The shape of things to come

How the coronavirus may affect all our future travel plans, and what we can do about it now

This is correct at the time of writing (April 2020) but things are constantly changing. So we’ve put links at the bottom of this page for up-to-date information.

Travel © Mantas Hesthaven, Unsplash
Stepping out into a brave new world © Mantas Hesthaven, Unsplash

As a travel-and-food-loving couple COVID-19 has hit us hard. We’re fine healthwise but it’s put a major kink in our holiday planning. We’ve always assumed that travel would be a huge part of our lives and, even though we’re advocates of discovering the treasures on your own doorstep, that inevitably includes putting in some miles, by road, rail or air.

Now because of future government-mandated restrictions we’re facing up to the reality that times really are a-changing. For us in the UK all foreign travel is off the agenda until the Foreign Office updates its guidance.

So we’ve been putting our lockdown leisure hours into what we do best – researching possibilities, staying hopeful and making plans. We don’t have a crystal ball and nobody can say for certain what lies ahead but here are our thoughts on how travel post-coronavirus is about to change.

Borders will re-open

Whilst nobody’s expecting this to happen anytime soon, and a summer break is very unlikely, the economies of so many countries rely on tourism that the borders will open up again as soon as it’s safe to do so.

The World Travel and Tourism council, the trade group representing major global travel companies, projects a global loss of 75 million jobs and $2.1 trillion in revenue as a direct result of the pandemic. Their #TogetherInTravel campaign aims to get the industry back on its feet as soon as possible.

Italy, Spain and France are currently the most hard-hit European countries and Greece is the European nation with the highest percentage of people directly involved in tourism so they will be keen to welcome travellers back.

Tropical islands like those in the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean will be crying out for visitors. On our recent trip to Antigua we discovered 80% of the country’s economy is based around tourism and the current situation is heartbreaking.

But just because we can, does it mean we should?

Travelling abroad is going to be much less straightforward than in the past so you need to take your time before making any decision.

Some countries will ask for health certificates before allowing you to travel, so booking a foreign trip may take longer. There may be restrictions in place on where foreign visitors can go, including holding areas in airports so health screening can be carried out on arrival.

The wearing of masks on all public transport, whilst not common here in the UK, is likely to be a requirement for many countries, so additional spending on personal protective equipment needs to be factored in to any plans.

Airports and planes will have to change

British Airways aircraft at airport terminal © JoeBreuer, Pixabay
© JoeBreuer, Pixabay

No-one’s going to want to squeeze themselves into an overcrowded metal tube on a tight-packed economy flight, so airlines will be looking at reconfigured layouts if they want to entice customers back.

Expect to see many more checks at airports, specifically health related ones, and we need to be ready for even earlier check-in times for flights. Social distancing during check-in, bag drop etc will be strictly enforced and queues will be long.

Blood tests, temperature checks etc are all a possibility, and some assessments could be carried out remotely at hi-tech automatic kiosks. But new systems have to be paid for, so expect ticket prices to rise.

Boarding protocols will change to ensure less cross-over of passengers. There will be row-by-row calls with everyone entering at the rear of the plane. The process will be much slower, less of a free-for-all, and likely to be strictly enforced.

The aviation industry is preparing for these changes to be in place for a long time.

A survey of senior and mid-level executives in the aviation industry from across the world was carried out by strategic consultancy firm ICF International in March and April 2020.

Although all were optimistic the sector will recover eventually, respondents based in Europe and America expect it to take up to two years. Across the world there was agreement that the new processes and regulations affecting everything from aircraft sanitary inspections to passenger screening are long-term changes.

So in this ‘new normal’ hopping on a short-haul flight for a weekend will probably feel too much bother and too high a risk. When we travel again we’re going to want to be sure the effort is worth it.

Maybe we need to spend more, travel less.

Insurance policies will become essential reading

Good travel insurance is a must anytime you travel but in the past we’ve often opted for a really low cost ‘as long as my medical bills are covered’ option. Now is the time to look carefully into what is provided.

So many people who had holiday insurance when the crisis unfurled found they were not covered. Right now you can’t even buy any travel insurance. That will change and once companies start providing cover again you’ll know that travel is possible.

But more than ever it will be important to take the time to read the small print and choose a policy that meets all your needs. Hopefully firms will respond by making the conditions clear and not bury restrictions away on page 19 of a 30 page document.

Credit cards © TheDigitalWay, Pixabay
© TheDigitalWay, Pixabay

Credit card is king

Even if you set the limit low and only use it for your travel purchases, using a credit card will give you an extra layer of cancellation protection. In the UK Section 75 laws mean your credit card must protect purchases over £100 for free, so if there’s a problem it makes it easier to get your money back.

Even if you just use the card for the deposit on your holiday and pay the balance via another method, the Section 75 laws apply to the whole purchase.

Maybe you’ll never need to use it, but it’s a great fallback option if you’re struggling to get a refund by any other method.

Prepare to jump through hoops

Dog jumping through hoop © Andrea Lightfoot, Unsplash
© Andrea Lightfoot, Unsplash

In the UK we’ve been privileged for many years to enjoy free access to many countries, often without the need for even an e-Visa. Things will undoubtedly change and we should expect countries to apply much stricter rules from now on, including potentially travellers having to have vaccination certificates and other health screening paperwork.

It’ll make long-distance travel more time-consuming and expensive.

Sad but true.

Package holidays will be in demand

One of the things that became clear as soon as holidays had to be cancelled was that those who’d chosen a package deal (transport + accommodation + extras) from a single supplier found it easier to get refunds or credit vouchers.

We’re big fans of independent travel and usually go it alone but now might be the time to switch up our style and accept an all-in-one deal.


Sustainability is key

Travellers should now think more deeply about why they want to go somehere. This can be a positive thing in the long run. We need to consider the environment, the safety and security of local people, their economies and how our travel budget can help rebuild whole communities, not just allow big corporations to siphon off the profits.

We’ve always preferred mindful travel – staying in smaller communities, shopping and eating locally. It takes more time to plan and means a slower pace of travel, but it’s worth the extra effort.

If we can make environmentally-aware choices as we start to travel again we will be playing our part in reshaping the industry.

Some familiar brands will disappear

Even before the pandemic some of the big names were struggling and no-one knows which airlines, hotel chains, resorts and attractions will survive.

The travel industry has always bounced from previous crises but this one – worldwide, long-term and with human consequences that touch us all – is different.

We can’t begin to guess who will come out stronger and who will go to the wall.

Overtourism could be a thing of the past

We were so lucky to see Venice last year, but felt hugely ambivalent about visiting such a crowded and vulnerable city. Now the streets are empty, the waters clear enough for dolphins to return and the wildflowers are blooming again.

Basilica, St Mark's Square ©
How long before the crowds gather in St Mark’s Square? ©

Today we have a chance to stop, take stock and plan for the future of tourism. Milan is already considering how to reduce traffic when it re-opens. Lessons have been learned in cities around the world about the need for less crowded public transport and perhaps that network of cycle lanes will finally get the attention it deserves.

Staycations are top of the list

We love travelling the world and hope to again, but for now we’re accepting that holidays at home are the best option.

We’ve featured many lovely UK destinations in the past. Now is a great time for us to get out that wish list and plan low impact, socially distant ways of getting to them once we’re free to leave our neighbourhood.

We’ve long wanted to explore Hadrian’s Wall, revisit Bath and stroll in the wilds of Northumberland. So, once all those important family visits have been made, we’ll be heading for the hills!

Bath Abbey ©
Bath Abbey ©

Cottages versus hotels

As the world re-opens we’ll still want to stay safe and more secluded so holiday cottages and villas will be the best choice. And there are so many. From quiet family-run farm houses, through buses and barges to lighthouses and windmills.

Nature- based holiday villas are great for family gatherings in the fresh air with quiet, quirky getaways for couples.

Expect to see many more adverts popping up for health and wellbeing breaks, open air adventures and conservation and wildlife experiences.

Hotels will re-open but may have to put extra effort into providing ‘cleaning audits’ for consumer confidence. Cleaning staff may be more visible – and hopefully paid better too – and again these additional costs may be reflected in your bill.

Some countries may introduce a system of verification, like the hygiene rating star system for restaurants, but this will take time to get up and running.

Always look on the bright side of travel

We are lucky during this lockdown. We have our health, can stay in touch with family and friends through technology and we live on the edge of a city which has plenty of open spaces to practice social distancing. We can hang on a lot longer – and it looks as though we may have to.

But when this is over and we’re at last allowed to move about freely we reckon we will be travelling less and maybe not so far afield.

But we will still travel.

How about you?

Stay Safe wall

Useful information

Health advice for UK residents
UK Foreign Office travel advice
ABTA advice on travelling
Civil Aviation Authority advice on flying
Q&A for UK travellers on refunds and re-booking from Which?

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