Summer — it’s the season of sunshine, outdoor activities, and plenty of vacations for some people. Unfortunately, the summer of 2020 began and ended due to a global pandemic, and unlike previous years, summertime travel was almost non-existent.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, closed borders, canceled events, and self-quarantines kept people safely at home. As a result, vacations took on new forms, or they disappeared altogether.
Travel’s Plummet Amidst The COVID-19 Pandemic During 2020
- In the last full week of August, US travel spending was just $13 billion — a 43% drop compared to the same time last year.
- Since early March, the US travel economy has seen cumulative losses of more than $360 billion.
- The continued travel spending decrease resulted in a loss of $46.2 billion in local, state, and federal tax revenue since March 1.
- Globally, airlines are expected to lose over $84 billion in 2020.
Sources: US Travel Association; International Air Transport Association
Similar to many changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on travel is not likely to go away anytime soon, if at all. From swapping cruises for road trips to an increased focus on sanitization, the typical travel experience may be forever altered — possibly for the better.
A Different Kind Of Vacationing
The COVID-19 pandemic has led many travelers to reschedule or cancel their plans in an effort to keep themselves and others safe. Though disappointing, these sacrifices have been critical in slowing the spread of the virus.
Inevitably, though, travelers will pack their suitcases once again — only this time with a vastly different itinerary.
Since the onset of the pandemic, cruises and flights abroad have understandably made many travelers uncomfortable. Enter the “corona-cation” — drivable destinations, long weekend getaways, and even RV rentals.
With 20% of people saying they’re concerned about air travel, corona-cations allow for more control of your environment and less contact with strangers at airports and on planes. When weighing the options between renting an RV to rural Montana or taking an international flight to Paris, there’s no question which offers more social distancing.
Once travelers arrive at their destination, their choice of accommodation may not look the same, either. Rather than staying in a hotel among hundreds of other travelers, many are turning to the villa rental or home rental, which offers more privacy and, of course, distance from others.
For some, this adjustment may be temporary. For others, continued concerns about safety (and a newfound love for more secluded vacationing) may make this shift a more permanent one.
A New Focus On Sanitization And Safety
During the past few months, sanitization practices have been at the forefront of most travelers’ minds (and rightfully so). But even when COVID-19 is behind us, this practice will likely continue.
For instance, hotels have been implementing heightened standards for cleanliness, and these standards are being communicated to guests often. For the foreseeable future, things like digitized check-in, reduced occupancy, frequent disinfection, and plenty of hand sanitizer will be the norm.
As for air travel, most experts are expecting changes to stick around for quite some time. After 9/11, security screenings were significantly enhanced and remain in effect today. After the pandemic, safety measures like no-contact temperature scanners, spaced out security lines, and revamped baggage carousels are likely to remain.
The airlines will find themselves attempting to balance safety and profits. While enhanced cleaning of surfaces, providing sanitizing wipes, and zone boarding (boarding by row instead of group number) will hopefully stick around, blocking off middle seats can’t last forever. Eventually, you’ll find yourself seated next to a stranger once again, and it’ll be up to you whether or not you want to take that risk.
One thing is certain — COVID-19 has increased awareness around cleanliness. Never again will a passenger look twice at another who is scrubbing down their seat upon boarding. And if you cough, you can expect people to steer clear of you, especially if you’re not wearing a mask.
The Rise Of Travel Insurance And Assistance
Some travelers swear by travel insurance — but plenty are willing to take the risk of booking a trip without it. However, experts say travel insurance is likely to become much more popular in the post-COVID-19 world as people realize the security it offers when navigating a situation like this.
A similar trend occurred after the September 11 attacks. Before 9/11, roughly 7% of people purchased travel insurance. Afterward, that number rose to 15%. After this pandemic, estimates hover between 25% and 30% of travelers buying insurance just to be safe.
Another fail-safe that travelers may begin to rely on more heavily is a travel advisor (the rebranded version of “travel agent”). If you had to cancel a trip as a result of COVID-19, you know the pain of staying on the phone for hours on end only to be told you would receive a call back in the next few days.
A travel advisor can help refund, reschedule, and replan your trip. Plus, many travelers work with the same advisor long-term, using the relationship to help develop and achieve their travel-related goals.
Travel Will Come Back — But Patience And Safety Remain Critical For Now
Travel offers opportunities to connect with people from other places, understand different cultures, and reflect on your own ways of life. And for many, it’s a form of recharging and reconnecting with oneself.
Opportunities to travel will return eventually, but for now, travelers everywhere need to be patient. As a society, we have a responsibility to listen to health officials and stay at home when possible. And when the time does come that you can rebook your overseas vacation or tropical getaway, not only will it be much safer — but you’ll be much more appreciative of everything travel has to offer.