Life has officially (almost) gone back to normal in most German states. Shops, restaurants, bars, churches, museums, hair salons…. practically all establishments have received the green light to reopen, though with, of course, high levels of caution. Schools, for example, are following social distancing rules and have reduced schedules. In general, social distancing of 1.5m and the use of masks is advised – in some cities, obligatory. The travel restrictions are the next to be loosen, right in time for the summer season…
This first set of travel changes concern travelers inside the EU only – no surprise there. The borders will start to be reopened in the beginning of June, and the idea is to have it all done by June 15th. Though the 14-day quarantine requirement for European and UK visitors will be lifted, it will continue in place for travelers coming from outside of the bloc. This basically means that the European summer will remain, well, European.
So far, there´s no forecast about when Germany will lift this last international barrier. Additionally, the countries might work with different schedules and agreements with one another. With so much information flying around on this theme, it´s hard to understand what the new “normal” for traveling will look like, and which new trends will arise.
So I decided to sit down, do some research and gather here some trends that experts predict for this year, and possibly the next one too. I also threw in some guesses of mine that I already see appearing from e-mails I have been receiving from travel agencies. I hope this list can help us all be prepared and start planning the next trip with all info in hands!
Local and shorter travels
It´s undeniable that, in times of COVID-19, and in the absence of a vaccine, the trend for 2020 is to travel locally, and for short periods. By “locally” I mean inside your own state or country. This is, first, a consequence of countries having their boarders closed, and, second, a way of being careful.
Let´s say, for example, that European countries reopen for international tourists later this year (Forbes predicts it won´t happen before fall). The question you have to ask yourself is: without a vaccine, do I want to run the risk of ending up at a hospital in a different country? In case this is a chance you are willing to take, you do have to consider where you are going to and which health insurance you are taking with you. It´s definitely a good idea to aim at places that have a good track of controlling the virus, like Germany, Croatia, New Zealand and Australia, for example, and that have a competent health system.
In terms of health insurance, it´s time to read the small print and not save on it. Some credit card companies actually include international travel insurance to some places if you buy the tickets with the card. If you are used to doing this, you might want to check with them again if the terms remain the same or not in times of Corona virus.
You also have to consider that traveling internationally this year will encompass extreme hygiene measures and even a shot record if the vaccine for COVID-19 is developed in the next months. So, if you book anything for later this year, it´s a good idea to keep yourself informed, because requirements will change fast.
If you feel hesitant to go far, this could be a great opportunity to actually get to know your country or state better. You can hop in your car and go somewhere that maybe you have always wanted to, but wasn´t that keen on when comparing it to a faraway getaway. You can get surprised about how many cool options might be available around you.
And by “cool things around you”, I mean even in your city!
What the heck, Vivi, why would I vacay where I live?!
Well, my dear, this has been a trend for a while now, and it might increase this year. It even has a fancy name: staycation, or holistay! The idea is to stay home, but dedicate time to do what a traveler would be doing in your city, like going to museums and parks, or even take the time to sunbathe at your balcony. You can also pack your bags and go spend a weekend at a local hotel, where you can unwind, enjoy the pool and a nice big breakfast.
It might seem pointless at first, but this idea really grew on me. It´s really nice to have people taking care of you, so I definitely wouldn´t mind a carefree weekend at a hotel in my town, where I can just kick back, relax and treat me some pampering. It´s a good solution for those that are anxious about traveling far, or are willing to save as much as they can on a getaway. Some hotels offer such unique experience that you will probably forget you didn´t leave town.
AIRBNBs over big chain hotels
In 2020 the people who feel comfortable enough to travel will prefer to rent private apartments rather than rooms in big hotels. The predicted trend actually makes some sense: travelers will want to avoid hotel crowded areas like the breakfast rooms or the pool. In the case of AIRBNBs, there are hosts who even provide the check in and the check out procedure without the guest needing to see anybody.
I do believe this might be a trend, specially for those traveling locally. In the case of international travels, I don´t see much of a point. I mean, once you hop on a plane with a bunch of people, what would be the point of doing social distancing at the arrival, right? But AIRBNBs will definitely be sought after by local travelers. Oh, by the way, and so will camper vans! I myself am currently dreaming of something in the like, probably in the northern part of Germany where there are nice beaches!
Now, following the same logic, Forbes says that the cruise industry will definitely shrink. With some already facing environmental charges, the magazine doesn´t see a comeback so soon for big liners. These companies will not only suffer from clients wanting to travel with social distancing, but also with more conscious tourists who will demand sustainability.
Eco-Travels will be high up on the menu
If anything, we all realized how much Mother Nature did not miss us. Quite the opposite: we saw crocodiles going for a stroll in Florida, monkeys having a blast in a private pool in Rio and deers walking absent-mindedly in Nara. Many woke up about the impact we have on Earth, and the responsibility of the choices we make on an everyday basis, but also when it comes to vacationing. People will definitely be paying more attention now where they are going to put their money in when traveling, preferring eco-friendly options.
In this perspective, it is very likely that hotels, airliners and restaurants, for example, will shift their way of doing business, not only for the sake of protecting the environment, but also to follow the new consumer trend. We might see restaurants advertising their seasonal menus based on locally sourced products. We might see hotels drawing the guests´ attention to their eco-friendly cleaning methods. This is one of the trends I´m so eager to see happening.
Travelers that might have been more city-bound, will also prefer to continue social distancing without supressing the urge to travel, choosing adventure or quiet destinations in the woods. In this sense, the prospect is looking bright for travel agencies that organize rafting tours, small yoga retreats or mountain walks. Volunteering trips might also experience a higher demand.
Companies will offer more value, not cheaper prices
Though travelers might be eagerly expecting the prices to free fall due to the low demand, they might have a bitter surprise. With the complete stop of the industry for 3 months or even more in some countries like Italy, hotels, agencies, flight companies and local guides have an urge to recover fast. It´s a matter of survival. Since international restrictions will still linger for a few months and many guests will be afraid to travel at all, dropping the prices will not help the industry. The volume of guests will still be under the normal rate.
Therefore, it´s very probable that service providers will keep the prices as they would normally be for the season, or even increase them. At the same time, many might come together to offer better value for guests. For example, hotels might offer meal deals and also partner with local companies to sell a room + attraction tickets combo.
By the way, it is, actually, not advisable to aim at the cheapest prices. During the first months it will be hard to tell who will survive the crisis, so you might end up with a booked trip from a bankrupted company that will never happen. After months of waiting to see the world again, no one wants such a disappointment. So, choose the prices that seem fair to you – best value, not the best price, is the way that will ensure you a nice trip and, at the same time, help the industry.
If you do see an amazing deal you can´t pass on, find ways to at least protect yourself. You can book a travel insurance that might still keep the travel price low, and it will assure you that you won´t loose all your money in case something happens. Or you can ask your credit card company if they offer any kind of travel insurance in case you book everything with the card. The important thing is that you book wiser than ever in the next months.
The travel industry will get back on its feet. Some say faster than one would expect, though I have my doubts there. My bet is that it will be a slow, but better comeback, in the sense that many providers will have to adjust to the new world. We will see more impact-conscious and environmentally friendly options, at the same time that travelers also learn that they have the upper card to decide where tourism will go from here – and it won´t be only about splurging anymore. Additionally, I think we also have learned how to appreciate and cherish what is near us. The grass in not greener on the other side after all.