It’s no secret that COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the travel industry. Airlines have laid off staff by the thousands, and hotels and restaurants have struggled to keep their doors open in many parts of the world. Travel going forward will certainly be different, and the effects of the pandemic will be felt for years.
Not everything has been negative, though. There have been a few positive developments that I hope stick, even after COVID-19 is finally in the rear-view mirror. Here are the top two:
No Change Fees for Airline Tickets
Airlines have made things way easier than they have ever been in terms of flexibility. Given the constantly changing requirements being imposed by countries all over the globe, travel planning is especially difficult. I’d like to say that this is a move the airlines are making due to their care for their passengers, but I’m more inclined to think it is because it helps their bottom line.
Previously, you could easily predict the entry requirements for any country around the globe. It was rare that you could book a ticket and then be ineligible to enter at time of travel. Given the uncertainty since early 2020, no one wants to plan travel where they are locked into paying $100s in fees should they want to change. Dropping change fees is something that the airlines have certainly done to boost sales during the pandemic.
I hope this sticks, even once COVID-19 is past (or mostly past) us. I don’t have any issue with airlines selling nonrefundable tickets (unless flights are flat-out canceled…these warrant a refund), but massive change fees have always hurt. I’ve been glad to see these go.
Less Crowded Destinations
People who are traveling are often concerned with visiting crowded destinations. Travel itself isn’t a huge risk, from a COVID-19 infection perspective. Air exchange and filtration on large aircraft is very good, and many international flights have been pretty empty.
But almost no one wants to mingle with a crowd once they arrive at their destination. Well…there are exceptions. Most of the time, however, the goal is to get outside and away from people. This might be a beach break, a road trip to various U.S. national parks, or an off the beaten path destination. Industry research shows a shift away from crowded destinations.
I hope that the days of “supercrowds” in places like Venice and Dubrovnik are over. There are so many other fantastic places to see. My guess is that popular tourist locations will use the pandemic to shift to a more sustainable level of tourism going forward.
There are travel changes at have developed during the pandemic that will certainly go away. Most airlines that blocked middle seats have already rolled this back. The practice isn’t sustainable without significantly increasing airfares. I’d also expect the intense cleaning to go by the wayside. I definitely hope that the crappy grab-and-go breakfasts at mid-scale hotels end and never return.
But these are two changes that I hope stick around long-term. What are some pandemic travel changes that you think should remain?