01 Jun How Group Travel Will Change After the Covid-19 Pandemic
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, travel and group transit has come to all but a complete standstill. Confined to our homes and limited excursions for essential activities like grocery shopping or commuting to jobs in essential industries, our daily routines have settled into a strange new normal.
We are more health- and sanitation-conscious now than ever before. Even as restaurants and other retailers slowly open back up, we have become accustomed to and even learned to prefer the conveniences of pickup and delivery. And even when COVID-19 becomes a thing of the distant past, such a major worldwide event is likely to leave a permanent mark on the American lifestyle — including travel.
After 9/11, security at airports in the U.S. and around the world was tightened significantly. In the wake of another event that has dramatically affected the travel industry, we can expect to see more significant changes, but this time in the area of health screening and sanitation.
In the effort to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the travel industry was one of the most severely affected. Seemingly overnight, flights, cruises, and even road trips were shut down. Thousands of airplanes are grounded, and several airlines have gone bankrupt.
Due to their strong association with the spread of the pandemic, the masses have lost their trust in airlines, and especially airplane sanitation. We are likely to see a resurgence of individual travel methods such as road tripping and trains before people once again become comfortable with the idea of group travel such as charter buses, airplanes, and cruises.
Routine international travel is likely to be in the distant future. Local and within-country travel is likely to experience a surge in popularity as people feel safer traveling in groups of close friends and family members. Road tripping in personal vehicles will come first, but airlines may also find themselves competing with group charter buses and trains as they become more popular in a post-pandemic world.
Aside from travel preferences, people from countries that experienced particularly high numbers of cases may also expect to encounter difficulty with travel bans. We are already experiencing international travel restrictions that were put into place to confine the virus, but passports from certain countries may experience a certain level of discrimination while trying to buy a ticket.
More Personal Space
People generally dislike the idea of being squished in a steel can for several hours with dozens of other people, and doing so for several hours with questionable hygiene is likely to make this even more undesirable. We have adapted to the idea of having at least a 6’ radius of personal bubble around us at all times, and we are likely to insist upon it (or something similar) moving forward. Modes of group travel will need to find a way to accommodate this.
Some airlines and charter bus lines are blocking off middle seats and putting passengers in every other row. This works for now while demand is low, but once demand for airborne travel picks up again, transparent barriers seem to be the most likely solution for hygienic economy seating.
Group transit may see a general increase in pricing as companies seek to compensate for reducing the number of passengers they are able to accommodate per trip.
Higher Health Consciousness
Even when the pandemic ebbs, both travel providers and travelers are likely to be held to higher standards of hygiene.
Pressure from customers and potentially new laws would require travel providers to provide more and better sanitation of frequently-touched surfaces such as seats, trays, and bathrooms. Ventilation systems in charter buses, trains, and airplanes will be expected to use HEPA filters and possibly also use ultraviolet light for disinfecting. Travel hubs such as airports and train stations may make the use of no-contact temperature scanners and finger prick-based rapid disease testing.
Travels are likely to be required to wear masks on flights. We may also see a shift in traveler behavior, where wiping down one’s seating area with antiseptic wipes used to be unpopular and even laughable, may now become a cultural norm.
Group transit costs may also increase due to the extra effort that companies will need to make.
It could take years for the travel industry to get back to anything resembling normal. And when it does, it is not going to be the same as how it was pre-pandemic. Much will have changed, but the good news is that it will have changed for the better. We will be more conscious of preserving our health as individuals, as well as preserving the health of others. Personal hygiene practices that used to be looked at as obsessive or paranoid may become commonplace and expected.
As we look towards the future, the key to restoring the travel industry will be restoring consumer confidence in modes of long-distance group travel.