THE FUTURE OF TRAVEL ADAPTING TO THE ‘NEW NORMAL”

To travel, or not to travel – that is the question.

With borders slowly opening in most countries, I feel compelled to tackle this question since many of us are left with these very words in our thoughts and on our lips.  Let us explore the options available to us and delve into how we will adjust to living in a new world, post Covid-19.

Being in the travel industry, I find that we are often now faced with question on whether travelling will become a tedious procedure, how will it affect the cost and the most important question, how safe will it be to travel?  Suffice it to say that even though we are navigating unchartered waters, air travel still remains one of the safest ways to travel.  For those who travel often, you would recall the plane being sprayed just before take- off.  According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), aircraft are equipped with filters that trap 99.9% of particles which include viruses such as the Corona Virus.  In addition, fresh air from outside is circulated in the cabin every two to three minutes which is about the equivalent of the air you would breathe in an operating theatre at a hospital.  We can also now rest assure that our tray tables, seats, windows and anything else that we may come into physical contact with, will be wiped down thoroughly according to the strictest hygiene policies that every airline has put in place. 

During the lockdown, we witnessed domestic tourism on the rise.  People were suddenly interested in exploring and discovering their own countries, their own cities.  And with this there was a sudden shift in mindsets.  People discovered that renting a home or “Staycations” as it is called was actually quite the adventure.  Venturing out of their comfort zones, cooking on holiday as opposed to eating out for every single meal and more quality family time have become the new normal.  We’re more likely to see this trend for a while as people, especially the older generation, will become more cautious when travelling farther from home.  This, in fact, is quite positive in terms of boosting economies from within its borders and helping to rebuild countries in terms of infrastructure required to adapt to a more sustainable future.

So with the borders now opening up to international travel, let’s take a look at some of the procedures that may fall into place when setting out of your new adventures:

arriving at the airport:

  • Previously we were required to check in two hours prior to international flights, it is safe to say that until a vaccine becomes available, the timings are going to be a tad bit longer than usual. Be prepared for delays and arrive at least four hours prior to your departure time.  The most important thing to bear in mind now is that it will become compulsory to have a Covid-19 test no longer than 72 hours prior to departure and in addition, to carry a medical clearance certificate.  Many airports now have facilities in place for testing. Unfortunately, there is a waiting period for results which is up to 24 hours or longer depending on each country’s procedures.  Best to check with your airport website for further information and costs.
  • Ensure safe social distancing with no less than six feet apart. Stick to the markers indicating the distancing everywhere.
  • Wear a mask at all times! You may be asked to remove your mask for identity verification purposes.
  • Be prepared before reaching the scanning gates. Remove all items on your person, belts and buckles, wear shoes that can easily be removed and fitted and remember to check which food items are permissible to carry on board.

accommodation:

  • Previously we were required to check in two hours

    Hotels are among the hardest hit when it comes to services within the travel industry, with some well established chains having to declare insolvency or business rescue.  For those who have survived, you can be certain that the most stringent measures have been applied in terms of sanitization and hygiene.  Whereas each hotel will have its own unique procedures, note that they do follow rigorously the guidelines precedented by the World Health Organization (WHO).

    • Health questionnaires and temperatures will become standard procedures.
    • Rooms, surfaces, public areas, etc will be sprayed and regularly sanitized.
    • Soaps will be replaces with liquid sanitizers
    • More frequently and where possible, touchless systems will be introduced.
    • Food will be meticulously prepared according to, once again, the strictest hygiene principles. More often buffet spreads will now be replaced with a la carte menus.
    • Again, best to check your hotel’s website before arrival for up to date information or enquire from your travel agent if you have made use of their services.
    prior to international flights, it is safe to say that until a vaccine becomes available, the timings are going to be a tad bit longer than usual. Be prepared for delays and arrive at least four hours prior to your departure time.  The most important thing to bear in mind now is that it will become compulsory to have a Covid-19 test no longer than 72 hours prior to departure and in addition, to carry a medical clearance certificate.  Many airports now have facilities in place for testing. Unfortunately, there is a waiting period for results which is up to 24 hours or longer depending on each country’s procedures.  Best to check with your airport website for further information and costs.
  • Ensure safe social distancing with no less than six feet apart. Stick to the markers indicating the distancing everywhere.
  • Wear a mask at all times! You may be asked to remove your mask for identity verification purposes.
  • Be prepared before reaching the scanning gates. Remove all items on your person, belts and buckles, wear shoes that can easily be removed and fitted and remember to check which food items are permissible to carry on board.

restaurants and eating out:

  • With restrictions on capacities, many restaurants will require that you make reservations ahead of time. Do this to avoid any disappointment, especially if the place is a popular hangout.

cinemas and theatres:

  • Cinemas have largely opened up in the last month albeit with limited capacity. I think this could be a great way to enjoy a movie without having a huge crowd, especially when it comes to wildly popular releases.
  • If you are planning a trip to a theatre or cinema, check the local paper or website once again to avoid any unwelcome surprises.

clubs and bars:

  • The same applies here when it comes to capacity. Call up ahead of time to make a reservation and even more so, to enquire whether the property is open for business.
  • Ensure social distancing at all times from strangers too. Security checks are done regularly and track and tracing implemented so be sure to carry identification.
  • It would interest you to know that, accordingly to Sky News, clubs (those that have survived the pandemic), are adapting to change. Operating at around 75% capacity and pumping fresh air through mechanical vents newly installed up to 25 times per hour.  I called a few bars and clubs within South Africa and was told the same: that clubs across the world are working on implementing the same sort of procedures.  Quite impressive I would say!

tourist attractions:

  • In keeping with controlling capacities, tourist attractions will now, in my opinion, prove to be much more pleasant in certain instances such as visiting museums where your one main goal was to see that famous painting. Instead of now trying to squeeze past several bodies, standing on your toes (as I usually do with still no luck in actually catching a glimpse of it), and dealing with the frustration of only just spying the somewhat chubby right hand of Mona Lisa as it crosses over the other, you will now enjoy the immense pleasure of admiring this magnificent piece of art without anyone else pushing you and hovering over you and breathing all over you.  However, there may be a down side to this.  Long waiting periods, queues, possibly increased ticket prices, etc.  Who knows?! 
  • Again, always good to check the websites first once your travel plans are confirmed.

city tips and hints:

  • Get used to wearing a mask wherever you go and mostly all the time. Find something that is comfortable, yet breathable and that will protect you.  You should opt to have at least four per person when travelling for more than 10 days.  Rather safe than sorry, I always say.
  • Make sure to read up on the city information, its rules and regulations before arriving there.
  • Follow procedures and practice patience as there will be delays and longer waiting periods for many aspects of your trip.
  • Research your trip thoroughly to avoid disappointment and nasty surprises.
  • Book sightseeing and attractions in advance if possible with the option of free cancellation where applicable – even if you do pay a little extra. Trust me…you will be thankful should you have to cancel.

So now that we have established the guidelines, what are the options open to us should we prefer to take the more intrepid routes?  At the time of writing this article, most of Africa (with the exception of Algeria, Libya, Eritrea, Uganda, Burundi, Angola, Mozambique, Botswana, Madagascar and Zimbabwe who are completely restricted), remain partially restrictive.  As of 01 October 2020, South Africa along with Mauritius, Namibia and various other countries in Africa will welcome international tourists.  Be prepared and stay informed on up to date information as these many change at any time.  Use reliable sources when scouring the internet such as IATA travelcentre for country restrictions.  Ensure that you only rely on a country’s and/or its embassy’s official websites for information pertaining to Covid-19 procedures and regulations.

2020 Is almost at an end.  It has been a tough year to say the least, but it has made us a stronger, more resilient people.  It has taught us humility and appreciation.  And above all, it has taught us that life is far too short to waste on killing ourselves over what cannot be controlled, but rather to find new ways of crossing oceans and scaling mountains.  So too, will we overcome this pandemic and once again savour the wonder and beauty of travel.

References:

Nadira Adam

Nadira Adam

A Travel and Tourism graduate with 23 years in the travel industry and recently turned Travel Blogger with an insatiable passion for discovering places and connecting with people. A firm believer in the greatness of humanity and that there is no failure in life, only lessons to be learnt.

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