going to places where we can do more to control the environment,” Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO Richard Fain told the Washington Post.

Travel Insurance

When the pandemic first broke out, many travelers may have been surprised to learn that pandemic concerns were not covered by travel insurance. While travel insurance is useful in plenty of situations, consumers might be less inclined to purchase it in the future if they got burned this year. Moreover, travel insurance policies will need to become less complicated to alleviate future customer concerns.

“There’s going to be a lot more focus, rather than ticking a box and moving on,” Anna Gladman, the chief executive of nib Travel, told the New York Times. “People are going to be concerned about catching this, so they’ll want to know more about their products.”

The Bottom Line

We know that travel after the coronavirus pandemic will be significantly different. Now, as the virus still rages, we’re seeing companies begin to shift and change policies for a post-COVID future. Over the next few months, we should expect more changes and regulations. By the time you take your next trip, the entire experience might feel a bit foreign to you.