Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, the chances are you’ve heard about the Covid-19 vaccine breakthroughs from Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech. These pharmaceutical companies have proclaimed not one, but two landmark breakthroughs, and with trials showing both to be over 90% effective, it adds to the growing confidence that vaccines will help end the global pandemic. In short, it’s early days but it’s fantastic news.
So, as the vaccines enter the next stages of approval, what will this mean for travel? And how will it affect travellers? It’s too early to know for certain, so we’ve gazed into our crystal ball to predict what the travel experience will look like once the vaccines get the green light…
1. More travel corridors and bubbles
First things first: where will we be able to travel? National vaccination programmes should reduce the risk of larger Covid-19 outbreaks, which means the travel corridors we saw in Europe over the summer will become more feasible - and sustainable. We’re starting to see the emergence of bubbles between countries in Asia with low levels of infection, and looking further ahead, Japan, South Korea and Singapore are in discussions with the Australian government to re-open international travel. However, until vaccines are rolled out on a global scale it’s likely that travellers from ‘high risk’ to ‘low risk’ countries will be required to self-isolate unless they qualify for an exemption.
Prediction: Travel bubbles are here to stay, but national vaccination rollouts will mean more international routes and corridors opening up.
2. A contactless travel experience
Don’t throw away your mask just yet! Buffets and introductory handshakes may already feel like a distant memory, but it looks like the safety measures put in place by airlines, accommodation, car hire and train companies - such as disembarking planes row-by-row, supplies of hand sanitiser and wearing masks - will be here to stay. What’s more, Covid-19 accelerated the sector’s investment in touchless tech. From proximity sensors at kiosks, biometric boarding and contactless lifts to disinfection robots, this investment in innovative technologies will ensure travel stays a seamless – and contactless – experience.
Prediction: New technology and enhanced safety measures will keep the travel experience contactless.
3. More documents to travel
Everybody’s favourite: paperwork. Once governments begin rolling out their vaccination programmes, proof of vaccination could become advisory, or even mandatory. This might be either online or on paper, and similar to the yellow fever vaccination certificates required by certain destinations, it would show that you’ve been vaccinated at an accredited clinic.
Prediction: An international certificate of covid-19 vaccination will be the next addition to your packing list.
4. Flexibility remains an essential
With all the uncertainty and change travellers experienced in 2020, they’re likely to be a lot more cautious with where they’re spending money going forward. They’ll also want – and expect - more flexibility with their bookings. From fully refundable tickets to free-of-charge date changes, many suppliers are already offering more flexibility as standard, and whilst demand remains low and competition for customers high, this is likely to become the norm. Even with national vaccination programmes it will take a long time for the travel landscape to settle, so flexibility will remain an essential for business travellers.
Prediction: Increased flexibility as standard will become the norm, until the travel landscape begins to settle.
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