Are you planning to take a vacation next year? If yes, drop everything you’re doing and read this article. There was palpable relief everywhere when Pfizer and BioNtech announced that one of its test vaccines is 90% effective for preventing volunteers from contracting the virus. There was an immediate boost to the troubled travel industry; there were upticks in searches and bookings of tour operators for 2021. Also, the share prices of airline and cruise companies started experiencing some rallying. But the question is, will you change your vacation plans, or will the vaccine normalize travel? Experts have said that it might take a long time for things to become normal. First, the distribution of the vaccines won’t be as rapid as the governments are suggesting. It might be until fall before things start to pick up. Also, proof of vaccination might become advisory or even mandatory for some destinations. So, don’t expect to jump on the next plane once a vaccination program starts rolling out. Prepare to add an international certificate of vaccination or prophylaxis (ICVP) to your travel kit.
Some countries (especially those with vulnerable or older population) will make this certificate compulsory for travelers exiting high polio risk countries or have a yellow fever vaccination. While this certificate can be online, it can also be on paper. More importantly, the vaccination must have been carried out at an accredited clinic.
Recovering lost grounds
Once you have your certificate, you might decide to go off on the trip of a lifetime. It won’t be a bad idea to splash out and make your next vacation this coming year a special one, book higher category rooms with more family groups.
The UAE and the Maldives have become the top destinations of most Europeans seeking an adventure and a holiday in the coming year. Also, there has been a massive increase in booked trips to the United States for the coming year in what many now term as the “Biden bounce.” However, it is unlikely that Australia and New Zealand will be favorite destinations for tourists. The bureaucracy of testing and certificates at every border or on every flight will make a usual country-hopping trip through South Asia will happen less likely for some time. Going to a few places and immersing yourself might be a better option than just hopping around. Also, replace multiple weekend breaks with longer, two-week trips.
Bucket list safaris
If you intend to visit sub-Saharan Africa, flight availability might be a big problem since Johannesburg, Nairobi and Addis Ababa are the only three main international hubs. Even though Ethiopian airlines are expanding, Kenya airways are still waiting on the government for a cash injection, while south African airways (based in Johannesburg) are not flying. Hence, you might have to book extra flights with domestic airlines; most airlines won’t increase flights until they are convinced that there’s enough business. The only positive is that most African countries won’t mandate the vaccine for travelers because the pandemic didn’t affect them much compared to other continents. The collapse of tourism has had a massive negative impact on safari destinations. There has been economic devastation for lodge workers and a rise in poaching at the national parks. Also, travel bans from countries such as the UK government haven’t helped either.
It is a well-known fact that the UK government has imposed a 2-week quarantine on travelers from any African country.
Impatience to get into Europe
The real question is that are there destinations so affected by the virus that travelers might not visit? Based on available data, the United States heads up the table of Covid-19 deaths. Yet, visitors are still keen on visiting the country; the probable cause of optimism might be the Biden administration’s pledge to contain the virus. Europe is not left out either. Prices have never been this competitive, and this experience might not present itself ever again. The demand to visit popular European countries is high. Plenty of trips have been postponed from 2020 to 2021, and tour operators expect it to be a relatively good year. Also, search engine data shows a significant interest in traveling from several continents into Europe. However, the bounce may not be straightforward; airlines must be ready to lay on flights while destinations must confirm that they are ready to meet the demands.
Priority on touchless travel
Despite the vaccine, there might be permanent changes to the travel experience itself, especially at the airport. Most airlines will likely make use of a touchless experience. The great thing is that there will be no stop to the Covid-induced rule of deplaning row by row when on board. However, until people feel more comfortable, restrictions on buffets, staff doling out food, and personal space maintenance will be upheld. It would take a while before we start hugging or shaking hands with strangers.
Flexibility of offers
Flexibility is one good thing to have come out of this pandemic. Most of the 2021 deals are highly flexible, and it will remain that way for the medium term. Consumers will be more mindful of what they’re booking and what to expect despite the industry handling refunds (from earlier in the pandemic) with some level of effectiveness.
Companies will offer flexibility, and consumers will expect transparency. For example, black tomato (a company for luxury travel) now offers a full refund for up to 30 days before departure on most of their new bookings, and it’s likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Airline capacity will likely remain low in 2021; so, book your flights once you see a deal with flexible terms.
A wake-up call
Generally, there will be improvements in traveler’s attitudes towards health when on the road. There is more awareness of infectious diseases now than ever compared to pre-pandemic when most travelers barely book pre-trip consultations. Most people, especially in western countries, will now respect the deadliness of viruses. The increase in knowledge about virology can only be a positive thing. A Covid-19 vaccine will undoubtedly have a positive significant impact on when to travel again.