As inveterate travellers, we know better than anyone the risks and rewards associated with travel. However, with COVID-19, we are in uncharted territory. To provide JourneyWomen with the inside scoop, I reached out to some of my travel journalist friends and industry experts to understand how the pandemic will change how and where we travel. I’m grateful to the women who shared their insights, and their desire to help women travel safely and well.
Three main themes emerged:
- No more bucket list: Will this mark the end of the so-called ‘bucket list? Post-COVID-19, this could be the time to challenge yourself with that awe-inspiring, adventurous trip you’ve always dreamed of, with a focus on less populated, off-the-beaten-track destinations. Or, you might decide it’s time to travel full-time and shift your lifestyle to work from anywhere in the world.
- Safety: There will be huge expectations of safety and cleanliness. This will influence us to travel domestically and seek travel providers and safe destinations that are close to home, with easy access to healthcare in emergency situations. Other trends will include road trips, driving instead of flying and visiting wide open spaces, such as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Large-scale cruising will see a downtown until concerns about safety, hygiene, filtration and air circulation are resolved. For those in North America, the Caribbean, a region that depends entirely on tourism, may be the first choice of destination as Europe regains its footing.
- Budget: Very few have escaped the economic impact of COVID-19, and we’ll be looking for budget-conscious choices, backed by travel insurance – an undeniably complex area – and more reliance on tour advisors and travel agents – to increase our comfort travelling again. Many small communities have been devastated by COVID-19, so it may take longer than we think to re-open small businesses, particularly in remote areas.
Without question, I expect to see a resurgence of travel. But smarter travel. More authentic travel.
JourneyWoman LIVE: Travel Writers Share their Predictions About the Impact of COVID on Travel
Special thanks to our all-female expert cast of contributors:
Heather Greenwood Davis
Contributing Editor, National Geographic Traveler; Travel Features, The Globe and Mail; TV Travel Expert, The Social on CTV, CHCH Morning Live; Founder, GlobetrottingMama
I hope that this will end the idea of the “bucket list.” For everyone who lost out on a trip to a great destination, I’m thinking there are a lot of people who never even got the trip booked as they were waiting for the perfect time to take it. I think we’ll see a surge in travel once this is far enough behind us.
Rebecca Field Jager
Contributor to Canadian Traveller, Dreamscapes, Zoomer
I think safety will be paramount and budget will surely be considered. But beyond that, I feel people will vote with their hearts and visit places they think need their tourism dollars most. Instead of new destinations, this may mean a return to countries that hold special memories but have been particularly hard-hit such as Italy. Others may return to travel timidly, dipping their toes into waters close to home before getting their sea-legs and travelling abroad. Patriotism would cement this rise in domestic travel and with it, perhaps a renewed passion for road-trips.
Travellers are travellers. The passion they feel for travel will have them back out in the world, exploring destinations and reviving cancelled plans post-pandemic. The COVID-19 experience has affected the travel insurance business and travellers will be looking for coverage that reflects the challenges presented by the massive disruption caused by the pandemic. Will less populated destinations prevail and those most adversely affected by the novel coronavirus be less desirable? It’s difficult to predict while the virus rages on and our post-virus world is unchartered territory.
Travel, food, drink, spa & golf writer
Certainly in the short term when travel is again encouraged, I expect people will stay closer to home, do drive vacations or to places from which it will be easy and fast to return. Most will have suffered an economic impact and have less to spend so will choose value-priced places. It’s likely the exotic, expensive and long-distance destinations will not experience the return to their former levels of tourism for a couple of years at least. Countries considered safe with good healthcare capacities will be favoured over those with political instability and less infrastructure. Most people will want to make sure they can get health coverage before they head to a destination.
Carol Patterson, CPA, CMA, FRCGS
Contributor to National Geographic, BBC Travel, Fodor’s Travel, The Daily Beast, CanGeoTravel
It seems the pandemic has given us lots to think about and time to do it. We’re experiencing grief as we watch travel plans washed away, curiosity about the effects of prolonged isolation, and trepidation as we contemplate what our futures – travel and otherwise – look like. Although we’ve seen good news on the environmental front as greenhouse gases diminish and pollution abates, I don’t think this pandemic will move environmental choices to the top of the list when people make their holiday decisions but I think people will come out of this with a clearer sense of their values. Travel may no longer be seen as something you do for the heck of it but a conscious balancing of risk and reward. If you’ve been unable to come home because of travel restrictions, a trip anywhere may seem like a bad idea and you’ll be focused on stay-cations. If you’ve been away from loved ones because of quarantine, your first trip may be to see family. Or if you’ve been scared to death of catching coronavirus or did fall ill, you may realize you’ve a mortal with an expiry date and are headed to the airport as soon as you can. I think we’ll see destinations and travel providers react with a huge emphasis on safety and cleanliness i.e. more cleaning, fewer line-ups and fewer people on planes, and big discounts, perhaps subsidized by governments eager to get the economy moving. In the short term, I think travellers will favour domestic destinations as they offer better access to health care and quicker routes home if necessary.
Publisher, Solo Traveler
I believe that, as we are released from the constraints of COVID-19, safety from the virus will be the number one criteria for women making travel plans. To protect them from crowds, women will take to road trips. We can already see this on Solo Traveler with our primary road trip post, which is typically in position nine or ten, shooting up to the number 1 post read on the blog. It’s been this way for weeks!
When we come out of the COVID-19 lockdown, there will likely be a real urge to travel. Some women will be eager to cross items off their bucket list quickly, while others will prefer to visit friends and family closer to home. For those with underlying health issues, repatriation travel insurance while travelling abroad will be important. These folks will also be more inclined to choose destinations that have a strong healthcare system and easy access. For instance, they might be more likely to choose the Netherlands over a trek in Nepal.
Cruises will lose their popularity until there are extreme changes to how hygiene, filtration and air circulation is handled. There might be an uptick in the use of travel agents since they can be a great resource in times of emergency for cancelled flights, rebooking, travel insurance questions, and accommodation changes. In the future, many people will likely also choose the larger carriers for flights since they have deeper pockets and are usually better equipped to deal with emergencies.
I think we’re going to see an interesting split emerge in the next year or so. I think that we’ll see more travellers revert to what was once considered very “easy” or “safe” – for instance, visiting a travel agent to have them put together an itinerary or signing up for a guided group tour. I think people will be drawn to situations in which they feel like there is a support staff with them, either in proximity (like a tour director) or virtually in the case of travel agents.
But on the flip side, I think there’s going to be a rise in travellers seeking activities which were once considered much more adventurous or edgy. I think people might look back at COVID-19 and say to themselves “hey, no place is really, truly safe in the world. If New York or Milan can suddenly become deadly, I’m going to go where I really want to go”. Suddenly the idea of camping in Botswana or hiking in Nepal or studying Spanish in Santiago doesn’t seem so out-there.
Tourism Marketing International
In my experience (40 plus years in the industry) such serious setbacks have been temporary and consumers who, for example, swore they would never fly again after 9/11 were back on planes within a few months. The lure of travel is so strong! Inveterate travellers will always have a yearning to visit off-the-beaten-path destinations while the timider will stay closer to home. What I think will change is travellers now getting a true appreciation for the necessity of travel insurance (never a nice-to-have!) and the invaluable worth of a travel agent. So many thousands around the world we’re stuck with no one to help them.
Amy Gordon, Travel Writer and Author, 100 Things to do in Puerto Rico Before you Die
As soon as travel starts up again, whenever that is, I expect to see two extremes: people who will go anywhere, especially if airlines offer bargain-basement prices like they are doing now, and those who will hesitate to travel at all. And of course, there will be lots of people in the middle. I think that, at least until we get new safety procedures in place, travellers will be open to easy fixes to mitigate exposure, like driving instead of flying and visiting wide open spaces rather than crowded, popular attractions.
The Professional Hobo
I think there are a few different components here; a short/immediate consequence, and a longer-term shift in how we travel. For immediate changes in how we organize our travels, I think people will pay more attention to having travel insurance, and also to be familiar with the terms therein.
But I’m more interested in the bigger picture here. With the advent of all these lockdowns, businesses have been forced to shift their employees and operations to remote working scenarios or face shutting down entirely. Thus, many companies that may have been reticent or nervous to go remote are learning that not only is it possible, but ultimately it could be way more profitable if traditional office space needn’t be maintained to the same extent.
This, in turn, will free up a huge chunk of the population to work remotely; which means many of them will be able to work from anywhere in the world! This is my domain; I travelled full-time for 12 years while working online, and I continue to travel for half of each year, as and when I wish, taking my work with me wherever I go. I’m excited to see how this will change how people travel, work, and live, and I’m prepared to help people sort out all the logistics involved with my (free) Travel Lifestyle Guides.
Jesson + Company Communications Inc.
There is always a segment of the market that will choose to travel based on price alone…especially coming out of an unprecedented situation like our self-isolation, where many Canadians are going to be financially impacted and may not have the disposable income to travel at all.
For those who are tired of being at home, and just want to get-away-from-it-all, I do think these Canadians will be more selective as to where they will travel and will gravitate to those countries that have had reduced numbers of infections and/or will travel to those countries who have handled the COVID situation well. Canadians are always mindful of safety when travelling, so I don’t think that will change. I don’t think that Canadians really consider the capabilities of healthcare in a destination when they make a travel buying decision but that could change.
- I think Canadians will travel to tried and true destinations – and will be less likely to go the more adventurous route until a period of stability has passed
- I think large cruise ships will certainly take a hit, at least in the short term – we’ll have to see long term and how the cruise industry handles the fallout
- There’s a segment of the market that will be quite happy to visit countries and heritage sites even though in hard-hit areas, as they know that for a short period of time, there won’t be as many tourists there! For example, in China, how amazing would it be to take a picture on the Great Wall of China without thousands of people in your picture?
- Depending on when we are allowed to travel again, I think we’ll see many Canadians enjoying sun, sand and sea vacations again – it’s tried and true – it’s nearby – there will be enticing offers – and we’ll need a taste of paradise at the end of this! There will undoubtedly be pent up demand from those who cancelled plans for spring break.
Because Canadians are always nice when we travel, I expect that won’t change. We’ll appreciate the places we go to even more, and hopefully be even kinder than before. I do hope Canadians travel in droves to the Caribbean, a region entirely dependent on tourism. For example, the great thing about Cuba is that it is a lower-cost option for the most part and they have a great medical system. They are now sending doctors to Italy and other COVID hotspots.
Thank you to the travel experts who contributed to this article with their insights and perspectives. If you have comments and feedback, please let us know in the comments section below.