The new normal? Travel in the world of Covid-19
Covid-19 has revolutionized the world of travel, from hand sanitizers in a hotel lobby to cabin crew wearing masks, localized lockdowns, and contact tracing applications. Travel was virtually stopped by closed borders and canceled flights. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation declared that 100% of global destinations had imposed travel restrictions during the peak of the pandemic.
As Asia’s economy begins to recover from its lockdown, a sector that contributes about 10% of the world’s GDP is moving towards the new normal. Many travelers who have been trapped in their homes for many months are now dreaming of visiting beaches, mountains, and monuments. Reopening travel is not without its challenges.
Traveling in uncertain times
James Liang is the chairman of Trip.com Group. This online travel agency, which operates in 19 languages and covers 200 countries and regions, is one of the largest worldwide. Liang believes product innovation is crucial to the recovery of the travel industry. Trip.com’s live streaming initiative, which brings accommodation and destinations to life in real-time, is Liang’s key.
He says that the Covid-19 pandemic poses significant challenges for the global travel industry. China’s travel activities reached their lowest point in February, and they have been steadily on a recovery path since then.
Mario Hardy (CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association), argues that while there are some green shoots in certain markets, many Asian travelers still fear infection. He says that many Asian families are surrounded by their grandparents or parents, making them more vulnerable. They are concerned about bringing the disease home to their grandparents or parents.
This fear has a direct impact on how travelers approach their journeys. Jane Sun, CEO of Trip.com Group, identifies three trends. She says, “First, people are very careful about health guidelines, so our partners work closely to ensure hotels are safe partners.” “Third, people prefer traveling in smaller groups, such as with their family or close friends. We’ve noticed that domestic travel is becoming more popular than it used to be.
The right destination
The World Travel and Tourism Council developed a wide range of protocols that will cover the new norm for all providers, including hotels, restaurants, shops, and airlines. The travel experience will be shaped for a long time by cleaning, sanitization, and protective equipment like masks, thermal and infrared scanners, reduced queueing, and screening tools such as thermal or infrared scanners.
Although “safe lanes” or “air corridors”, between countries that have eradicated or controlled the coronavirus, are being discussed, it may take some time for these to become reality. Hardy states that while they seem like good ideas in principle, putting them into practice is not easy. Trust in the healthcare systems in each country is essential. There must be protocols, border control, testing, and other procedures in place.
As more businesses close down due to economic pressure, smaller businesses will be hit more than larger ones, and destinations will change. Boutique hotels can be successful as guests seek more intimate experiences. However, small independent guesthouses are struggling to survive.
The way we fly has been changed by past terrorist incidents. Sun and Hardy both agree that many of the changes we see today will continue. People are paying more attention to menus and not sharing food or drinks. These are good habits for a healthy environment.
Companies are looking at new technologies to increase bookings and facilitate safe travel. Virtual tours of museums and hotels, as well as contactless check-in at airports and hotels, are all on the horizon.
“There will be some relief in certain areas, but there will still be controls because this is not the first time we have had a pandemic. It’s a new norm.
Sun is optimistic that Asian travelers’ love for foreign climes will continue, even though new destinations and nature tourism may replace more crowded places. She says that the Coronavirus is a new virus that has never been seen on Earth. “No country, no business has ever had the chance to practice for this type of natural disaster. My experience in Asia shows that people are very eager to travel. They’ve been held captive for a long time. They want to live and explore the world.