Will COVID-19 change the way we travel forever?
The coronavirus has changed all our lives, professionally and personally. And let’s be honest, it’s really though not being able to travel! We spoke with Amanda Dunning, the Brand Partnership Manager at G Adventures during our Travel Festival, to give you a “guide” to traveling post COVID and to give you some pointers on how to travel in a new world. Many are wondering what travel will look like post corona and in the years to come… Those are not easy questions to answer, but here’s our take on traveling post covid-19.
Will traveling be safe post COVID?
Amanda's smiling: “The good news is YES. It’s just going to look a little bit different and it’s likely going to need a bit more planning. So, we’re going to have to do a little more research, but it will be well worth it!
Stay in the loop
There’s a myriad of sites and news broadcast throwing all the COVID related information at you. With so many suppliers of information it can sometimes get a little bit confusing. What are the credible sources and where can people find it?
“I don’t know about you, but I feel like everything I find on the internet is really overwhelming. There are tons of articles, websites and resources making it difficult to get a clear answer. Because things are changing really quickly and that’s a reality that we’re all facing. Firstly, If you’re traveling within the EU, check out Reopen EU. It compiles all the information from all over into one place. No need to go looking everywhere for information. Secondly, If you’re traveling outside of the EU or just looking at different places – it’s also recommended to look at government websites. Because things change really quickly, so you’ll want to go straight to the source. Governments, foreign ministries and even tourism boards have all the resources available to give you a clear picture of the situation. Even though you’ll have to read long and very dry articles, you’ll be getting it straight form the source.
"Third one, would be airlines. Airlines are really trying to provide you with the information about what they’re doing in terms of health and safety, but also where you can go, what you can do and what restrictions apply at your destination.
Lastly, another great way of getting information is from tour operators or travel agents. Tour operators are making sure that they get information, so that people clearly understand what they can and can’t do. Everybody wants to get you go traveling safely again. The travel agents are the experts, this is what they do. They already have or will help you find the correct information for you. They’re a key resource in all of this, and a huge support for anyone traveling right now.”
How will travel change?
Using all of the information above, we know that traveling is going to look a little different in the future. But how will travel look going forward and what trends are you seeing in the industry?
“There are some trends that we’re seeing in this new age of travel. The first one would be “closer to home” and you guys in Europe are so lucky to have so many amazing things around you. It’s funny how we never explore our own backyard. We’re always going to far away destinations, new places, but sometimes we forget about the beauty and culture and experiences that we have really close by. This is a major trend that we’re seeing!
The second trend is not something that I thought I would ever be talking about when we talk about travel: It’s health and hygiene. That is a trend that is new for all of us. Really focusing and bringing this to the forefront. Everyone wants travel to come back and we know that we have to look at it differently, We’re going to have to add in new policies, new procedures to keep everyone safe.
When your looking at traveling or an airline, hotel or taking a tour. You’re going to want to make sure that the company that you’re booking with, has thought about all of these policies and procedures. One of the big things I’ve been involved with at G Adventures is our Travel with Confidence policy. What that is, is really G Adventures looking at every step of the customer journey. Thinking about when you arrive and first meet you tour leader, when your interacting with the group: are you wearing a mask? When did you last wash your hands? And all those types of things. These things will change your experience, that’s for sure. But it’s there to make sure that you can still have the time of your life! Make sure that wherever you’re booking or looking to do, that you feel comfortable and confident with the company that you’re booking with and that they have though about this. And not just thinking about hand sanitizer and masks, but also thinking about what happens if someone were to get sick. Do you have medical insurance? All of those things are things you will have to think about.
Next up would be an exciting trend that we created a new word for, and that we’ve even added to our vocabulary in the industry, and it’s the term “bubble”. I think we’re all experiencing a bubble in our lives right now. We’re going to see more people going out and traveling with their loved ones. It’s been hard for many of us being separated from our loved ones during this time period. So, we’ll be seeing more of traveling and exploring with the people we weren’t able to spend as much time with during this time period. Making new and exciting memories as you travel the world with your bubble.
Wellness is a trend that was on the rise even before the pandemic. You may have seem Yoga retreats and really amazing food and green smoothies on tours. And this is a continued theme for future travel.
We’ve all probably spent way too much time in front of the screen during this year than ever before and it’s tiring, but a also great way to still be connected to everyone around you. But there is a demand to take some time off for ourselves. To take some time to disconnect and reconnect with ourselves. This is going to continue to be a trend. And I think it’s going to go beyond our traditional understanding of wellness. Not just doing yoga, meditation, drinking green smoothies, but taking time to explore and taking some time away from the screen. “
In the survey that G Adventures conducted with their customer base over 70% of customers said that they wanted flexible re-booking and cancellation policies. That’s a big number and it’s echoed in almost every single industry. It’s important to check with the company that you are booking with that you have this flexibility. That they are a little bit more understanding.
“This is a huge change for the industry and we’re going be seeing this going forward. We’ll be seeing the use of travel agents more”.
Amanda shares a story from not too long ago about the importance of having someone there to help you out: “I was traveling mid-march and I was in Argentina, and I was about 3 hours away from getting on an Antarctic cruise. Heading for my seventh continent, you know; bucketlist! The biggest trip I’ve ever planned, and we were told that we weren’t able to go. It was obviously devastating, but we realized that we had to get home. How were we going to get home? Having a travel agent was the best thing that I could have ever done, because that travel agent was able to help me re-book my flight. And all I had to do was just to drink a lot of wine and wait for that flight detail to come through.”
KILROY as a travel agent has a great responsibility in a world plagued by climate change, mass tourism, endangered species and vulnerable nature. But when we travel, we contribute to development, decreasing poverty, increasing tolerance for other people and cultures – creating a greater tolerance for the diversity in the world. But we also leave footprints. We therefore need to minimize those footprints and make better decisions for the climate, people and nature and giving back where we can.
Amanda agrees with the statement about sustainable tourism and at G Adventures they’ve created a new word in their vocabulary: Retravel. Amanda explains the phrase: “At it’s core, Retravel means to rethink, relearn and reflect on how our choices impact the world, so we can all make more informed decisions and spread the most good. We’ve seen it with our own eyes how travel can totally transform a community, for better and for worse. Now we want to help the world see that too”.
Sustainable tourism is about more than just climate, nature, and environment. It’s about people, quality of life and local financial sustainability too.
How should people prepare for a trip of a lifetime – now?
As we move closer to traveling again, how do we prepare ourselves for the “new age of travel”?
Amanda has a few pointers: “Read up! Familiarize yourself with the situation at the places your planning on visiting. What policies apply to you? Where you can travel right now? And what happens if the situation takes a turn?
Also, speak to a travel agent. They are the best resource and will give you even more information than what you can find online. They will also be able to help you put together the trip of a lifetime, that I know we’re all eager to go and do".
"Local regulations are something that we will have to think about. You’ll bring your mask and a hand sanitizer when taking the bus or to the grocery store. You’ll have to pack like a pro and make sure you have everything you need for various local regulations. Not only to protect ourselves, but also others. Protecting the communities your visiting and not putting any extra strain on them.
Make sure to have a plan! We now know that things can change quickly. It’s not to scare anyone, it’s just the reality of the world that we’re living and traveling in today. Make sure that you have travel insurance, that you understand how to re-book your flights (if you need to) and what options you have if things don’t go as you planned. “
We’ll focus more on health and hygiene (that’s never a bad idea), we’ll need to be more informed, we’ll use more flexible options and preferably though an expert agent. We will be traveling the globe again; it will just look a little different and might be a bit more complex than before, so pack your patience and you’re good to go!