When I thought I would jump head-first into launching a small group travel company, I had no idea that my new venture – and the world – would grind to a halt. Let me start with the good news: we are a resilient species and we’ll get past this devastating COVID-19 pandemic.
Safety worries will be top of mind, compounded by a deep recession that is putting millions out of work and deeper into debt. We have to pay our landlord and credit card bills before we can think about going to Disney World. But once lockdowns end, airlines and hotels will offer smoking-hot deals to entice the cautious to set aside their fears and fly again. In some cases, you’ll have to pinch yourself and say why am I not doing this! Here’s how travel will change for those who are able to afford it: You’ll pay less. Your ticket will be more flexible. And your vacation will be cleaner and safer.
Right now, U.S. airports are ghostly quiet, hosting barely 5% of the number of travelers as this time last year. Analysts think it could take 2-5 years before passenger numbers return to normal levels. As a result, the price battles will start as soon as traveling is allowed again. Travelers have already seen deep discounts of up to 80% off hotel rates and up to 40% off airfares. But as the shelter-in-place orders are lifted, prices could go even lower as travel companies compete aggressively for your travel dollar.
In addition to sales, you’ll see flexibility. The coronavirus crisis has forced operators to bend a lot of their rules. Airlines, hotels, cruises and tour operators will offer additional flexibility – either in terms of refunds or ability to apply credits to a future stay – because the chance of a return of COVID-19 would make it difficult to sell a more restrictive ticket or hotel room.
And finally… if you’re a germaphobe, there will never be a better time to travel. Everything will be shrink-wrapped and disinfected. Airlines have changed some of their boarding procedures to keep passengers safe (Delta Air Lines is boarding just 10 passengers at a time) and several airlines are keeping middle seats empty to maintain social distancing (while demand is low). Inflight service will be limited and you may simply be handed pre-packaged food upon boarding. Expect planes and hotel rooms to be cleaned more rigorously than before. And expect health screening at some airports – and potentially longer lines. Countries will exit the crisis at different moments and the only thing they can do to avoid the virus entering the country again will be closing some national borders. So staying in your home country may be a safe bet until a vaccine is available.
Coronavirus will definitely change your next vacation. Most importantly, you’ll pay less and have more flexibility than ever. And one final thought: cities that used to be packed with visitors will be more like themselves again. Small Italian villages and Icelandic waterfalls will no longer be overrun with peak tourists for the near future. Their residents, rather than resenting our presence, will be happy to see us. Maybe that’s a change for the better.
When safe travel resumes, I’ll start with some local and regional adventures. Michigan and the Midwest have so much to offer for explorers, photographers, foodies and fun-seekers. Interested? Click any tour on my Destinations page and click “NOTIFY ME!”