What Will the Travel Landscape Look Like in a Post-Coronavirus World?
Though hit hard, the travel industry will bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the way we journey will be changed forever – and for the better. Delving into staycations, off-grid vacations and conscious travel, we look forward to the positive impact of changing habits.
29 April, 2020
If the coronavirus crisis and strict social distancing measures have taught us anything, it's that travel influences everything we do. Since the world went into lockdown, our thirst for adventure has heightened, and we've been seeking out ways in which we can quench our desire. We're whipping up Brazilian-inspired caipirinhas as we settle down to Friday Zoom drinks. Garlic-laced mussels give us a taste of past summers spent in the South of France. The high-achievers among us are using extra downtime to learn a new language.
Despite being one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, the travel sector has a history of resilience. Visitors trickled back in the wake of 9/11, the SARS epidemic and the financial crisis of 2007/8; just last year, more of us were travelling than ever. While COVID-19 is a different, much bigger, beast, we will overcome it too. Flights will resume, restaurants will reopen and hotels will check us in. Yet when we travel again, we will do so differently.
How so? It's likely that our journeys will be made more thoughtfully and with much more purpose. We've shown great care to contain the spread of the virus and, as our ability to travel returns, we'll strive to adopt the same sedulous mindset in our travels. We'll travel smarter, probably a bit less, but for longer.
It now seems somewhat frivolous that we were aimlessly racking up air miles in a race around the world - especially when there's landscape ripe for exploration on our doorsteps. Our daily allowance of exercise around our neighbourhoods has been a lesson in discovering new-found lands that lie just outside our windows. Running routes have been unearthed, wildflower-filled fields explored for the first time and examples of striking architecture have caught our attention. Being forced to slow down has forced us to pay attention and, in turn, treasure our surroundings.
Climate change is beginning to reverse, too. Oceans are clearer, the air is cleaner and carbon emissions are at record lows. With such positive effects in plain sight, it's harder than ever to ignore the need for planet-friendly travel habits. In a bid to keep our carbon footprints as low as possible and to alleviate any lingering anxieties about travelling - particularly flying - it's likely that we'll be staycationing far more.
Our post-coronavirus world will be one travelled more consciously, with purpose and mindfulness. The pandemic looks set to change the travel landscape forever - and for the better.
Get ready to staycation
Our stay-at-home mantra is transitioning to staycations and, as a result, domestic travel is likely to bounce back quickly. Long weekends spent road-tripping will replace the need to jump on a plane for a quick sangria in the sun. City dwellers are desperately dreaming of exploring green spaces and swapping their state-sanctioned 5k for coastal jogs and countryside picnics supplied by local farms. Besides, the lockdown has proved that a DIY negroni can be sunk almost anywhere - not just in the piazzas of Florence.
The great indoors has accelerated our love for the great outdoors. The sight of four walls and a few (slowly wilting) shop-bought plants? Sick of it. Micro-living is out and maxi-space is in. Off-grid hideaways with roaming sheep for neighbours will be the de rigueur and cabin fever - the remote, flee-to-the-mountainside kind - will soar. After spending an as yet undetermined number of weeks cooped up, we're itching to be free.
It's likely that post-lockdown travellers will shun densely populated areas in favour of back-to-nature experiences and expansive spaces. Instead of cramming themselves into queues to see a cathedral or take a selfie at a well-known (and over documented) monument, they'll be searching for Edenic escapes with few faces. Keeping apart two metres? Two miles from the nearest town and settlement suits us just fine.
Travel with purpose
During the lockdown, we haven't cold-shouldered travel and shut it away in a box filled with last summer's souvenirs. Instead, we've explored the world through different mediums: podcasts, books, music, film and recipes, filling our homes with scents, smells and memories of other destinations and cultures. This isn't something we're expecting to dwindle as soon as we're back exploring again. There's as much fun to be found in the planning of an epic trip as there is in experiencing it. Living in a constant state of travel - metaphorically - is the new norm.
In our new normal, ticking off a list of countries and populating our social media as evidence of our feckless globe-trotting will have a bitter taste. Lingering longer is a more meaningful way of travelling and ensures that the experiences we do have will be deeper. It seems that the way forward is one or two extended trips each year, rather than the "collect-them-all" overconsumption that has bombarded beautiful spots with over-tourism and contributed to our staggering collective carbon footprint. More than ever, accommodation, restaurants, local tour operators and modes of transport should be picked on their sustainability practices and eco-credentials.
Protecting our planet
The Earth has had a much-needed rest for the first time in generations. We've been able to see first-hand the importance and benefits of slowing down, and it's made us reflect more than ever on the impact we're having on our environment - we've sat on the bamboo naughty step and been forced to think about what we've done.
It's hard to drown out Greta's forewarnings about irresponsible and unnecessary travel. When #WeStayedInFor2020, it's not just been our collective health that has reaped the benefits, but the planet's ecosystem too. Carbon dioxide emissions from China were reduced by 25 per cent, fish were spotted in Venice's waterways and coral started to regrow in Jamaica. It's all evidence of what can happen when mass consumerism stops, tourist boats are no longer needed and overfishing ceases.
A global pandemic isn't the answer to fixing our carbon emissions, but it does give us the chance to consider the way we travel and how we can limit the effect of human activity on the planet. Taking fewer flights and eating locally won't reverse the damage we've done alone, but allowing the planet to take a breather evidentially does help.
With a global recession looming, it's likely that, for some, personal budgets may be smaller, but that doesn't mean we should focus on bagging bargains at the expense of supporting the businesses that need - and deserve - what money we do have. We want to look to our local and home economies first, and help to get our communities back on their feet before going on to favour family-run hotels, independent restaurants and local tour operators over big brands. Thoughtful travel might not be cheaper in terms of cold, hard cash, but its value has the potential to be richer than anything money can buy.
Our current landscape
We may be grounded, but we haven't stopped travelling. We're dreaming, planning and researching more than ever, taking the extra lockdown time to labour over our future trips. While journeying around the world has been paused, many of us have discovered that the act of travel goes far beyond the physical. We're focused, considerate (of our surroundings and one another) and connecting in a more meaningful way than ever before. The bottom line? We will be back out exploring the world as soon as we can, and when we do, we'll do it more consciously and with a refreshed sense of purpose.