The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound and far-reaching effects on every aspect of modern life. Travel, tourism, widespread human movement — and all of the new restrictions limiting the ability to do it — has been one of the most major changes. It has had massive impacts on human behavior and the global economy. Travel will restart at some point and in some capacity; yet, that it will ever be the same as it was before seems out of the question. As time has gone on, it is ever more clear that this is not a small blip on the radar.
There will be no “post COVID” era. This pandemic will leave profound, far-reaching changes to every aspect of modern life. No one is entirely sure what travel might look like in the COVID-19 era, but we here at Bodhi Surf + Yoga hope and believe it can be a catalyst to ignite positive change in this industry. In many spheres it already seems that this is indeed happening.
The travel industry in the COVID era
Limiting travel and widespread exposure has been a necessary step for the immediate health and wellbeing of individuals in communities all around the world. It has also been necessary to maintain the healthcare functionality and to avoid system overwhelm.
Those of us in the travel industry (both the direct and indirect beneficiaries) have seen our livelihoods put on indefinite hold. At present, there has been little in the way of widespread relief for the businesses and individuals in travel and tourism globally. The industry had a “direct, indirect, and induced” impact on 330 million jobs around the globe and accounted for 10.3% of global GDP in 2019. Experts state that around ⅓ of these jobs are currently at risk.
Governments around the world have a vested interest in allowing travel again due to the economic ramifications. Obviously, it would be better if everyone could stay at home and socially distance until there is herd immunity. However, the economic implications of that are nearly as dire as the virus itself. Travel will indeed restart, but like with other aspects of society, it will have to be a balancing act, and will likely involve several roll outs and roll backs. However, there are indications the changes that the industry is forced to undergo will improve the experience for both travelers as well as host communities around the world.
An optimal future of travel
There are many in the industry who are already utilizing this “pause” to reimagine travel altogether. There are a myriad of problems that frequently accompany tourism: environmental degradation, cultural erosion, and “overtourism”, to name a few.
Yet what if, when the world’s workings begin to restart again, we all buy into a new form of tourism and travel? One in which…
- Small businesses are elevated
- Visitors are immersed in local culture in a responsible way
- Local communities are able to coexist with tourists and thrive because of the economic benefits they bring
- Nature is protected
These are not overly ambitious goals, they just require some rethinking and restructuring. We at Bodhi Surf + Yoga are excited to form part of several groups that are rethinking the future of travel. We sincerely do believe that the benefits of travel outweigh the negatives. If we can find a way to balance all of the issues and concerns, we will be able to all share greater benefits from those positive aspects.
A few hope spots
Here are a couple of really awesome things happening during this strange moment for the entire travel industry:
- Future of Travel Coalition: Our partner organization, the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) as well as several other awesome organizations have come together to create the Future of Travel Coalition. It aims to utilize this moment of collective pause to reimagine a brighter future for travel. Bodhi Surf + Yoga is excited to be a signatory business. Read the coalition’s Guiding Principles.
- The Transformational Travel Council: We’re stoked to be a part of this group of “guides and conveners of the transformational travel philosophy creating change by empowering, guiding and supporting travelers in their pursuit of personal growth and global understanding.” Read this letter from the founder, Jake Haupert, called “The Great Reset”
- The B Corp Travel group: We are stoked to be founding members of this group, which consists of several industry experts from within the B Corp movement that want to promote the use of “travel as a force for good.” Meetings have continued regularly this year, and we are still actively trying to grow the number of B Corp companies in the travel industry, promote responsible travel, and learn from one another!
Upcoming travel trends and norms in the COVID era
“Smart travelers will trust places with good governance and health systems. They will take fewer trips and stay longer. They will see this pandemic as a forecast of what’s to come from the climate crisis. They will act like responsible citizens as well as passionate travelers.” — Foreign Policy
It is unlikely that people will feel confident traveling in the way that they used to, at least at the outset. Here are a few trends that seem to be on the rise:
- Safety: people will want to travel to places that they perceive to be handling the COVID pandemic well, that have good systems in place (health care, emergency response, etc.)
- Transparency: people will prefer to visit places that are open and clear about what they are doing to prevent the spread of COVID, what they would do if there were cases present, etc.
- Low population density: people may feel more confident traveling to places that are more sparsely populated (think small towns, rural areas, and nature versus big cities)
- Nature: rather than being indoors with a bunch of others, travelers may prefer to be in the great outdoors, a place where social distancing is much easier
New sanitation and health measures while traveling
One major consideration is how we can make travel more safe and clean? Even more simply, how can travel exist in a world where it is also imperative to keep the spread of the pandemic to a manageable level? The fact is that the spread of this virus can be kept at bay with cleaning and disinfection techniques, as well as physical barriers such as face masks and social distancing. Within airports and on airplanes themselves, there has already been a movement to go “touchless,” require mask use and hand sanitization, and avoid conglomerations of people, to name a few.
This is the first step (and seemingly easiest to implement) that governments around the world have required businesses and organizations to take, is to assure the health and wellbeing of both individuals and the collective. There are rigorous new cleaning standards in place anywhere the public may visit. Hand washing literature and hand sanitizer stations are popping up all over the place. Mask use is obligatory in many public places, and recommended in all. Moreover, social distancing is encouraged if not outright mandatory. Going forward, it will be imperative that travelers adhere to the most stringent guidelines to avoid the spread of COVID.
Flying in the COVID era
What will it be like to fly in the COVID era? Like with everything right now, there is a high level of uncertainty about this because of the quickly changing circumstances. For individuals, there are all kinds of risks:
- Booking a flight only to have it get cancelled
- Getting to the destination country without the certainty of being allowed in
- Not knowing if they will have to quarantine after they return
- Not to mention the big one, catching the virus itself
Some airlines may impose social distancing within the flights themselves which would make prices go up. Some airlines, in an attempt to bolster business in an uncertain climate (and amid the vast financial loss of keeping planes grounded or flying them empty) may drop prices in the short term.
Here is the video with the new protocols for entering Costa Rica via the Juan Santamaria International Airport, which is reopening to visitors from the UK, EU, and Canada on August 1, 2020.
Technology and digitization of information in the travel sector
In the not-too-distant future, it is probable that we will see technology applied to various aspects of travel. This might this look like:
- Temperature screeners in airports
- Apps that track our movement (and any deviations from the norm)
- A movement away from physical money
- A health passport (that could be attached to our regular passport)
- Increased biometics (touchless) options
What this aims to help do is reduce the risk of transmission during travel, reassure prospective tourists, and ultimately begin to bring the industry back to its pre-COVID levels.
Trust in and desire to travel
“[T]he desire to travel will not go away: In a recent survey by Skift Research, the research arm of the travel trade publication, one-third of Americans said they hope to travel within three months after restrictions are lifted.” — New York Times
Modern humans have a penchant for moving around — whether that’s driving to the next town over or visiting a different country located halfway around the globe. There is a reason that tourism is such a huge industry. It’s already visible in places that have looser restrictions and fewer laws: people are eager to resume some kind of normalcy.
There will be factors that make traveling complicated and potentially out-of-reach for many people. The industry will have to make a great number of changes in order to continue in the COVID era, and we the travelers will have to adapt to them. Governments around the world are in process of introducing both conditional and permanent laws that affect the various components of tourism and travel: transportation, hospitality, tour operators and attractions, to name a few.
Yet again, many of us share a hope that travel won’t go back to normal. That instead, a new, widespread form of responsible and transformational travel will emerge. A travel that contributes positively to the host communities, doesn’t damage the environment, and is a catalyst for travelers to learn, engage, and make positive changes in their lives.
If you are interested in reading how Costa Rica is handling the global COVID-19 pandemic, check out this blog post. Furthermore, read why we believe Costa Rica has positioned itself as an optimal travel destination in the COVID era.