It’s little surprise that the travel sector has taken a battering. Whilst Boris has loosened the rules slightly, allowing us to meet up with one person outside our household and exercise more freely, travel looks like one of the last hurdles we’ll overcome in our fight against the virus.
I miss Nando’s and I miss my mates but what I really miss most about pre-Coronavirus life is travelling. The current pandemic has forced millions of people to cancel trips abroad, destination weddings, hen dos and birthday jaunts, leaving people with a heavy heart and empty pockets.
And it’s not just the everyday traveller who has suffered; the travel industry employs a staggering 330m and is a sector that directly redistributes wealth like no other but without any tourists, it’s been the hardest hit. Experts predict the travel industry could shrink by at least 50% as a direct result of Coronavirus.
Even when we do start to travel around the world again, it’ll be a starkly different picture. Flying will be more expensive and less comfortable thanks to reduced timetables, social-distancing measures and even pre-boarding blood tests. And when we get to our destinations, popular tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower and Great Wall of China could be barren, with tourists too scared of the mass gatherings. Will people risk it and embrace a new age of travel or play it safe with a UK break? And what exactly could our holidays look like in the future? We’ve called on Nicky Kelvin, Head of Content at The Points Guy UK, to debunk what a post-Coronavirus trip abroad could look like.
Flying as we know it is no more – and it looks like the airline industry will take years to recuperate. Indeed, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the largest global airline organisation, predicts traffic numbers won’t return to pre-Coronavirus pandemic levels until around 2023, according to its latest forecast. “Domestic flyers in markets like China and the U.S. will return first in about two years and international flyers a year or two later by 2024,” said Nicky.
“Airlines are looking to resume flying in the not-too-distant future. Some have even laid out their plans for a return to service. And as such, many have chosen to implement rules that require passengers to wear personal protective equipment to slow – or stop – the spread of the Coronavirus.
“As of 14 May, some European airlines have taken to requiring passengers to wear face masks that cover the nose and mouth. In some cases, airlines are even saying that they will deny boarding to passengers who aren’t wearing a face mask.”
Passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport are having their temperatures screened via cameras monitor and Emirates has introduced complimentary hygiene kits to be given to every passenger upon check in at Dubai International Airport and on flights to Dubai. These kits comprise of masks, gloves, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser. The hygiene kits supplement a slew of additional measures already introduced to keep customers safe and there are talks that they’ll take blood tests before passengers board to ensure they’re fit and well. Airports are reporting that it could take passengers as long as four hours to board a flight with the new measures in place. Eek.
Ryanair confirmed on Tuesday that it will be reinstating 40% of its planned flying schedule as of 1 July. The airline has detailed a number of enhanced safety measures for when flights resume, including the restriction of toilet access onboard to avoid queueing and encourage physical distancing. Ultimately, Ryanair is telling passengers that they’ll have to request to use the lavatory.
“A hotel’s defence against the spread of germs will begin before a guest even enters a hotel,” explains Nicky. He believes that at mid-range or lower-end hotels, this could mean automatic sliding doors – which many already have – and bellhops wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) at higher-end properties to open and close doors for guests. Much like boarding a plane, hotels may require guests and visitors to be screened for temperature checks as they enter the hotel.
Front-desk agents might be equipped with face masks and gloves to complete check-in and checkout procedures as well as handle guest requests, signalling immediately the hotel is taking the safety of its employees and its guests seriously, he suggested.
“It’s possible we’ll see at least a pause in guests handing over their credit card and ID, and payments may be limited to the card listed on the original reservation made online so cards don’t need to be exchanged and handled by multiple people,” he said.
Hotels will likely set up touch-free hand sanitiser stations in lobbies and throughout their properties, and we could see disinfectant wipes located outside elevators so guests can wipe down the buttons. “Perhaps we’ll even see a return to a bygone era where luxury properties would staff an elevator with an attendant – wearing a mask and gloves, of course,” he added.
“We’ll likely see hotels roll out contactless initiatives, such as mobile check-in and digital keys. Check-in and door-key apps have been implemented in a somewhat piecemeal fashion over the past several years, but the pace will need to accelerate quickly so guests can more easily open doors in public spaces and complete check-in and checkout procedures digitally,” said Nicky.
Guests will not only need a clean room to sleep in, but they’ll also need to trust that it is indeed clean. “There are discussions moving in rapid fashion around whether daily housekeeping as we knew it pre-COVID will be very different when we come back. Examples of major potential changes include adding new technologies, such as germ-detecting ultraviolet lighting in rooms, as well as contact tracing”, said Scott Berman, principal and industry leader of the Hospitality Leisure Group at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Miami.
At least one hotel has already leaned heavily on new technologies. The Westin Houston Medical Center has become the first hotel in the nation with germ-killing robots that use UV light to disinfect areas throughout the hotel.
“Of course, the use of ozone generators to remove odours from rooms – and kill microorganisms – has also been standard practice for years at many hotels and could be one more point on a new-and-improved clean-room checklist,” said Nicky.
Changes to other public spaces
Hotel pools, gyms and spas are other heavily trafficked areas where we’ll likely notice changes. “In the gym, you may be worried about using equipment,” said Nicky. “That’s why we wouldn’t be surprised to see mask-wearing attendants in the fitness centre to ensure equipment is wiped down and disinfected between uses. And we’ll likely see a reduction or elimination of amenities like headphones and fruit.”