Life after lockdown: Here’s the new normal for travel enthusiasts in the future
“Passengers are requested to keep their personal force fields on even after boarding. Your visa will be e-transferred on to your passport on the embedded chip”
Sounds familiar? No, we’re not quite there yet.
We’re going to Ibiza…
Remember that perky song by the Vengaboys? Seems like an age ago. With the coronavirus not relenting its deathly grip on humans across the globe, it may be some time, and perhaps a long time, before people roam freely on earth again.
Travel norms will change post the lockdown
And while Ibiza may open, it’ll be quite some time before they get a party going. (Personally, I can’t wait!)
Yes, travel will no longer be what it used to. A mad dash for tickets, crowded immigration lines, tourist areas that are crawling with people, unplanned sudden trips, printouts of boarding passes, squatting on floors - all this is about to change.
Will it be better or will it halt us in our tracks?
Business or tourism?
There were always two kinds of travel and travellers. The holidaying kind and the business kind. Obviously, neither kind can head out easily now. The virus is a global phenomenon. No place on earth is safe. Plans have been shelved and passports are tucked away in drawers. Even corporates are forgoing the champagne and caviar-laden, business-class travel for the cosy confines of their own homes on Zoom. They are saving on costs, but adding to the despair of airlines and hotels alike.
Fear will be a factor whenever you travel in the future
In large multinational companies, it’s imperative for executives to travel but most people are working online now. Mega deals, multi-country workshops, mergers and exchange of know-how are all being done over the internet. The jet-setting life isn’t so anymore.
What about that summer holiday trip to Disneyland, exotic destination honeymoons, the much-planned solo trek in the Andes? Or even visits to temples, beaches and local tourist destinations? Stay-cations, anyone? Sure! At home.
All plans have been postponed indefinitely. People will not travel in a hurry even if restrictions are lifted. Suspicions and fears will linger a lot longer than the virus. Is it safe to step outside? Will travel by cab, trains, planes or cruises ever be safe?
So, what will change?
The Fear Factor
Fear will never really go away. Most people will wonder always be anxious about their safety. Are adequate measures being adopted by airports, aircrafts and hotels? These doubts are understandable.
The virus which has already caused so much havoc lurks in every corner. There is a lot of risk involved and until protective measures become standard everywhere, we may see very little movement even in the future.
Planning will be key
Travellers will be cautious in the days ahead. Weeks or even months of planning will be required before setting off on a trip.
Documentation will be stricter when it comes to travel
The first step will involve getting documents that prove you are COVID-19 free and this will be your first hurdle. Obtaining visas and accounting for forced quarantines will mean extended stays. Most leisure travel which involves children and their vacations will need extensive planning.
Technology to the rescue
Of course, we will wear masks and gloves indefinitely. We will also follow social distancing as a strict norm.
But airports and hotels will go further. Thermal scans, temperature recordings, facial and heartbeat analysis may just become part of the new normal.
Technology will play an important part of travel in the future
Quick tests for COVID-19 may also be introduced at many contact points. Come to think of it, if we have to co-exist with the virus for a while, I see no point in halting my backpacking trips or even urban holidays with a dollop of caution and strict obedience of rules!
Cabs and hotels will have their own sanitisation protocols. It may sound regimental but perhaps the view of the Eiffel or a five thousand-year-old temple will be well worth it.
Digital and online
Every surface is a risk. It’s imperative we don’t exchange physical printouts. Every document will go online. A database will be updated so you may not even have to stand in queue. QR codes, mobile scans will facilitate the process. Baggage scans and UV cleansing will be standard. The objective is to offer a completely sanitised, bug-free environment at the airport and on the flight.
The new travel normal
With every object needing a hose down with a sanitiser, it is clear that it will take time for the tourism industry to get back to normal. Social distancing will be imposed in aircrafts without using the middle seats (that’s a relief!).
You will also need to be prepared for all processes being done online and on your mobile, getting pre-arranged transport, finding out the details of hygienic areas to eat and rest and a willingness to adapt to these new measures. In some ways, I think it will be easier, smoother and less chaotic to travel in the future.
What will the future be like?
If we do prepare for this and future pandemics, imagine this if you will, of a time when Automation, AI and Robotics will play a huge role in our lives.
Robots to drive you. Planes that run on solar energy and flown by software, virtually contact-less processes (you will still have to hold your burger to eat it!) and a sterile journey through and through.
Hotels will be fully automated, and linen and fabric will be made from nano-materials that are virus-repellent. There’s so much development in chemistry, robotics, medical research, that even in waste management, everything will be implemented on a grand scale.
One could keep imagining endlessly but re-imagining the future of travel is the need of the hour. It may take months and years to achieve it but the sight of whales on a cruise or the mesmeric Northern Lights or a deer that peeps out of the trees to look at you, makes it all worthwhile.