If you had told me in January 2020 that a virus called Covid 19 would not only change everything we thought about the world and travel; I would have probably thrown you a half-smile at best. However, here we are in the middle of August and every single thing that we had taken for granted just a few months ago has been challenged. Our habits, our luxuries, our needs and our very cores!
Travel Habits Changed?
However, nothing has changed as drastically as ideas of travel have. As the world shuts down upon itself in the wave of a pandemic, we are all forced to answer a fundamental question; Will travel ever be the same again? Will we ever be able to just pack our bags and leave on an impulse? Will we ever stay in a strangers house, form organic connections, couch surf, use AirBnB, travel on a budget…the list is endless.
While we may never go back to our old ways of travelling, maybe that’s for the best. It is time we travelled more responsibly and in return, elicited a much more organised response from the operators. It’s time that we introspected and rechecked our travel habits. However, as we sit in and introspect, there are some brave souls out there who have already ventured out of their comfort zones and started redefining the idea of travel in COVID 19 times.
Workations and Staycations
Starting March 2020, most companies announced a work from home policy for most of their employees. While this was greeted with initial enthusiasm, it soon emerged that it was not so much a policy change as it was a necessity in order to curb the spread of the pandemic. This encouraged a lot of people to actively engage in their home space and develop a work corner, but for how long can you restrict the movement of a soul that has caught the wanderlust bug!
As soon as state and national borders opened, resorts and small scale homestays started cautiously opening their doors for long stays and staycations. Since travellers were anyway working from home, the need to take a leave was out of question and so also, short term stays. With Wifi, sanitized spaces and clearly demarcated areas, these resorts and stays changed the very definition of staycation to a workation!
Key Takeaway: Long stays at places where people could work from became more popular as everyone worked from home.
As the Covid 19 started worsening, so did the fear and panic. The comfort of knowing that you could get from place A to place merely by booking a ticket was challenged. Consequently, the focus shifted to being self-dependent and reliant. Having one’s own car was not always possible for a lot of the working population and thus, self-drive weekend rentals as well as long term packages started gaining ground. As the user could ensure sanity and the compliances of the car by himself, it was only logical that one opted for these.
Key Takeaway: Self-drive rentals and holidays assumed importance as people had low trust levels when it came to taking public transport.
Wanderlust Diminished, Not Vanished
A survey called ‘Unravel Travel’ was conducted by Blackbox Research, data provider Dynata, and language partner Language Connect,. It examines the sentiments, preferences, and expectations of 10,195 people across 17 countries regarding travel in a post-COVID-19 world. Surprisingly, the survey revealed that Asians and even among them- Indians and Thai People were quite enthusiastic to travel to even international destinations in the post-COVID era. The research finds that this could be attributed to most Asian countries experiencing the same progress curve of the pandemic. However, the preference will be towards destinations that have effectively stopped the spread of the virus and have more safety protocols in place.
Key Takeaway: People would prefer to travel to destinations that have effectively stopped the spread of the virus and have more safety protocols in place.
Contactless Boarding Experiences, Virtual Health Passports, Touchless Lavatories, Contactless Picks and Drops to and from Airports are just some of the buzzwords that we are likely to hear more and more of as people attempt to get used to the ‘New Normal’. This can be alluded to the fact that ‘Touch’ and go places often involve the trepidation of being unclean, not regularly serviced etc.
Key Takeaway: Focus on places that offer touch and go experience to keep in view the sanitation and cleanliness.
Responsible Travelling and Avoiding ‘Overtourism‘
As travelling itself becomes more of a luxury than necessity, planning adequately for every journey has assumed more importance than it had before. Thus, leaving a place cleaner than you saw it has become all the more important for people. Carrying one’s own water bottle, plates, reusable napkins and even food, not only creates a more favorable carbon footprint but also ensures that you do not touch any surface that you are unsure.
Less wastage also means a ‘Greener’ travel experience and an overall ownership of the actions that we are accountable for. Additionally, the avoidance of crowded places has also led people to explore lesser known destinations within their own countries. This, in turn, reduces the pressure on places that often experience the ills caused by over tourism such as pollution, commercialization and stress on the environment.
Key Takeaway: Responsible travelling and more sustainable choices are a positive change. The stress of over tourism on certain destinations has also reduced.
For those brave enough to travel, research has assumed paramount importance. Accessing reliable information, however, is a bit of challenge as the sentiment often oscillates between those who are still cautious when it comes to travelling to people who advise that the pandemic is here to stay and we might as well figure our way around and through it. More and more people are relying on information either from industry insiders or from verified and widely held news sources. As rules of quarantining, isolation, and lockdowns are changing, travellers are eager to not rely on word of mouth but on news resources and websites.
Key Takeaway: Research about destinations has assumed paramount importance. Accessing reliable information, however, is a bit of a challenge.
It is thus safe to say that the landscape of travelling is about to change drastically. In the ‘New Normal’ wanderlust is likely be associated with more conscious and well-thought out travel choices. It is upto us to gear up and for the service providers to mould themselves to newer travel habits.