Exploring in a Covid world

Isolation is a new big thing for the travel of tomorrow

Health declaration forms and virus tests. Quarantine-on-arrival (and on return) required. Most aircraftgrounded. Infection rates that change by the day and labyrinthine middle-seat policies that require an advanced degree to decipher.

We don’t know when we’ll be able to travel again – let alone to where.

The big question in a post-pandemic planet will not be about where the next stop for visitors is or the methods the travel industry uses to try and restore normality – but how society’s behaviour will have changed.

Thailand Travel
Passengers wearing PPE arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Photo by Phoowadon Duangmee

Here’s what we’re expecting for the travel of tomorrow.

Social distancing

Before COVID-19, exploring a crowded city, bustling marketplace and getting connected to the locals were often the hallmarks of a fulfilling holiday. Unfortunately, the best part of journey now inspires a mix of fear, despair, grief and anxiety. In the post-pandemic era, travellers will be much more aware of the need to travel to destinations that make it easy to maintain social distancing practices. The tourism body and travel agents must be creative indesigning itineraries that avoid public forms of transportation and crowded tourist areas. Isolation is a new luxury.

Long stays

With the pandemic still everywhere and vaccines slowly being rolled out, everything is pretty much in remote mode. We cannot do tourist trips anymore – but weekend getaways. Many people will stay permanently out of the office and work from home. In 2021, we will see a rise in people drifting towardsbeautiful locations such as Phuket or Hua Hin and swapping their home workspaces for oceansideoffices. Many hotels offer long-stay packagescomplete with five-star upgrades for the digital nomads and lap-top-centric professionals – who can work from anywhere.

Have car, will travel

Since many aircraft cannot leave the ground (and not many people want to share a confined cabin with other folk), a self-drive holiday is the way to go. Coronavirus has kept people on lockdown on and off for more than a year and we are all resigned to further waves of infection. When people do travel again, they will cognizant, cautious and careful in their planning. They don’t want other people breathing on them. There will be a shift in transportation. The choice of the airline may no longer be price driven, but related to hygiene standards. Within the country, travellers will opt for private transport so they can avoid the crowds.

The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok’s tourist hotspot, is quiet during the pandemic. Photo by Phoowadon Duangmee

Information, information, information

Travel will never be the same after COVID-19. Gone are the days where people could easily go “off-the-grid” as it is more important than ever for travellers to stay connected and well-informed as they travel. The situation can change quickly. Tour operators that can provide their travellers with detailed online and offline itineraries will be top of the mind for those concerned about staying informed. In the future, travel will become more complicated and travellers will count on a travel expert for trustworthy advice and arrangements for transportation and health regulations. The pandemic will take travel back to the 19th Century when a trip far afield was exotic and expensive.

Happy glamper

In the post-pandemic planet, people gravitate to nature to truly experience escape. Camping in the park sounds like a safer way to travel while maintaining social distancing. But how many people want to rough it on the ground in a flimsy tent? Worry not. The outdoor retreat had gone way upscale and stylish even before the pandemic thanks toglamping – glamorous camping and it will be even more appealing to those seeking wide-open spaces this year. Forget a sleeping bag. Glamping offer a real bed in which campers can rest comfortably with a stunning landscape right outside their tent. Think of Robert Redford and Meryl Streep cuddling up in luxurious safari tent in “Out of Africa”. To remake the classic or treat yourself without mingling with strangers, the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, the Elephant Hills, the Island Hideout, Koh Yao and Hintok River Camp are some of the best in Thailand. Besides luxurious tents, private villas and exclusive cottages – especially those run by luxury hotel brands with trusted health and safety – will be enticing.

Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Thailand, offers a great escape in stylish accommodation and a bird’s eye view of the fauna and flora that make the Mekong River their home. Photo by Fourseasons.com

Market changes

In the future, destinations formerly popular with tourists are almost certainly to change. Authentic food, friendly locals and beautiful countryside or even must-see cities will probably lose their magic. Go or no go – the travellers will prioritise how that country or region has controlled the coronavirus. The travellers want to make sure they will be safe while in a particular country or location. The market shift may also result in a tourist hot spot turning into a ghost town due to a lack of tourists. The travel designer and travel organizations must have a number of locations up their sleeves that they can offer travellers when clusters break out elsewhere.

Less group, more FIT

Travelling in a group was once appealing. The package was more affordable and it was an appealing way to meet new friends in a group. However, in the future, this option will likely be a no-go choice of journey. Throngs of tourists being herded by a tour guide at crowded honeypots like the Grand Palace and the Temple of Emerald Buddha will become athing of the past. The FIT – short for foreign independent tour – will be more popular than a group tour since people don’t want to travel with strangers. Tour operators and travel agents are thinking about how to spin their business to operate safely in this new world. One option could be to pivot from group travel to FIT travel or continue to offer group travel but only to those groups whose members already know and trust each other.

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