Over the past several months, the travel industry has definitely experienced unprecedented changes -globally. In short order, the travel providers have changed the way they operate. Airlines have temporarily discontinued a number of flights or closed their doors completely; some hotels and resorts operate with a skeleton crew due to fewer guests; and, most cruise lines have cancelled sailings through the end of this year.
Recall how drastically travel changed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and how the “new normal” eventually became normal? Once again, we can expect our “new normal” to become normal in the airline, cruise line and hotel industries -this time due to the coronavirus pandemic. Besides the use of touchless technology and an increase in the frequency of rigorous cleaning, here are a few more norms we can expect when the world fully re-opens:
Airlines: We may see flight attendants continue wearing masks and gloves and limiting or changing how onboard service is provided. Once airlines get the proverbial all-clear, they may still encourage social distancing by limiting the number of people down the jet bridge at any given time and limiting the number of people in premium cabins. Airlines may continue to make it easier for travelers to change their flights to alleviate the pressure of traveling if you aren’t feeling well. Lastly, industry leaders expect a system that could scan a traveler’s face, direct him to a TSA lane and use biometrics to let him buy anything in the airport without taking out his wallet.
Hospitality: We have seen reduced room rates across the U.S. Hoteliers expect those rates to remain relatively cheap for some time after the world re-opens to stimulate travel. So, be on the lookout for deals for several months, if not years, to come. Hotel and resort guests should expect to see transparent shields, abundant hand sanitizer stations, social distancing reminders posted throughout common areas, and reconfigured lobbies to create more space. Procedures may be put in place to minimize guest contact with staff, including front desk personnel. It may become standard for guests to check in online, use their phones as room keys and use a contactless payment process. Housekeepers may enter rooms during a stay only if they are asked to do so by guests. Workout equipment may be made available in guest rooms or guests may be required to reserve gym time to limit capacity. Resorts may continue with buffet servers, while hotels may eliminate “help-yourself” continental breakfasts.
Cruise Lines: The hygienic standards aboard cruise ships will become even more rigorous. They may expand their onboard medical capabilities and facilities. And, mandatory, touchless temperature checks will probably become the norm. The customary dish-it-yourself buffet is expected to be replaced with buffet servers. Cruise ships are expected to sail at reduced capacity for the next several years and stagger embarkation times with even further staggered de-embarkation times.
Travel Planning: In the early days of the pandemic, travelers muddled through the process of cancelling or postponing their trips and getting refunds. The process was just short of a nightmare for some travelers who did not book their trip through a travel agent. In a post-coronavirus pandemic world, people will value travel agents for their connections and guidance that go beyond destination and product expertise. Having a “real-life” person who has your back during the unexpected underscores the significance of human connection.
Lastly, and more importantly, we can expect to cherish the time we spend with our family and friends. We will take long walks together more. We will check on family and friends more. We will travel more. We will Celebrate Life more.