(CNN) – After reaching an all-time high in January 2021, the number of coronavirus cases globally is starting to fall.
While travel experts are optimistic that things will slowly start to open up again this year, how quickly that happens will depend on where you are, where you want to travel, and whether the virus and its mutant strains can be controlled. .
With so much uncertainty going on, the best course of action in most parts of the world remains to stay safe and stay home.
However, there is no danger of looking to the future. We asked experts for their input on when the world can go on vacation again and when, if ever, travel could return to normal.
When will I be able to make long-haul flights?
“There are some destinations where travelers can still book a long-haul flight right now if they want to,” says Bryce Conway, travel rewards expert and founder of 10xTravel. “For example, there are open flights for American passengers to destinations like Albania and many parts of the Caribbean. But I do not expect the volume of long-haul routes to increase to pre-Covid-19 levels until 2022.”
Alexis Barnekow, founder and CEO of the Chatflights booking app, agrees. “Almost everything can be reserved with a few exceptions,” he says. “New Zealand / Australia is more difficult to book because airlines like Qantas have greatly reduced their inventory.
“Two other airlines that have decreased their reserve inventory are Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines, but more due to financial reasons.
“Basically all other airlines are struggling to keep supply at the same levels as before to maintain cash flow. You can book, but the risk of canceled flights and reschedules is much more frequent. This way, airlines can keep going. selling inventory and they have cash on their books, and when travel dates get closer, use rescheduling to try and fill some planes and keep others grounded. “
New Zealand – Don’t expect a vacation there anytime soon.
Colin Monteath / age fotostock
Travelers should check the regulations at the time of booking and again before traveling, and not take unnecessary trips when they go against the official guide.
When it comes to long-distance leisure travel becoming more permissible and advisable, hopefully we are talking about the end of 2021.
On the other side of the world, the UK government, which has had the highest Covid death rate in Europe, has said it will not lift its restrictions on international travel until May at the earliest.
“The lockdown is probably tighter than ever, particularly in Europe, the US, etc.,” says Chris Goater, head of corporate communications for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global aviation trade body. “We are hopeful that there will be light at the end of the tunnel,” although “we hope that the long journey will be the last to recover.”
Linking remote markets runs the risk of exposing itself to potential new variants, about which governments are understandably wary, Goater says. “Many of the business trips are long-distance and the recovery can take some time as companies take care of their cash,” he adds.
What about “travel bubbles” and short distance trips?
IATA’s Goater is more optimistic about the revival of short-haul flights. Governments will face “greater pressure to relax quarantine restrictions for travel to a neighbor than to a long-distance destination,” he says. In Europe, “you can imagine that we could end up with some kind of EU-level deal that they will allow.” borders to reopen if pandemic infections are low, come summer. “
Ohio-based Conway says: “Short haul flights will pick up quickly, with most resuming in fall 2021. While there are destinations that will accept American travelers, some with a negative Covid test, I don’t anticipate many bubbles. traveling to open up to American travelers until the pandemic is under control. “
Stockholm-based Barnekow says: “‘It seems the travel bubbles haven’t materialized. The UK had one with Dubai in the summer, but we haven’t heard of other examples that have worked. There have been rumors of it. for Hong Kong / Singapore and Australia / New Zealand, but these have not materialized. We have the impression that they are not because it is simply too complex to keep track of everything. “
Dubai had a spike in cases in January 2021, but the numbers are now falling.
KARIM SAHIB / AFP via Getty Images
Can I travel nationally?
“Some parts of the world, like China, India and Russia, recovered very strongly last year, in some cases reverted to pre-pandemic levels,” says IATA’s Goater. Based on this evidence, he is optimistic that as restrictions are relaxed, domestic travel will recover quickly. “When the blockade is not so strong, the demand for travel within the country shoots up.”
Says Conway from the US, “Domestic travel has already started to pick up quickly and we will see this trend continue as vaccines become widely available to the public. We are seeing high demand for travel to US destinations. In California, Florida and Nevada for summer travel. As of now, it appears that there will be no additional travel restrictions on domestic travel under the new administration. “
James Turner, CEO of global travel service 360 Private Travel, says that for his company’s Singapore offices and for Hong Kong, domestic “stays” will be “a big part of their business going forward.” However, in the UK, although home holidays were popular last summer, “this year I think most of our clients really want to leave.”
Can I take a road trip?
“Road trips have become incredibly popular in the last year because they appear to be the safest way to travel during a pandemic,” says Conway from the United States. “There is an extremely low risk of exposure to Covid-19 if you take a road trip and stay in an AirBnB with those who live in the same home or in a hotel that follows proper security protocols.”
What about cruises?
“Cruising is by far the most affected travel segment, and it will be a long time before the cruise returns to ‘normal’, if at all,” says Conway. “The cruise industry dropped the ball by trying to come back too quickly, and they lost a lot of public trust in doing so. People are likely to be more health conscious in a post-Covid-19 world as well, and I hope that this happens to cause irreparable damage to the cruise industry. “
Turner of 360 Private Travel takes a more optimistic view. “I think certain types of cruise ships will be among the first to (recover), contrary to what some might think.” Boutique-style experiences on small ships, with strict entry conditions and carefully designed itineraries, will attract customers “because the environment is more controlled.”
Is it safe to stay in a hotel or on Airbnb?
Turner says his company’s Hong Kong office has seen a trend in customers choosing stays with “the more established brands.” Travelers are happiest in accommodations where they can be assured of the hotel’s strict policies on temperature controls, health declarations, use of masks, registration of visits via a QR code, etc. “Trust is very important.”
However, as Conway points out, Airbnbs, vacation rentals and other options are fine, “as long as you are not sharing accommodations with people who are not traveling with you or who are not at home.”
Does it matter if I’m vaccinated?
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“Not yet, but it will,” predicts Conway. “This will be one of the biggest problems the travel industry will face in the next 12 to 24 months.”
“Vaccine passports,” which could impose travel restrictions on anyone who isn’t vaccinated, are one of the hottest topics in the travel industry right now.
Some destinations, including the Seychelles, Cyprus and Poland, have already removed quarantine requirements for visitors who can show they are vaccinated.
“We anticipate some version of the vaccine ‘on trial’ to re-enter society (think: boarding a flight, going to a concert, eating at a restaurant),” says Roderick Jones, CEO of the risk-based consultancy. in San Francisco. Concentric advisers. “Although the vaccine may never become ‘mandatory’, it may be too disadvantageous not to have it.”
Will you ever travel back to normal?
“Of course I do,” says Conway. “I expect to see a huge increase in travel by the end of 2021 as vaccines become available on a large scale. There will be some setbacks as the travel industry recovers and figures out how to tackle the long-term strategy of tackling Covid- 19, but overall, I expect things to return to a relatively normal state in mid-2022. “
“We believe business travel will be lower than before, especially among white-collar workers at large corporations,” says Barnekow. “Large corporations have many other reasons besides Covid for people to travel less: environmental, cost and moral reasons. Although nothing beats ‘IRL’ face-to-face meetings, the pandemic has shown that many problems can be solved using other means of communication. But I still think that it will recover about the same as before. If I had to guess, I would say that business travel will have a long-term reduction of 10%. “
As for leisure travel, Barnekow believes they will have “a short-term boost, and then we’ll see the same levels as before. We’ve never had as much traffic to the app as now; it seems like people are really looking forward to booking trips. Ninety percent of what we are selling now is for outings after the summer, so people seem to be thinking that it will be safe to fly by then. “
Turner agrees, noting the high volume of customer interest. “We have evidence that there is a huge pent-up demand; people want to go.” Your clients think long-term and dream big. There has been a trend towards people interested in booking longer luxury trips with carefully selected itineraries. Turner says: “2022, even 2023; they are looking to reserve them now.”