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The Future of Travel | How Travel Will Change After Coronavirus

Welcome to the post-coronavirus world. 

A lot of things have changed! The world simply won’t be the same again, even after all the dust has settled.

Due to the nature of the global crisis the tourism industry, which employed 10% of the world’s population, has been one of the hardest hit. Within a couple of weeks, it came to pretty much a complete halt globally. No one has ever experienced an event like this before in their lifetime.

For travellers, this has meant cancelled plans, dashed dreams and sore disappointment. Travellers overseas have found themselves in very difficult situations. They have been stranded overseas with no easy way to return to the safety of their home. 

The impact of coronavirus certainly has not been in our favour!

Looking ahead to the future of travel there is no doubt that the industry will survive. There is also no doubt it will look very different. 

A lot of the businesses that were open pre-coronavirus will have to permanently close. The aviation industry could also be obliterated as we know it. Many airlines may eventually go bankrupt due to lack of business.

When we are out of the woods the travel industry will have to start from scratch. 

Coronavirus has triggered a global recession 

There is so much uncertainty about how everything will continue to unfold. Many people will lose their income and will stop spending money on anything that isn't essential to sustain life. 

Tourism is not considered essential for sustaining life and therefore people will be slow to start spending money on travel, even if the international borders again. The impact of coronavirus on international travel itself and the economy is detrimental to the travel industry.

It is going to take years for the travel industry to recover to where it was pre-coronavirus.

While this sounds scary, this is also an opportunity to start again. It's a chance to create the kind of tourism industry that serves to create a better world. 

So what have been the immediate impacts on the travel industry?

The global pandemic has truly brought the travel industry to its knees. Let’s look at some US flight numbers reported by CNN so we can understand the current impact of COVID-19.

Category Before Pandemic During Pandemic % Change
International Capacity of Airline Seats 5.9 million per week 500,000 -90%
Domestic and International Capacity of Airline Seats 100 million per week 29.8 million -70%
Number of people at the airport checkout 2.3 million per day 95,000 -95%
Number of commercial flights operating 111,000 per day 31,000 -72%

The number of occupied seats on international flights has gone from full to 1 in 5. The number for domestic flights in the US, it has gone down to 1 in 10 from full.

We can see that the pandemic has wiped out the international tourism industry almost overnight. Domestic travel has also been obliterated for countries in strict lockdown.

Businesses Impacted by the Tourism Industry

The travel industry makes up a significant percentage of the global economy and workforce. There are so many different kinds of businesses and industries dependent on the travel industry. 

Let’s take a look at some of the people and businesses that will be most affected by the pandemic:

Online Publications & Magazines

Paper and online publishers and magazines will be affected by COVID-19, particularly ones that focus on travel like Lonely Planet. These publications rely on ad-revenue to run.

With the economy tanking and travel coming to a standstill, people will not be reading travel-related articles and businesses will not be paying for advertising. Publications will also be affected by the travel industry pressing pause on their travel-related promotions.

Content Creators

There are thousands of amazing content creators, who make a lot of their content travelling. This includes Youtubers, Instagram Influencers and bloggers.

These people are mostly dependent on travel-related brand partnerships for their income which usually requires creating travel content. Content creation is a tough industry to crack so a lot of the content creators will have to divert to a different niche or find another job altogether.

Small businesses in the tourism industry

This includes hostels, guesthouses, cafes and restaurants and small tour operators.

Small businesses run with small profit margins and little liquidity, meaning they won’t survive very long without cash coming in. As a result, many of these small businesses will have to permanently close their doors, which is a real shame.

Cruise Companies

A lot of Cruise Operators are likely to go under during COVID-19. Cruises have turned into floating Petri dishes, some of the people worst affected by the virus have been on cruises.

Not only are they unable to operate during the pandemic, but people are also unlikely to want to go on a cruise again when this is all over.


Before coronavirus, there were thousands of flights every day darting people around every corner of the globe. Flights were plentiful and well priced. That has all changed now!

It is likely that some airlines will completely go under. This means when flying returns, there will be fewer flights. Prices will go up as airlines respond to supply and demand and have to comply with social distancing rules.

There will be longer wait times due to testing and checking documentation for more strict visa requirements. It is also likely that face masks will become compulsory.

How is Travelling Going to Change Moving Forward?

This is not the end of the travel industry. 

Humans are resilient and highly adaptable, so travel offerings will adapt to the circumstances.

Here is a look at some predictions on changes and trends for travelling in a post-coronavirus world.  

Domestic Travel

An increase in domestic travel is the most immediate and obvious change we will see for the travel industry. As countries start to contain the virus they will allow non-essential travel within their borders.

Tourism industries will become dependent on domestic travel to stay afloat. There will be a big push to encourage people to travel domestically within their own countries.

Expect special travel deals to encourage people to come out of their shells and see the wonders of their own country!

We are already seeing this happening in New Zealand, which has come out of full lockdown. Flights are operating again and there are a lot of ads promoting New Zealand tourism. There are also many special deals such as $29 a day campervans which usually go for around $300 per day. 

International holidays off the cards but people will still want to take holidays! Many people will take the opportunity to become a tourist at home. This is a nice silver lining to the whole situation as people will get to experience their home country. Many travellers are guilty of overlooking the amazing places at home.

A Rise in Luxury Travel

There is expected to be a rise in luxury travel escapes for those who can afford it. Certain countries are likely to negotiate with luxury hotels and resorts to come up with arrangements to allow wealthy travellers to enter their borders.

Countries like Fiji and Thailand are looking at options like this to help boost their economy and recover some of their GDP lost to the virus.

This type of travel is exclusive and only available to a very small percentage of the population. This isn’t ideal for the average traveller. But hopefully will help poorer countries to recover economically from the pandemic.

International “Bubbles” 

The days of being able to jump on a flight to almost anywhere might be over. But there will be certain places you can go, depending on where you are from.

We are looking at much stricter visa restrictions, depending on the level of infection from your home country and other countries you have been to recently.

Governments from different countries will want to make sure the blow to their travel industry is softened. Negotiations between countries that have coronavirus under control will begin, allowing travel between certain countries. These countries will form coronavirus safe ‘bubbles’.

Talks are already underway to plan a trans-Tasman bubble between New Zealand and Australia. Talks are also underway to allow travellers to enter the COVID-free Pacific Islands from New Zealand. A similar situation is happening in Europe and likely will continue to happen globally.

Slow Travel

Slow travel is when you explore one place in-depth as opposed to skimming the surface of many places. When you travel slow you tend to stay at the same place or region for an extended period of time.

Slow travel is immersive and allows you to get to know the ‘real’ side of your destination. Slow travel is a counter to mass tourism.

We are likely to see a rise in popularity of slow travel in the future. When countries reopen their borders it will be common to have a self-isolation period of up to 14 days. This makes travel will only be worth it for trips of over a month. This combined with a sharp rise in people working from home means people will have more opportunities to travel for months at a time while working remotely.

These factors are all conducive to slow travel. This is great as slow travel is better for the environment and will help small businesses get back on their feet. 

A Rise in Overland Trips

With flights declining and a general fear around catching the virus on planes and in airports, we are likely to see more people choose overland travel instead of air travel in the future. This ties in with slow travel where people take extended trips.

Did you know you can travel from South East Asia all the way to Europe overland?

There are plenty of epic overland adventures to be had across the globe from Africa, the Americas, Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Whether it is by van, car, bus, train or even bike, there are so many options.

The End of International Music Festivals

Big international music festivals like Glastonbury, Coachella, Sziget and Tomorrowland are a big drawcard to certain countries for many travellers. But they may be a thing of the past. 

With crowd limitations and border controls for international artists having big international music festivals will be tricky.

We will instead see a rise in smaller-scale local music and art festivals which can be travelled to domestically.

A Move to Nature-Based Travel 

The pandemic is likely to see people choose nature-based travel over urban escapes in the future. It is much easier to social distance from people when you are hiking in a remote region of the Swiss Alps as opposed to going up the Eiffel Tower.

Due to cities being densely populated, they pose a much bigger risk when it comes to transmission of the virus. Many travellers will simply prefer to get out in nature instead of visiting a city.

The lockdown period has also helped a lot of people appreciate the serenity and peacefulness of nature. There were no people around, no cars on the road and everyone was out in nature a whole lot more. People who are looking to recapture the quietness of lockdown will choose to travel to destinations that are in nature.

Due to crowd restrictions, the tourist hotspots of the world that get incredibly crowded like Rome, London and New York City might not be so hot for the foreseeable future.

Sustainable Tourism will Flourish

With the shutting down of tourist hotspots, a reduction in flights and a move to nature-based destinations, we are likely to see a rise in the popularity of sustainable tourism.

This is another beautiful silver lining! 

The tourism industry in recent decades has caused a lot of destruction of the environment and ancient sites through developments, pollution and overcrowding.

Coronavirus has given us a window of time to reset the travel industry and lower the negative impact it has on the environment and local communities.