Travel as we know it will never be the same in the post-COVID brave new world that we are entering. The changes that we can expect to see will radically transform where and how we travel. For many, the new safety regulations imposed by airlines and governments will likely seem too heavy-handed.
Travel, especially air travel, already came with a set of burdens that put many potential tourists off of their trips entirely. Unfortunately, COVID-19 will likely only add to the list of obstacles that travelers must pass through to get to their destination.
The Immediate Effects of COVID-19 on Travel
The coronavirus outbreak, which began in China in late 2019, has ushered in a new reality regarding travel. In fact, it shut down the whole world. Nearly every nation around the globe has restricted incoming visitors from passing through their customs checkpoints, essentially killing off air travel for the time being.
Even car travel is restricted in many places via internal checkpoints set up within national borders to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
Long-Term Impacts on Travel
Many countries that rely heavily on tourism – Thailand, for example – have already begun reimagining what travel to their lands might look like in the coming years. For many policymakers, this means focusing more on rural travel. As we saw in the COVID-19 outbreak, the virus spreads most rapidly in dense urban centers where contact between residents is more or less constant. A greater emphasis on travel to rural and lesser-known areas will spread out the potential for infections and theoretically limit them.
Furthermore, travelers can expect to encounter a whole slew of health-check procedures that will be introduced, once borders begin to open, to identify infected passengers and remove them from flights, trains, or other means of travel.
We may see the rollout of so-called “immunity passports,” which prove either a negative COVID-19 status or appropriate immunization prior to travel. The immunization requirement may be added once a vaccine is developed.
Overall, the face of travel will look remarkably different as governments and travel providers reassess their strategies for limiting the spread of deadly viruses due to travel. While some developments are easy to predict, other safety measures will likely take passengers by surprise when they get to the terminal.