As governments across the country and around the globe develop plans to reopen post COVID-19, the travel industry is expecting to rebound along with the rest of the economy. This is likely to happen in phases as airlines, cruise lines and hotels grapple with a variety of challenges – from social distancing and sanitizing to ongoing restrictions in many parts of the world.
The “post-lockdown” travel experience will certainly look and feel different, and in the short term you may opt for a “staycation” closer to home. But as you begin to plan and book new adventures, here are some of the changes you can expect to see in the weeks and months ahead.
Airports and Airlines
- Airports are enforcing social distancing, distributing hand sanitizer and making efforts to spread passengers more evenly across terminals.
- Expect airlines to begin with flights out of their most important hubs and cities where demand is strongest and public health conditions are best. This will mean fewer choices for many passengers.
- To help fill empty seats, airlines will continue to offer great deals both with miles and cash. Fee waivers also will be extended in the short term, making it easier for travelers to change their plans.
- Some airlines could require proof of good health before allowing passengers to fly.
- American and Jet Blue have begun to require flight attendants and passengers to wear face masks, and others are offering personal protective equipment to customers and employees (Korean Air plans to issue gowns, gloves and masks to all cabin crew.)
- Airlines are continuing to block middle seats, limit the number of people in premium cabins and/or restrict onboard service, as well as enhancing cleaning and sanitation procedures.
- Although many cruises have been canceled for 2020, customers are taking advantage of opportunities to rebook trips for 2021 at current fares.
- The stringent hygienic standards aboard cruise ships will become even more rigorous, and expanded onboard medical capabilities may be required.
- Cruise lines will need to work with ports to create protocols for removing sick passengers who may be putting others at risk.
Hotels and Airbnb
- With fewer hotels open and many operating with reduced staff, travelers may find fewer rooms available. Room rate discounting to stimulate travel will continue in the months to come.
- Short-term rentals have been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Airbnb instituted a standardized protocol for cleaning and sanitization in May to help protect its business and its customers.
- That said, it will be difficult for Airbnb and other groups to enforce safety standards across millions of independent hosts, so travelers may decide it’s safer to stay in a hotel.
- European destinations are looking at ways to manage guests at hotels, including permitting every other hotel to open or every other room to be occupied. Pools may not open and social distancing may be strictly enforced on beaches.
- Restaurants and bars are looking at spacing out tables and replacing buffets with a la carte menus.
- People who are hesitant to get on a plane, train or bus may look for local and regional ground transportation alternatives that prioritize the health and safety of drivers and customers.
- Ground transportation providers offer the advantage traveling with just one other person: the driver. Check with your service to make sure they instruct chauffeurs to stay home if they are sick.
- Many companies are focusing on sanitizing cars between trips and deep cleaning them at the end of each day. Some offer hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes to passengers to minimize their risk of exposure.
- Some companies are installing plexiglass shields between the front and back seats.
- Search online for reputable New Jersey hired car services and ask about their health and safety procedures before booking your ride.