If you’d told me in the year 2020 we would cease all international and domestic travel, I would probably have quit my job and travelled long term a lot sooner. But it’s not all doom and gloom. While I’ve been wax lyrical about sustainable travel for the last year, it appears there are already some positive outcomes predicted for the future of travel in the not too distant future. From increased domestic travel to reductions in carbon emissions, even a rise in more sanitary modes of transport, there are many travel related things to get excited about, post COVID-19.
the rise of domestic travel
While people may be a little cautious to get on a plane or cruise (oh dear) in the near future, it’s likely they will be less worried about travelling nationally. We should see an increase in travellers visiting areas they’d previously been putting off, due to the lure of cheap international air travel.
After a devastating year in Australia with heartbreaking bushfires backed with flooding and drought, more Australians will be open to supporting rural areas. Dreamers of the van life will enjoy cruising quiet country roads, Sydney siders might find somewhere new to visit other than Byron Bay and perhaps boomers will prefer to cruise the coasts around Australia rather than beyond it.
increased flexibility on cancellation policies
To their credit, most airlines and hotels have recently updated their cancellation policies to be more flexible over the last few weeks, including Airbnb and Expedia. (Shout out to Spirit Airlines who refunded my flight from JFK to Panama City!) In saying that, there are just as many companies who have stood firm on their t’s and c’s and have merely offered their customers credit (at best).
After things have settled down, we should see an increase in flexible cancellation policies across the industry. Whereby refunds are offered with the click of a button. Sure, it may result in a slightly higher price point overall, but for the peace of mind, that is truly priceless.
easier changes to air tickets – could this be the end of travel agents?
If there’s something we can be sure of during these past few weeks, it’s that airline call centres and travel agents have been inundated with consumers calling to change their travel dates. Not only is it time consuming and frustrating for customers, it’s also expensive for airlines and agents alike. Which begs the question: Why are we still required to make a phone call to manage our travel in 2020?
Similarly, you’d be blind not to notice that travel agents add (sometimes hefty) commissions to all their flight bookings. With access to easier flight management systems online, surely it will mean that consumers can finally feel more confident to cut out the middleman and manage their own travel plans. Not that I want travel agents out of a job (hells, I used to be one!), but I do believe this is an industry in much need of a shake up.
It is estimated by the International Air Transport Association, that only 30 (out of approx 700) airlines will survive the next few months without government support. We can only hope that any bailout money offered is used towards improving their own technology and customer service efficiency.
reduced carbon emissions and low-carbon transport strategies
Globally, we’re already observing an unprecedented reduction in carbon emissions as both air and ground travel have come to a grinding halt. If we focus on air travel and assume that only the strong will survive without government intervention, airlines could be faced with more direct involvement from a federal level. By nationalising airlines, governments have the opportunity to create a wider low-carbon transport strategy, starting with reduced air travel all together.
It doesn’t seem like a particularly economical route to take, but does provide an opportunity to reconsider the environmental impact of air travel in general. Maybe it’s time to reconsider what ‘essential’ travel really means when restrictions begin to lift.
more sanitary modes of transport
I’ll be the first to admit I used to always get a flu shot before taking a long haul flight. Without it would invariably mean catching a cold or an equally annoying bug on arrival. With it felt like another one of those annoying things you had to do before travelling, until now.
Airlines and border protection were quick to roll out improved cleaning and sanitation procedures early in the coronavirus outbreak. Which helped reduce the spread of infection and to appease dubious travellers. But, it does raise the question: Why wasn’t this always standard procedure?
I’m of the opinion that stricter distancing measures should be put in place if someone is sick and needs to travel. Ever sat next to someone on a plane who was coughing and spluttering next to you? Leaving you wishing you were sat somewhere else? Wouldn’t it be great if that person was sat as far away from the rest of the cabin as possible or better – not allowed to travel at all?
But it’s not all about air travel, governments should invest in more sanitary transport alternatives such as rail and bus services – including sleeper trains and coaches for long-distance travel. Whether mandated by government or forced by customer demand, we should expect to see improved sanitation procedures throughout the transport infrustructure sector.
Time will tell. Looking forward to seeing where the next few months take us. Literally. Let’s hope the future of travel looks a little more flexible, a touch more sanitary and a lot more sustainable!
Until then xo
PS: Do you have any predictions for the future of travel? Let me know your thoughts on facebook or comment below.
PSS: If you want more information about being a sustainable traveller (when we’re allowed), this article has some great tips!