The Future of Travel in a COVID-19 World

Updated on July 2, 2020
bdegiulio profile image

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.

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Oh, how quickly things can change. One minute you’re planning that coveted vacation to a favorite destination and the next, you’re frantically trying to cancel your trip and get a refund on hotels, airfares, etc. For those who love to travel, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a cruel awakening to the new world that we live in.

Will the future of travel ever return to what it was? It’s possible, but I fear it’s many, many years off; in the meantime, we will have to get accustomed to a new normal in the world of travel. Personally, we travel often, almost monthly, yet we have cancelled a number of flights scheduled for later in the year and currently have no plans to travel on an airplane until there is a vaccine or things improve dramatically.

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COVID-19 Impact on Travel

To give you some idea of the catastrophic impact the coronavirus has had on travel, I offer up a few statistics. On April 12th of 2019, a total of 2.4 million travelers were screened through TSA checkpoints in the United States. On April 12th of 2020, a mere 90,000 passengers were screened. That’s about a 97 percent reduction in passenger volume.

Fast forward a few months, and while the numbers have improved, TSA checkpoints are still recording volumes only about 20 to 25 percent of what they were a year earlier. The road to recovery is long and winding.

Looking ahead, it is clear that the travel experience will be much different and there will be obvious changes in every aspect of travel—from the moment you arrive at the airport until you return home.

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The Airport Experience

Arriving at the airport and getting onto an airplane has already changed in order to protect passengers. While there is yet to be a universal set of rules and changes, you will begin to see a shift to touchless technology at the airport in the near future. Already, some airports are using thermal cameras to check your temperature as soon as you enter the airport. Expect digital technology to eventually make your entire trip through the airport one where you will not have to interact with other people.

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If you are traveling during the pandemic, you should be prepared to wear a mask at all times while at the airport, keep an acceptable social distance from others, carry hand sanitizer, bring your own snacks for the flight, and pack as light as possible. All of these fairly simple things will help to reduce your risk.

If you do have to come in contact with airport personnel, immediately wash your hands and sanitize them. Also, even though there may be fewer people in the airport, you can expect all of the added safety measures to add time to the process, so plan accordingly.

Industry in Turmoil

The airline industry has been turned upside down with this pandemic, and the impact has left a path of destruction in its wake. Airline manufacturers are dealing with cancelled orders and deferred deliveries, which has already caused tens of thousands of layoffs. The airlines themselves have cut back on schedules, parked airplanes, and are trying to survive the financial nightmare of seeing business drop by 95 percent. Even the planes that are flying are in some cases virtually empty, and although passenger traffic is slowly coming back, it could be years before it returns to pre-pandemic levels.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Boeing 787 Dreamliner | Source

Staying Safe on the Plane

As of right now, many airlines are trying to keep passengers apart by keeping the middle seat empty and blocking off certain seats. You should expect to wear a mask on the airplane (mandatory on some airlines) and as many airlines are cutting food and beverage service, you should come prepared with your own snacks. You may also want to consider wearing eye goggles, as virus droplets entering the eyes can also cause infection. Thoroughly wiping down your armrest, tray table, and seat buckle with disinfectant wipes is also a good idea.

Another potential change and one that will scare a lot of travelers is that airlines may even resort to restricting access to the lavatories. Yikes! Personally, on long flights, this does not seem feasible, but perhaps on those short regional flights they could get away with this. While this seems rather extreme, if you’re uncomfortable just getting on the plane with strangers, how do you feel about using the airplane lavatory?

No matter how you slice it, the on-plane experience has changed and will continue to evolve to protect passengers as much as possible. But, to remain financially viable, airlines cannot fly with empty rows of seats forever. You will have to accept the fact that at some point you will be sitting next to strangers.

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Baggage Claim Area

This is definitely an area of the airport I would try to avoid. All those passengers huddled together touching bags they think are theirs just creeps me out. We don’t usually check bags when we fly, as we always travel light, so you may want to consider going with just carry-on luggage for the foreseeable future. It will be very difficult for airports to get people to keep a socially safe distance when they are clustered around the conveyor belts waiting for their luggage.

Future Changes

Here are a few of the solutions currently being developed and implemented to make airports and airplanes safer. Some of these we’ll see soon, while others will take years to develop and apply.

  • HEPA filter retrofit kits that will filter 99.97% of airborne particles.
  • Hands-free airplane lavatories.
  • Self-sanitizing lavatories.
  • New airplane seating designs that will create more personal space.
  • Use of Ultraviolet lights in the cabin that will destroy viruses.
  • Boarding the plane using both the front and rear doors.
  • Touchless overhead bins that can be opened with hand gestures or eye movements.
  • Voice-activated kiosks in the airport terminal.
  • A high-tech screening arch that passengers will walk under that will scan a passenger’s health as well as for prohibited items.
  • Touchless on-board entertainment systems.
  • Robots that travel the aircraft aisles for food and beverage service.
  • Airport terminal robots with ultraviolet light sterilizers.

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Hotels

No aspect of the travel world has been untouched by this pandemic, and hotels are racing to reduce the risk associated with staying in a hotel. We recently had to drive from Massachusetts to Florida and did so without stopping at a hotel or restaurants. The risk was just too great at the time.

I can definitely see the hotel experience also going the touchless route as far as the check-in process. Other amenities that we have all become used to may soon be a thing of the past. Conveniences like the breakfast buffet, the gym, pool, even the cleaning of rooms while you are there will most certainly change. Other items like the television remote, mini-fridge, phone, pens, menus, etc. all introduce risk if they haven’t been cleaned properly or simply removed from the room. Even with things like the sheets and bedding, you have to ask yourself if have they have indeed been properly cleaned prior to your use? There are lots of unknowns here that the hotel industry will have to address to make visitors comfortable again.

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Anyone Interested in a Cruise?

You may recall that the cruise industry was very much in the news in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and not in a good way. With thousands of passengers stranded on ships with no means of getting off, it was the perfect environment for the virus to spread quickly.

The cruise industry has been all but shut down during the pandemic and will be forced to make drastic changes before you will be able to hit the high seas again. Those open buffets may well be history, and changes will have to be made in how to safely feed thousands of passengers in a closed environment. Between the pools, casinos, gyms, and nightly entertainment where people gather in crowds, the cruise industry has its work cut out for it to come up with a process to keep passengers safe while not diminishing the cruise experience.

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It’s clear that technology is going to lead the way to help make travel a more seamless, efficient, and safe endeavor. The term "digital traveler" has become the industry’s new buzz phrase, and many organizations are moving quickly to adapt and create new technologies to improve the entire travel process.

While the industry is moving rapidly to ensure a new level of safety and comfort, there is nothing like being prepared and taking the necessary personal safeguards to keep yourself and your family safe.

Happy and safe travels!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Bill De Giulio

How do you feel about traveling during a pandemic?

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    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      2 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you, Anthony. Yes, right now it's all about staying safe. We have also resorted to just self drive options for the time being. It will be interesting to see how the travel industry responds and how quickly they incorporate changes. Have a great day.

    • Anthony Constantinou profile image

      Anthony Constantinou CEO CWM FX 

      2 weeks ago from London

      Great article. I think many of us will use self drive options to go anywhere, though it take time, but will be safe and secure. COVID-19 pandemic changes the future of travel completely.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      2 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you. Let's hope things return to normal soon with a higher level of safety for the airline industry.

    • profile image

      bhattuc 

      2 weeks ago

      Nice points. Well presented.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      3 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you for the comment, will check it out.

    • Swarnika Jain profile image

      Swarnika Jain 

      3 weeks ago from India

      great article to understand , good points on safety measures while travelling. For more information of safety measures while travelling visit-https://swarnikajain.wordpress.com/2020/07/18/coro...

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      6 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Adrienne. We are in the same boat having canceled a couple of trips already. We are hoping things improve later in the year and into 2021. Until then we may take a few road-trips, but nothing that will involve getting on an airplane. Stay safe and have a great day.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      6 weeks ago

      Hubby and I had a lot of plans for traveling this summer, but apparently they are not going to happen. Too many risks, and although airline and cruise companies seem like they are taking many measures to keep travelers protected, all these restrictions take away all of the fun, so we're willing to wait in hopes of better times.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      6 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you, Viet. We will travel again also, when the time is right. I do think that technology will help make the experience safer for everyone. There really is no downside to traveling light. Thanks for stopping by to comment, have a great day.

    • punacoast profile image

      Viet Doan 

      6 weeks ago from Big Island, Hawaii

      As a hopeless optimist, I believe we will travel again. We will adapt and carry on. I will definitely travel again. My curiosity about this amazing world will win over my fear. Like that sugary Titanic song, my heart - and my suitcase - will go on! For now, I'm content with gawking at YouTube videos of places I dream to visit. (I'm obsessed with Malta lately!). Speaking about suitcase, Bill, you brought up a good point to ponder: baggage claim area. One more reason to travel light!

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      6 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you, Liz. It’s kind of a mess here with every state doing their own thing. In some states things are improving but in many others the number of cases is still rising. While flights have been cut back here they are slowly resuming, although I read recently that Europe may ban visitors from the US and other hard hit countries. Thanks for the comments, have a great day.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      6 weeks ago from UK

      This is an excellent article. You have done a great summary of the issues facing the travel industry and the changes imposed on it. In the UK, pilots are being made redundant. Dates for resuming flights have been put back several times by some air companies.

      Our last trip was to Malta at the beginning of March. There was temperature scanning in place on arrival there, but no checks when returning to the UK. Hotels in the UK are due to reopen on 4th July. I am wary of future hotel stays.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Mona. How unfortunate for your friend. I think the prudent thing to do right now is to stay home. Even here in the US some states require you to quarantine for a period if you visit from hard hit areas. Unfortunately it’s going to be awhile before things improve. Stay well and have a great weekend.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      7 weeks ago from Philippines

      Very interesting article. Here in the Philippines, a friend was tested along with many others. They were then taken directly to a hotel where they had to wait until test results. They paid for their stay in the hotel which cost a lot since they were there for five days. They also paid for dinner, which could only come from the hotel's expensive restaurant because they couldn't go out. Breakfast and lunch were free. I'm a senior citizen and I worry about hospital bills if I get COVID. It can run up to millions, and you still die.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Flourish. We have had to cancel a couple of trips for this year, which is unfortunate, but we really are not looking forward to getting on an airplane right now. I think "staycation" will be the new buzz word for this summer. What a terrible thing to happen to your brother. He is very lucky to have recovered and made it back home.

      Have a great day and stay safe.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      7 weeks ago from USA

      As much as I love to travel the thought does not appeal to me right now at all. At least at home I have more perceived control. My brother used to travel to China on business and during one trip they had a terrible outbreak of the bird flu. Even then (in mid-2000s) they had temperature reading devices. (We are behind.) He became extremely ill, had some strange experiences in a Chinese hospital, and would not have made it back home if it weren’t for an emergency medical kit that his company had given him that contained strong antibiotics.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Heidi. Yeah, this just isn't going away anytime soon and I'm afraid the effects will linger on for quite awhile. We also are in no hurry to get on an airplane at the moment. I am hoping that perhaps in 2021 it will be possible?

      It would seem that the states that did the proper thing are seeing an improvement while those that did not are suffering huge increases in cases. Here in Massachusetts things have improved, but we certainly can't let our guard down now. Thanks for sharing the article. Have a great day and stay safe.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      7 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      The travel industry has been turned upside down for sure! Being in Chicago where Boeing and United have HQ here, plus with O'Hare being a major air travel hub, the pandemic is having a huge impact locally. Also, almost all conventions at McCormick Place were cancelled through the end of the year. That really hurts the hotels and restaurants.

      Illinois and Chicago have had some more serious lockdown than other areas and we're just now reopening. It was worth it as far as I'm concerned, especially when compared to what's going on in other states who didn't.

      I really don't know how anxious I am to get on an airplane right now. I'm not alone obviously.

      And I can't even imagine how sites like Disney World will cope. I know they're reopening in July. But, sheesh, imagine the nightmare that will be.

      Anyway, I hope you can get back to traveling again soon! In the meantime, we're enjoying your past photos on Instagram and HP. Sharing this post!

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Linda. The more I researched this the more I learned about the extent of changes that will be coming. It's going to revolutionize the way people travel in the future. Hopefully something good comes from this in the way of safer more efficient means of traveling. Have a great day.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Peggy. We are also grateful that we have been able to travel the last few years. This pandemic has affected so many people in many industries but certainly travel has been especially hard hit. Let's hope that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Mary. We will all need to find our comfort level before we begin to travel again. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. I would hope that by 2021 there will be a vaccine, which will make many people feel a little better about traveling.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      7 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very informative article, Bill. You've shared some facts that I didn't know. The situation is certainly depressing at the moment. I hope the future is better than predicted.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      I am grateful for the traveling that we got to do in the past because I think it is going to be quite some time before we will be entirely safe in doing so again. I do feel sorry for all the people who derive their income from working in the travel industry.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Liza. Yes, right now the uncertainty is keeping most people from flying. I would guess that for us it will be sometime next year before we feel comfortable flying although lots of factors will help us decide. A vaccine would definitely help us feel better about flying. Thanks for the comments and have a great day.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      7 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      I am happy that it is summertime in Canada when travel outside the country is not in my schedule. However, the family will still travel here observing the necessary precautions, but I have no plans as yet to go anywhere. The time will come when I will find it comfortable to go on a plane again.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you, Pam. A vaccine will go a long way toward people having some level of comfort with traveling. I do think some of the proposed changes such as a touch-less process at the airport will really help. But, once you get on an airplane there is only so much room and nowhere to hide. It will be interesting to see how the airlines handle this to get people flying again. Have a great day.

    • lizmalay profile image

      Liza 

      7 weeks ago from USA

      My husband and I have canceled our flights and hotels due to the pandemic. It was like an uncertain thing to do for us to fly right now. The bottom line is we all care about our safety and our loved ones. I do hope that things can get back to normal or at least something reassurance like a vaccine so we can feel safe and enjoy traveling again.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      This is an excellent article about the changes now and ahead for travel. We do need a vaccine for Covid-19. That would solve some problems but I think some of the changes are here to stay. People will lose jobs as technology advances and robots do some of the work.

      Your list of changes was interesting as I didn't know about some of those changes but as my husband and I are at a higher risk so we are still keeping a low profile. I hope you will be able to travel in the near future.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you, Stella. I agree the risk is just too great right now to be traveling. I do hope for a vaccine by the end of the year so that we can consider traveling in 2021. For the time being it’s look at pictures, watch videos, and hope for the best. Have a great day.

    • Stella Kaye profile image

      Stella Kaye 

      7 weeks ago from UK

      Great informative article.

      Personally, I'm quite content to watch YouTube videos of some foreign shores from the safety of my armchair at the moment.

      I don't think travelling is worth the risk or the effort and have deferred my holiday until the same dates next year. I couldn't bear wearing a mask throughout the duration of a flight and would rather stay at home.

      Hopefully this time next year things will have improved and we will know a bit more about the virus but at the moment a stay at home policy is best for everyone's health. It won't help the economy or the travel industry but it will help in the battle against the virus.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Hi John. Yeah, the cruise industry will take years to recover from this, if ever. I think a lot of people already had reservations about being on a ship with thousands of passengers before the pandemic, and this certainly isn't going to help. I think we are with you, we may never go on another cruise.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. With a huge aerospace presence in the Seattle area this really has had a devastating impact on the local economy there. Boeing was already reeling from the 737 issues and now this. As for the cruise industry, good luck drawing travelers back onto cruise ships. I think the cruise industry takes much longer to recover than most of the other travel related segments.

      Have a great week, Bill

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you, Lorna. There really is no way to put a positive spin on any of this. It's just awful. We also have great concerns about flying right now and are hoping that things improve by the end of the year, which is very questionable. How unfortunate for your nephew, hopefully it works out for him.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      7 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      This was a very informative article, Bill. The travel and tourist industry has probably been hit harder than any other. My wife and I went on our first cruise just over a year ago and enjoyed it so much we were planning on going on a cruise every second year.

      Well, I am glad we went on one when we did because since this virus’ impact we may now never go on another. Thank you for sharing.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, I don't travel, but for sure this has had a huge impact on Seattle. The cancelling of cruise ships alone costs the city something like two million each summer day. Then let's talk about Boeing....it will be awhile before the Seattle economy recovers from this. Glad I'm not mayor.

      Have a great week, my friend.

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      7 weeks ago

      Overall I think this is a very realistic look at the future of travel Bill. I am concerned about wearing a mask on the plane which might be fine for short flights, however, definitely not long haul flights. I also have concerns about the air in the cabin. If someone coughed or sneezed, it is a great way of passing the germs around.

      It does sadden me, as I love to travel and it has always been an important part of my life. I also feel for those people who will now lose their jobs. My nephew had just started his training as a pilot, after giving up his job as an air traffic controller. Unfortunately they cannot guarantee a placement if and when he completes.

      Our lives in general will change completely, particularly when it comes to travel. I do believe that in time we will adjust. Great article Bill.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      It is very disheartening at the moment, Lisha. We have had to cancel a couple of trips already and have no plans at the moment to go anywhere. Hopefully by the end of the year things have improved. Have a great day.

    • Lisha C profile image

      Lisha C 

      7 weeks ago

      This article gives a good look into the future of traveling in this pandemic situation. I too love to travel and it is quite disheartening to see this future; I don't think I would be planning a trip any time soon.

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