Post-pandemic travel: what will it look like after the pandemic is over?



(CNN) – As the world came to a standstill last March, many travelers expected to start globetrotting again in a few months.

Here we are a little over a year later.

But with the rapid development of effective vaccines and the increased distribution of these life-saving doses in some countries, glimmers of hope are beginning to appear.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still urges people not to travel, but vaccinated travelers have reason to be optimistic.

“We are re-examining what we should do with regard to travel for those who are vaccinated and it should happen soon,” agency director Dr Rochelle Walensky said Thursday at a Senate hearing.

Travelers who roam the world freely again will find an experience shaped and altered by the pandemic – and not just in the wearing of masks, social distancing and improved hygiene that we expect in our daily lives.

Some of these changes will likely last long beyond the end of the pandemic. CNN Travel asked an array of travel experts how the landscape has changed for consumers as the threat of Covid-19 recedes.

The digital green certificates offered by the EU could open places like Lisbon to vaccinated EU visitors.

The digital green certificates offered by the EU could open places like Lisbon to vaccinated EU visitors.

Patricia de Melo Moreira / AFP via Getty Images

Here’s what to expect:

Vaccine and test certificates appear everywhere

Anyone with aspirations to travel abroad will spend a considerable amount of time studying the rules – both entering another country and returning to their own.

Hopefully, the vaccinations take some of the hassle out of navigating the current global patchwork of regulations.

But we’re going to need proof that we’ve been vaccinated, which brings us to what will likely be a hallmark of travel in the post-Covid era: vaccination and test certificates, often referred to as “vaccine passports” or “Health passports. “

The European Commission recently offered digital green certificates showing that a person has been vaccinated, tested negative for Covid-19, or has recovered from an infection. The certificates would facilitate the movement of EU citizens within the EU.

There are also a growing number of health apps designed to serve the same purpose in other locations, including the International Air Transport Association’s Travel Pass, Clear’s Health Pass, and CommonPass. Some airlines are already testing health apps on certain routes.

How this multiplication of digital qualifications will work across borders is still being determined.

Most industry leaders agree that vaccination should not be a requirement for travel in part because people in many parts of the world are far from being vaccinated.

Widespread testing remains essential, said Paul Charles, founder and CEO of London-based travel consultancy The PC Agency.

“Testing is the magic wand, as well as the vaccine. And only by testing travelers as much as possible can you reduce the impact of infections across borders,” Charles said.

But vaccination certificates and test results will likely be carried by many travelers in the near future.

The pandemic has accelerated contactless travel.

The pandemic has accelerated contactless travel.

Pau Barrena / AFP via Getty Images

Ubiquitous contactless technology

Technology that was used sporadically – like mobile hotel check-in – has become essential during this time of contact and contact aversion, and it isn’t going away anytime soon.

“Using your phone as a key, texting reception, texting room service – all of this was sort of starting to happen, but is now much more common,” said Jan Freitag, national director of analytics of the hotel analysis company STR.

Even before the pandemic, cruise lines were adding tools like facial recognition to make the boarding process, shopping and access to contactless and contactless cabins easier, said Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of the site. Cruise Critic cruise.

“I think now the passengers are really going to see the benefits of that. We’ve all got used to not touching each other, not spending a lot of time face to face with people,” she said.

This means smoother boarding and disembarking as well as a much easier way to perform contact tracing, if needed.

It’s not just technology that has become contactless, she added. “I don’t think the buffet as we knew it before Covid is going to return.”

Casual buffets will still be available, but food will be served by crew members, reducing touchpoints and food waste.

Hotels in dense downtown areas like Manhattan face a long road to recovery.

Hotels in dense downtown areas like Manhattan face a long road to recovery.

Ludovic Marin / AFP via Getty Images

More isolated independent accommodation

Vacation rentals available through Airbnb and other sites have been particularly popular during the pandemic, with guests craving space and control.

This is a trend that Freitag did not see coming. He expected customers to rely on the improved and standardized Covid-related cleaning and sanitation protocols available from major hotel brands.

“I didn’t think it would turn out the way it did, but it turns out people prefer to have their own front door, no lobby, no elevator and a place where they could Lysol get off two times a day, if they want it, ”he mentioned.

The demand and occupancy of hotels will increase as people feel more comfortable with hotel stays, he said.

In 2020, the hotel occupancy rate in the United States for the week ending March 21 was only 30%. This year, the occupancy rate was 52% for the week ending March 13.

Room rates will continue to be lower. Rates fell 20% in 2020, Freitag said, and they are only expected to rise 4% this year.

Christopher Anderson, professor at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, said alternative accommodation will continue to be a “bright spot” in the accommodation space.

“I expect that even in a fully vaccinated world, people are looking for newer and different types of experiences,” he said.

Many smaller, isolated establishments – often independent hotels – have had a great summer in 2020, he said.

“I think this will continue until 2021, as people will continue to be cautious until we know more about the longevity of vaccine effectiveness,” Anderson said.

A reluctance to stay in city centers and downtown hotels can mean the emergence of exciting small hotels and restaurants in the outlying areas and suburbs of a city, Paul said.

Many air travelers have a lot more flexibility in changing their tickets - yet.

Many air travelers have a lot more flexibility in changing their tickets – yet.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

More flexibility, for now

Travel policies have become more flexible and could survive the pandemic, some experts say.

“One of the great things that has come up is that travel suppliers, tour operators and airlines are becoming more flexible,” Charles said. “They have obviously been forced to be more flexible, if they want to keep their customers in the future, but that has definitely created a trend for more flexibility for airlines in particular.”

The jury is out on if and when these charges will return.

Richard Quest, a CNN airline and international business correspondent, cannot see the carriers overturn the well-publicized decision to eliminate short-term modification fees.

The change fee will eventually be returned, says Jordan Staab, president of SmarterTravel Media, which operates sites like

“There is too much money in fees and also huge value to keep demand predictable. If people can change when they want, it diminishes the ability of airlines to operate efficiently.” Staab said.

And he said new charges could be on the horizon.

Higher airfares

Airlines will seek to recoup the staggering losses caused by the pandemic.

Paul Charles sees tariffs go up, often 20-30%, “and because there is so much pent-up demand, consumers are apparently happy to pay it.”

Staab expects prices to rise later this year in the next year.

“Airlines will not immediately make 100% of their routes prepandemic, even if demand increases, which means demand may outweigh supply, and airlines may increase their fares and still occupy seats. “, did he declare.

Bookings by the end of March are likely to generate the best deals in the United States, Staab said, while international deals will be scarce due to reduced availability.

The question of large business trips

“What will the new long-term level of business travel be?” That’s the big question from CNN’s Quest that no one can answer yet.

“Every business will be looking for ways to once again contain the rising costs of business travel. And that has interesting implications for airlines, as their entire product is geared towards business travel, ”Quest said.

Obviously, meetings and large conventions are also closely tied to the accommodation space, with potentially interesting results, Freitag said.

He suggested we could see more hybrid events – hopefully with the usual number of guests in hotel ballrooms – with unlimited new guests knowing the video and able to attend virtually – for one. Lower price.

Whether for business or pleasure, a key part of travel has not changed, Freitag said.

“It’s very clear that people want to be physically together.”


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