In the context of the travel industry, that time came when the new coronavirus pandemic was declared.
Before the virus, travel was cheap, plentiful, and fairly easy. “Over-tourism” was a problem that risked ruining sites ranging from Machu Picchu to the Louvre when 1.4 billion tourists toured the globe last year.
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After COVID-19, everything will be different.
Travel will be less frequent, more difficult and probably more expensive.
The time we are living in now is no different from September 11 – a sudden shock to the system that will bring about permanent change, which will eventually become routine.
This is because the coronavirus has been apocalyptic for the travel industry.
Air travel has dropped 95%, the Las Vegas Strip has gone dark, cruise ships are stuck in the harbor, and “the happiest place in the world” – Disneyland – faces an uncertain path to its reopening.
For each of these examples, there are thousands of people directly affected; taxi drivers, baggage handlers, pilots, hotel cleaners, doormen, waiters and ticket agents were all directly affected.
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The travel industry has grown to account for about one in ten jobs worldwide, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
“It’s universal,” said Gloria Guevara, president of the WTTC, “because of the connectivity.
“The dependence of all these industries on this sector is significant.”
To go back, the industry is going to have to make serious and permanent changes which, in turn, will change the way we travel.
“I hope they don’t think things will be exactly the way they were before COVID-19,” said Lori Pennington-Gray of the University of Florida’s Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management. . His department maintains a “travel anxiety index”, which tracks what the public thinks of the trip – to anyone’s surprise, fear and worry has exploded – up to 311% at their peak.
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An Ipsos survey conducted exclusively for Global News found that only 20% of Canadians are likely to travel outside the country in 2020, even if it is allowed, while 50% said it was not likely at all .
The same survey found that slightly more openness to domestic travel – 37% would travel outside their home province if allowed.
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Travel was faced with a perception problem from the earliest days of the pandemic when cruise ships became a prime breeding ground for the virus.
There were the Diamond Princess, the Zaandam and the Westerdam – to name a few.
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And there was the Grand Princess, that Bob and Dorothy Grubb from British Columbia were on board as people started to get sick.
They first noticed that something was wrong when their favorite waiter, a man named Xavier, was not there for dinner.
“One evening, he just wasn’t there and I asked what happened -” Oh, he’s sick, “said Bob Grubb. “He was back the next day and I said” Xavier you look tired “- he said” I’m fine “. The next day Xavier is not there, he is sick again. “
Within days, the boat was returning to California, while the United States Coast Guard airlifted COVID-19 test kits to passengers.
“En route to our cabins, meals placed at our door with a knock on the door and that was the end of all contact with people,” recalls Grubb.
After days of waiting for a safe exit plan, they were repatriated to Canada and quarantined in Trenton, Ontario, before being allowed to return home.
It was probably the last cruise that the Grubb will undertake.
“We made the decision – we are not going on a cruise – period. End of the story. Too risky, too risky, ”he said.
The travel industry as a whole, from check-in to departure, is now faced with the same existential problem: how to prevent travelers from infecting each other, while convincing them that it is safe to travel again .
“More than 60% predict that the industry will have to provide PPE to visitors at touchpoints throughout the travel experience,” said Pennington-Gray of his own research, adding that 70% of travelers will want to know exactly what steps are being taken to keep them safe.
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This is where it becomes a defining moment in history.
Just as airport security was significantly and visibly tightened after September 11, 2001, health checks will be part of every trip.
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Anyone getting on an airplane, boarding a cruise ship, or checking into a hotel should expect their temperature to be taken. They may be confronted with a health questionnaire. They may need to save their contact information so that they can be found and quarantined if they are exposed to a sick person. Advances in rapid testing could make regular virus checks as common as carry-on containers for liquids.
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“Health checks are here to stay,” said Brian Kelly, founder of the travel website. The Points Guy. Kelly points out that some airlines have already implemented them.
“Emirates is currently conducting instant COVID tests and Etihad is checking the temperature of its control kiosks. And these are just a few of the ways in which the travel experience will be changed forever. “
Air Canada has become the first airline in the Americas to require temperature checks.
Governments and airlines are increasingly demanding that passengers and crew also wear face masks – they are now mandatory in Canada, and most airlines in the United States have started to require them.
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On-board service in flight has been reduced to a few prepackaged items, distributed by flight attendants with gloves and masks. Airlines have intensified deep cleaning of seats, trays and garbage cans.
A company called Germ Falcon is even developing equipment that looks like an airplane drink cart with shiny wings of ultraviolet light, which can be pushed down the aisle to disinfect the entire cabin between flights.
Behind the scenes, airports are grappling with everything from baggage disinfection to contactless check-ins to minimize points of contact and potential infections.
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Facial recognition, which was already being tested at some airports, could become the norm, replacing manual identity checks.
Hilton Hotels has announced a partnership with RB, which manufactures Lysol and other cleaning products, to set new standards for hotel cleaning in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic.
Car rental companies have stepped up cleaning and are switching to contactless service.
Cruise ships can face the most complex situation of all, even as they prepare to return to sea in August.
“They need reliable testing to make sure everyone aboard this ship is COVID-free or does not bring it back on shore excursions,” said Brian Kelly.
There are still unanswered questions about how any business that relies on placing people in a confined space will overcome the obstacle of physical distance.
The days of the hotel’s buffet breakfast are probably over.
Airlines have tried (and recently failed) to keep average seats empty, but this may not be viable for companies that are already in dire financial straits.
“More than 65 percent said they would be willing to accept a higher price to keep them safe,” said Pennington-Gray, speaking to respondents to the Ipsos travel survey.
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Travelers probably have no choice but to expect higher prices.
Air Canada reported a loss of more than $ 1 billion in the first quarter of 2020. Delta Airlines reported losing more than $ 60 million every day.
Like most airlines, they reduce their fleets and abandon older aircraft.
That means fewer flights and probably higher fares. Some airlines may not survive this crisis, further reducing competition and available seats.
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“The industry will consolidate weak airlines which, over the long term, I fear prices will go up,” said Kelly.
If there is a long-term requirement to keep passengers spaced out in the cabin, “yes, that sounds good, but the consumer will pay for it,” he warned.
Before we can move from the world we knew before to the world after the coronavirus, we have to go through this present moment.
COVID-19 continues to be rampant.
International borders remain closed, and many countries have forced visitors to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Coronavirus worldwide: May 13, 2020
No one is likely to expose themselves for a vacation.
No one will use two weeks of vacation to sit in forced segregation.
Our immediate future trip will likely keep us closer to home than we have been in a long time.
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