We are ready to go
When travel shut down it was like the rug was ripped out from under us. In fact, right before everything closed down in March, the TSA reported that we were at more than 2 million travelers passing through airport checkpoints a day. At our lowest point in April, that number plummeted to 87,000. Demands for flights tanked, and hotel rooms were left empty. The cruise industry was non-existent. But as the world is starting to reawaken, numbers are increasing steadily — and fast. In fact, in June there were more than 600,000 people passing through TSA checkpoints.
This is all to say that we miss travel. And we are ready to get going again. Two-thirds of leisure travelers expect to book their next leisure trip within the next six months, and more than half are planning to do so during the next three months.
Still, just because you can doesn’t mean you necessarily should — but we’ll get into that. So what can you expect from travel this summer? Here’s a quick glimpse.
Air: Ready for takeoff
It is important to note that the CDC is still very much against travel. Travel is how the virus spread so rapidly, after all. But with states and countries loosening their restrictions, some uptick in travel is inevitable. By July we’re already seeing more than 600,000 travelers taking to the skies in the United States, roughly 20% of the year-over-year traffic.
Masks are largely required on airplanes these days, or so they would have you believe, as most airlines now have written requirements that passengers wear them. Some will provide if needed, but many do not, so be sure to add ‘mask’ to your list of carry-on essentials.
It was rumored that airplanes would fly at a lower capacity, leaving the middle seat empty to ensure social distancing. Some, like United, are notifying passengers when a flight fills beyond a certain point. Others, like Delta and Alaska, have blocked the middle seats completely. Southwest has reduced the maximum number of seats sold through July 31, as well.
Stay: Checking in
Forget breakfast buffets and that complimentary glass of bubbly on arrival. Hotels are all embracing temperature screenings and QR-coded menus.
Until a vaccine exists, hotel stays are likely going to be minimal-contact experiences. Expect reduced occupancy, less in-person interactions, and most everything to be handled via your mobile device: from check-in, to keyless rooms, menus and guides. Across the board, guests can expect increased cleaning frequency, PPE made readily available, luggage sanitization upon check-in, a thoroughly masked-up staff.
Still, it remains a fact that the hotel industry has been among the hardest hit in the age of COVID-19. And it’s going to be a while before recovery returns to pre-coronavirus levels. Some estimate that it could take until 2023, or later.
Experience: Intimate and local
When it comes to travel, however, all is far from lost. Travelers are just as hungry for the next adventure as ever. What we can expect in the immediate future is a rise in domestic interest, with an emphasis on social distancing and supporting local businesses. Affordability will also be a factor, given the country’s economy right now.
For example, Airbnb shows that during the second half of May, there were more nights booked for domestic travel on Airbnb, around the world, than there were in the same period in 2019. The company also moved its popular Experiences offerings online, which has exploded. Travelers can meditate with monks in Japan, make tamales with a chef in Mexico, or take a painting class — all from the comfort of their own homes.
Many hotels are adapting to this new reality by embracing a focus on wellness. Take the Andaz Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, for example. The Mexico resort is reimagining its activities with social distancing in mind. Fitness classes, meditation, and spa treatments will be held outdoors.
Travel is a powerful privilege, and the more we stay home, the more we crave it. It is undeniable that the industry will survive this. It will just look a little different on the other side.