I remember catching wind of COVID while chuttering throughout Sri Lanka on a rental tuk-tuk. I didn't know it at the time, but the privilege to travel freely was about to be swept from under my feet - and fast.
That was more than a year ago now and the pandemic has changed the world significantly since, and none more than the travel industry. But there appears to be a glimmer of light at the end of this long tunnel. The wide-spread issuing of vaccines has led to more countries slowly etching their doors open and waving in the first daring droves of tourists.
The post-COVID travel boom has been brewing, spilling over into Mexico for a while. It's only a matter of time before global travel spikes dramatically. But what does post-pandemic travel look like? What will be the new-normal of travel?
Things to expect in the post-COVID travel boom
The Rise of the Digital Nomad
Remote working was always the future, the pandemic just gave business-owners a nudge. Once bosses and employees realized the incredible economic and lifestyle benefits of remote working there was no doubt it's here to stay.
In fact, I've been working remotely for the last four years and I've never seen as many digital nomads as there are now in Mexico. This realization that it's possible to work from your laptop from almost anywhere in the world has been an epiphany many have had this last year. It's hard to go back into an office after working on your own terms.
This group of remote workers will be the first to light the wick that will ignite the post-COVID boom. And in many ways, it has already begun.
There is much talk about vaccination passports and how it will be a pre-requisite to travel globally. In New York, a vaccination app is already being used to show proof of COVID vaccination in order to enter certain venues. Thailand has announced a scheme that will allow vaccinated tourists to shorten their quarantine period to a week. These cautious moves to kickstart tourism will likely ease to no quarantine needed by the time the year is over.
Once mandatory vaccinations are required to enter countries, the boom will take full effect. This could happen very fast. The US plans to have most citizens vaccinated by May 2021.
When tourism opens up it's going to cautiously. Countries will establish travel bubbles, first domestically, then internationally, which is already happening. Australia is in talks with Singapore regarding a travel bubble. The Philippines is considering travel bubbles with neighboring countries.
When it comes to traveling internationally, the destination won't always be a choice. Those making their way to Thailand will be directed to Phuket for their quarantine. This containment of tourism will likely ease too, but in the meantime, travel freedoms will still be hindered in a lot of destinations.
Post-COVID travel incentives
No one is more eager for the post-COVID travel boom to start as the tourism industry. It's very likely a swarm of travel incentives will start appearing once destinations open. Airlines will look to fill their seats with cheap deals and hotels and resorts will offer up discounts to lure in the first travelers of the boom.
It'll be interesting to see more focus from the travel industry to lure in remote workers and how this will be done. Some governments, like Barbados, are offering long-term visas for remote workers.
Facemasks could remain
Even with the majority vaccinated, it's likely facemasks could stick around a lot longer. Especially when it comes to traveling in countries where access to vaccines isn't as common.
In Asia, facemasks are common when in public. It's likely when traveling in these countries post-COVID, facemasks could still be a mandatory requirement for quite some time.
In the meantime, we can only wait. But not for things to return to the way they were, but the new way things are going to be.
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