Is Travel and Tourism Dead? The Impact of COVID-19 to the Travel Sector

It hasn’t been a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a pandemic, yet the virus continues to hold the world hostage. 

COVID-19 was found to spread faster and linger long in crowded spaces. To curb the spread of the disease, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends strict social distancing, among other healthcare safety protocols. This has led to closed schools, factories, and offices which, in turn, led to a travel standstill. The future of tourism and travel hangs in the balance, as nations strive to fight the disease.

A Pause on Tourism

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), over 200 nations opted to place their countries in quarantine, banning unnecessary international and domestic travel. Last April 2020, Forbes reported that 90% of the world’s population was subjected to travel restrictions. 

The impacts of COVID-19 on tourism include closed borders, barred entry from hotspots, suspended flights, and closed tourist destinations, among others. These travel bans meant a general shutdown of the tourism industry, displacing millions of workers and decreasing profits. 

Through vigilant leadership and management, some countries have already started to ease quarantine measures and lift travel bans. Yet the initial stages of the restrictions still struck a blow on tourism from which it’s still striving to recover. 

Putting People First

The UNWTO’s travel policy recommendations focus on putting people first. This means striving to keep tourism workers employed and placing stringent health safety protocols in destinations. Travel health and safety of both personnel and tourists are the industry’s top priorities. 

The World Trade Organization (WTO) encourages the government and private sectors to work together to keep jobs and recover traveler confidence in tourism.

To successfully encourage travelers to jumpstart the tourism industry, again, tourism business owners should take the threat of the pandemic seriously and not compromise health protocols to accommodate more tourists. 

Tourism leaders are responsible for the safety of their stakeholders as well as the successful curbing of the pandemic while keeping their industry running. 

Managing Your Expectations: The New Normal of Travel

The future of the travel industry is here. The travel trends seen implemented by areas that have opened their borders are likely to remain, even if most of the world has controlled the spread of the virus. 

Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Cruises chief executive, likens this to the changes in travel after the 9/11 attack. In an interview with The Washington Post, Fain said that travel and tourism will grow. Yet he added, “Not by reverting to what it was, but by adjusting to a world where all activities, everything we do in the world will have changed.”

Whether you’re planning to book a flight for a vacation or you’re a regular commuter, traveling will be vastly different from what you had known it. Expect changes–from how you pay, to the manner of your stay in a destination. 

Below are five main things you should expect when traveling during and after COVID-19:

  1. Everything will take longer

If you think booking a trip was hard enough before COVID-19, it will be even tougher in the coming days. Areas that have eased their restrictions still require inbound travelers to take a swab test and mandatory quarantine for two weeks. Queues will also be longer at terminals because of stringent health measures such as taking temperatures and disinfection.

  1. Travelers will vacation closer to home

Because the pandemic also affected tourists’ livelihood, they’re likely to spend their vacation closer to home, as this is cheaper than going to far places. According to a Euronews poll, European travelers now plan to spend their holidays at home or within the country.

Rolf Potts, the author of “Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel,” said that to avoid COVID-19 hotspots, tourists will choose destinations closer to home. He said that the top destinations are usually overcrowded and would unlikely entice travelers to go there. 

  1. Present more travel documents

Photo courtesy of Cory Checketts via Unsplash

In addition to traditional travel documents such as passports and visas, immunity or vaccination certificates may be required of travelers. Like how the travel industry strives to keep track of their clients’ health through screening at terminals, the future of tourism after COVID-19 might ask tourists to disclose their health status before boarding. 

According to We Forum, digital health passports may serve as another health protocol to be implemented by the travel industry. The future of tourist attractions includes asking passenger consent to provide personal information; so companies can craft individual risk profiles for travel.

  1. Contactless travel

One of the digital innovations in tourism brought upon by COVID-19 is touchless travel. This makes use of digital technology to minimize physical contact among tourists and personnel. 

For example, as a new normal for hotels, digital concierge systems are being developed. You can use these technologies from the moment you book your room until you check out. Services include contactless room service and food orders, and even contactless temperature screening. 

  1. New items in your luggage

Another way the pandemic is affecting the way people travel is the inclusion of additional items in their luggage such as face masks and hand sanitizers for protection. Disinfectant wipes or sprays are also a must if you want to make sure your hotel room’s high contact surfaces are sanitized. 

In addition to avoiding large crowds and physical distancing, it’s important to practise good personal hygiene to protect yourself from the virus. Include a first aid kit with basic medicine, in case you exhibit symptoms while in transit. 

Keeping Yourself Safe While Traveling

Months of isolation have affected the mental health of millions of people. Feelings of solitude coupled with job loss or an uncertain economic scenario can lead to stress and anxiety. Wanting to get away, even for a little while and to a close destination, can help alleviate these emotions, as travel has been proven to benefit mental health

Whether you’re traveling for leisure or for work, remember that eased-up travel restrictions don’t mean that COVID-19 is any less of a threat. Infections are still on the rise worldwide, and without a vaccine available to the population, traveling still bears risks. 

Below are three quick tips to keep you safe and healthy when traveling during a pandemic:

  1. Thoroughly track your health

In all stages of your trip, make it a point to track your health. It’s imperative that you’re in top shape before you do any traveling, to protect yourself and the people you’ll encounter.

This includes checking yourself for symptoms and getting tested. You should also consult with your physician if it’s safe for you to travel, especially if you have underlying or chronic medical conditions.

  1. Research your destination

Whether you’re looking for a car ride to the next town or booking a flight to another country, you should thoroughly research your destination. Check if it’s a hotspot or if people gather in crowds there. 

If your destination is prone to a thick crowd of tourists, seriously reconsider going there. Your health should not be compromised for a few days’ vacation. Prioritize your safety, even if you think you’re generally healthy. Remember that you can carry the virus without showing symptoms and eventually pass it on to your loved ones back home. 

  1. Mind your distance

One of the best parts about travelling is meeting new people and immersing yourself in their culture. However, with the threat of a deadly virus, you should restrain yourself from getting too physically close to others. Not only will you endanger yourself, but you’ll also likely endanger the people around you.

It might also dampen the fun to wear masks and constantly sanitize your hands, but all of these precautions are for everyone’s protection, including yours. When choosing a destination or activity, pick ones where people have minimal contact with others, to avoid unknowingly catching the virus.

The travel and tourism industry is not dead, but it’s still recovering from the impacts of COVID-19. It might take awhile before things get back to normal; following health protocols can help speed things up. If all people pitch in and educate themselves on how to curb the spread, the future of tourism can become promising, once again.

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