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As governments across Africa discuss lifting movement and travel restrictions imposed at the start of the pandemic, Condé Nast Travel has some interesting observations about how your vacation could be impacted by new operating guidelines. If you’re thinking of going further than your front door for the holidays, read on.
By Condé Nast Traveller Editors
The pandemic has altered our lives for months, and the big question facing the travel industry now, as it ramps up again, is how travel will change. After all, we saw how 9/11 permanently altered the airline industry, and how the aftermath of the 2008 recession changed mindsets and led consumers to spend conservatively for years after.
While it’s impossible to predict how the economy will fare once the pandemic subsides, some of the changes that will stick around will likely be for the better. Everything will be cleaner. Seriously—everything, even the New York City subway. Travellers will have more power than ever, especially in booking flexibility. And while some changes may be less welcome, like rising ticket costs once airline demand returns or reservations being required, well, everywhere, travellers have never rallied behind their favourite places, from restaurants to hotels to destinations, like they are right now.
Below, our editors weigh in on the road ahead—and how travel will change, at least in the near future.
Airports will have more security and screening
The coronavirus pandemic is set to bring seismic shifts to airports across the world. Similar to changes made after 9/11, passengers can expect more security and new types of screening. Experts believe only travellers and airline crew will be allowed in airport terminals, where touch-less check-in, health tests like temperature checks and even possible lung CT scans, will await passengers. Airport designers are also examining ways to add more isolation rooms to pull symptomatic travellers out of the flow of foot traffic. Upon arrival, passengers might have to present an immunity passport or proof of vaccination, once there is one.
On planes themselves, expect middle seats to be blocked out until demand for air travel rises again. And masks will become much more commonplace on planes. Even the way we book airplane tickets could become more complicated, as health officials look for new ways to do contract tracing to prevent future outbreaks. —Jessica Puckett, Transportation Editor
Hotels and home rentals will prioritise cleaning—but keep up the personal touches
To make travellers comfortable inside their lobbies, restaurants, and rooms, hotels are taking extra precautions when it comes to guest health and safety. Many hotels are introducing paperless digital check-in to limit guest and staff in-person interaction. Housekeeping has gone next-level, with Marriott introducing sanitising sprayers to fog rooms after checkout, and some hotels offering door hangers with amenity refills, cutting down on how often hotel staff will need to enter your room, if at all. Home shares are cleaning more thoroughly, with Airbnb offering a 72-hour buffer period between guests on some listings, and launching a cleaning certification process so guests can feel more comfortable selecting where they stay.
But while removing lobby furniture to promote social distancing and trading fresh scents for heavy disinfectants feels somewhat impersonal, hotels and home shares are looking for ways to connect with their guests as well. Hotels like Palazzo Daniele in Puglia are organising private breakfasts, set out poolside or in their gardens. Individual Airbnb hosts who usually go above and beyond are moving their usual in-person neighbourhood tours online, and pre-stocking fridges with local goods and snacks. It’s all an effort to make the now more stressful act of travel end at a true retreat—even if it does smell like cleaning supplies. —Meredith Carey, Associate Editor
We’ll redefine local travel
Local travel is set to boom over the next year, but the definition of what that means will shift as well. Tourism boards, like those in Greece, Cyprus, and Israel, for example, are banding together to create travel bubbles through which their citizens can move, even as borders remain closed. In the States, cities like Philadelphia are discussing partnerships with neighbours like New York and Washington, D.C., in the hopes that they can cross-promote their destinations to a shared audience as travellers inch back out there. Even hotels who would otherwise compete with one another are encouraging travellers to journey between them: Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica and the Farmhouse Inn in Sonoma, for example, have partnered on multi-night packages targeted at inter-California travel.
The way we experience sights closer to home will evolve as well—what we once thought of as quicker, no-fuss domestic trips will now get the attention once reserved for bigger jaunts. Travel specialists are catering to this, by creating domestic itineraries on a larger—and more luxurious—scale: Abercrombie & Kent, for example, is designing national park visits and road trips that rival their African safari offerings. Some destinations say their constituents remain wary of outside visitors, but broadening the definition of “local travel” will create a more comfortable middle ground in the meantime. —Megan Spurrell, Associate Editor
We’ll be spreading out across bike lanes, buses, and public transportation
During the pandemic, miles and miles of biking and walking lanes have opened everywhere from Bogota to Berlin, to offer more space for people to recreate outside. But as cities reopen, there’s talk of keeping them; the addition of safe, protected bike lanes also offers residents and visitors an alternative to crowded public transit. (It also means we won’t each be in our own individual car, roaring into traffic even worse than before.)
As for public transportation, where social distancing is often impossible, different tactics are being implemented to keep people safe and separated. Some cities have introduced overnight deep cleans, UV light pulses, and sanitiser dispensers. Travellers and commuters may have to reserve seats on public transport to keep ridership low yet consistent, and markers on platforms and trains that encourage social distancing can be expected. There’s no universal decision on what mass transit will look like, but one thing’s for sure: masks are here to stay. —M.C.
Restaurants and bars will operate with distance, for now
The hospitality space is grappling with how to make guests feel welcome and cared for—at a distance. Napa wineries, expected to open in July, plan to minimise touch points and reduce employee and guest interactions. Expect pre-poured wine, wiped-down bottles, and no drop-in visit from the owner. Tasting menu restaurants, similarly, are planning shorter menus—though the cost per experience is expected to rise, to make up for reduced capacities, which be required at nearly every business throughout the country upon reopening. Some bars and nightclubs say they won’t open their doors during the social distancing era, calling it counterintuitive to their raison d’être. While we might see more outdoor experiences in the future—the to-go cocktail has certainly taken off—we won’t be getting cozy with strangers in an enclosed space any time soon. Despite the many question marks in the near term—how do you even cover your face while eating?—chefs, bartenders, and small business owners say that most of the current innovations, from partitions between diners to strict reservation systems, will likely fall away as soon as there’s a vaccine. Until then, it’s about getting creative enough to keep the lights on. —M.S.
Car rental pickups will get a lot more seamless
Rental cars were already getting a deep clean before the pandemic, but the process has been taken up a notch. Many car rental companies have rolled out intensive checklists of what’s being sanitised, from the steering wheel and the key fob to the gas caps. Pickup processes are changing too, with paperless rental agreements and expedited checkouts: As you exit the lot with your rental car, you’ll show the guard your ID through the window, or even use Clear for a facial scan, instead of passing over your documents. And with plane travel slower to pick back up, we can all expect to be relying on these cars more as we slowly get back out there. —M.C