How Travel Will Change In 2020 – Advice From A Travel Agent
As I sit at home, restricted from going outside, I’m constantly wondering how travel will change in 2020. This year is going through rapid changes and what we believed one moment is different the next. There are some changes to travel that we can hopefully predict for the future. As a travel agent in the travel industry, I’m watching the changes occur. The list below is what I’ve seen starting to happen, based on predictions from within my company, and articles in the industry.
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What It’s Like Working In The Travel Industry In 2020
First, it began with the calls and emails to cancel flights to China. Then it slowly spread to Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and then it hit Italy. Once Europe started going into lockdown the calls increased. I handled over forty calls in one day, all cancellations. I had clients calling from Turkey and Singapore asking for a flight to get them home. One of my clients is still trapped overseas and I just keep changing his return flight as we approach each deadline.
You could see the airlines and other industries struggling to keep up with the changes. To begin with, flights were still operating, but some allowed free changes. We were advising customers to wait and see and contact us closer to their departure dates if they were hoping for a refund. It all seemed like it would be okay in a short while.
And then it began to escalate in earnest. Hotels were shut down without warning, leaving is struggling to get invoices for clients or advice on refund procedures. The airline updates were changing, and still are changing daily. The advice we gave out last week was no longer valid for this week. Refunds are a mountain that the airlines are still trying to get through. I’ve got clients still waiting for a refund from the beginning of March and its now early May as I write this.
The situation is so unprecedented that airlines are creating new processes that are impossible for travel agents to implement. It’s not fun to explain to clients that yes, the airline says you can do that, but the airline doesn’t let us do it. Cases have been opened and completely new codes in systems written to deal with it.
Amidst all this chaos and the restrictions we’re all facing I thought I’d share some advice from a travel agent about what travel will look like after 2020.
Lower Travel Volumes
One of the things that will most definitely change for travel during and after 2020 is lower travel volumes. Even when borders are opened again there will most likely be many restrictions for several months. People will also be more worried about travel and staying closer to home to be safe. At the moment international travel is down by 97% of what it was. This is a huge difference. By July the experts are hoping to see this start to climb, but it’s an unpredictable situation.
This one is similar to the point above but caused by a completely different reason. Airlines are struggling right now. There’s almost no money and they’re losing billions of dollars. Every month there’s news of another airline going into or on the brink of administration. Aircraft cost a lot of money to maintain, but also to park (this is why the low cost carriers are usually a bus or hike from the terminal, as they don’t want to pay the high parking fees). Singapore Airlines is parking their planes in the middle of the Australian desert to save costs.
Once air travel can commence in 2020 the airlines won’t be able to afford the same amount of flights that they had before. They will most probably be operating at a loss until the demand does pick back up. Their schedules will be limited, and I’ve seen some routes that they’re cancelling altogether (Air New Zealand’s flights to London and Buenos Aires). We were in the golden age of travel with flights almost every hour of every day to choose from. This will be very different for quite a while.
This is a concept that Australia and New Zealand have just announced a plan for. The idea of a travel bubble will only last while international travel is still locked down. The concept of a travel bubble is to kickstart the tourism industry again, but only allow certain countries to participate in it.
Right now Australia and New Zealand are beginning the process of reopening their borders to each other. This will mean travel can commence again and will probably encourage people to visit a country that may have been lower down on the travel list. The South West Pacific, such as Fiji and Vanuatu are also asking to join. This concept won’t work for everyone and will have to be monitored closely to keep citizens of all countries safe.
Domestic Travel And Staycation Growth
One of the most commonly agreed upon aspects of how travel will change in 2020 is a higher increase in domestic travel. The USA is already reporting an increase of 43% in domestic travel. This is also one of the first things in Spain’s New Normal plan, with a focus on staying in your state, but free movement encouraged. The major travel agents in Australia are already anticipating the demand and releasing marketing campaigns for domestic staycations.
Domestic travel is a great way to help out a countries economy. Every country is going to have its struggle to come back from the extreme measures enacted to fight this unprecedented situation. People will feel safer travelling closer to home. Road trips will increase, as car travel is an easy way to self-isolate while still feeding the travel bug. Some car hire companies in Europe are already offering summer sales in anticipation of this increase in demand.
A positive change that should happen in 2020 will be a focus on slow travel. Slow travel is a concept of experiencing a city or country in depth, without the pressure of ticking multiple experiences off the bucket list. With the uncertainty and need for better hygiene and sensible restrictions, people will most like be travelling slower for safety.
During the worldwide lockdown, there has been a growing swell of support for more sustainable travel styles when the world returns to normal. Seeing the return of animals to harbours and the clearing of air quality has been a reminder of how important our world is. Slow travel will enable a more sustainable approach with a focus on trains and cars and the support of smaller local businesses.
Focus On Less Popular Destinations
Over tourism was a huge problem before 2020. We saw this as one of the reasons why the virus spread so quickly in Venice and Barcelona. Both cities are very popular and struggling to cope with the number of travellers that visit each year. Once travel starts to slowly return, the focus will be on less popular destinations. The popularity of areas that afford easy social distancing will also rise. National Parks will become popular as well as destinations with smaller populations.
A Change To Hygiene
Hygiene and health will be important changes in the tourism industry after 2020. Air travel has always focused heavily on containing the spread of viruses, but it’s now even more important. Sanitising of hotels and planes will become normal and hand washing should be continued by everyone.
Emirates have already unveiled their new measures. The staff have special uniforms and wear masks and face protectors. Emirates now also have a ten-minute test that they use on all passengers to check their health. There is talk of not using the middle seat, which is possible when air travel has low numbers. However, I can’t see this continuing much further as the airlines will be trying to make as much money back as possible.
More Flexible Ticket Options
More flexible ticket options have been introduced to combat the complicated travel situation right now. This is a change to travel that I can see continuing after 2020. Non-changeable ticket options have become extremely popular with the airlines since 2013. All of the cheap tickets were usually non-flexible. A more flexible approach to travel will benefit travellers and travel agents.
Due to the crisis, all tickets up to a certain date allow changes, most of them free. There’s also voucher choices and extended deadlines on when you have to use them by. For new tickets, the airlines are also offering the same flexibility to encourage people to book in these uncertain times. This flexibility will continue for quite a while, which will make it easier for travellers to book with confidence.
What I hope will change for travel in 2020 is more appreciation. I know I took it for granted that I would be able to book a ticket and fly halfway around the world. I was living the travel life in Europe and visiting a different country almost every month. And suddenly it all stopped. I do hope we can go back to that normal, but I also hope to return with a true appreciation for how lucky and blessed I am to travel freely and safely. Let’s make a positive impact with the products we choose to buy, the places we visit, and the companies we choose to support.
A Message From The Travel Industry
It’s been a hard few months in the travel industry. My friends and colleagues have lost their jobs, everyone else is on reduced hours. So many things are uncertain. Even travel blogging is a struggle to find relevant content and stay positive against the low numbers. During these hard times, we need to support each other and we need to be kind. Everyone is doing the best they can. You might only get a voucher for your flight, but maybe consider the fact that your voucher could save that airline. You might be waiting for your refund, but it’s probably because that travel company has reduced staffing and possibly half a million refunds to process. Your favourite travel blogger might still be posting their pretty travel photos, but it’s because they have a job, and they want to make your day a little bit brighter.
Stay safe everyone, and here’s to safe future travels.