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With summer emerging, many around the world are wondering when they will next get to travel.

“Not soon” seems to be the answer, though. 

Indeed, many tourism experts and stakeholders are immensely sceptical about the industry, thanks to Covid-19.

Even optimistic assessments suggest the sector will be out of action until 2021.

So what exactly can Brits expect to see?

Enhanced screening

Just as 9/11 had a big impact on airport security, so will Covid-19 on hygiene measures.

Already, many airports have taken steps to curb the spread of the disease, such as one to two metre distancing at all times, hand sanitisers being widely distributed and people encouraged to use electronic check-in kiosks, so as to avoid human interaction.

More advanced airports have used “thermal detection screening” to look for the disease (although this does not work when people are asymptomatic).

Hong Kong International Airport is testing a fully-body disinfectant device, which sanitises users within 40 seconds, using sprays that kill bacteria and viruses on skin and clothing.

In addition, the airport is using autonomous cleaning robots – which trawl its premises, and kill microbes by zapping them with ultraviolet light.

There are suggestions that such measures could get much stricter, with flight attendants wearing Personal Protective Equipment and blood tests for passengers.

Even more futuristic predictions suggest there could be such a thing as “immunity passports”, allowing some people to travel where they like – as long as they have Covid-19 antibodies.

What does this mean for travellers?

Given the extent to which airports are likely to be changed, the question is whether passengers will want the hassle of flying – especially if they are subjected to invasive screening.

It is contingent on several factors…

The economic impact of Coronavirus

Hopeful analysts suggest that fares will continue to stay low, as airlines are keen to get other customers back on board.

Others say the complete opposite; that the disruption will massively hike up costs.

One reason for this is that major events tend to force struggling airlines to consolidate.

Before 9/11 there were nine major US airlines, for instance, but they eventually became Delta, United, American and Southwest.

Competition is a big part of driving prices down – so when companies merge it can translate into bigger expenses for the consumer.

Another aspect that could increase prices is a reduction in business travel.

With so many companies adapting to Zoom conferencing and other working from home methods, they may not be so keen to resume working abroad.

Many such organisations are involved in bulk-buying seats on planes, which in turn leads to cheaper flights for everyone else.

Without them, costs are likely to rise.

All of this will be exacerbated by airlines need to space out seats on flights – decreasing their business – while they have to invest heavily in new safety measures.

This, paired with presumably high insurance costs in the future, will no doubt make travelling too expensive for a lot of people.

Risk factors

There’s another reason why people will or won’t want to go abroad. 

Quite simply, are they willing to take the risk?

Perhaps it’ll be the case that some countries are more, or less, risk averse than others in their attitude to Covid-19.

Maybe regions with younger citizens, who have a lower probability of becoming seriously ill, will fly around much more – going on “bucket list” adventures, to make the most out of the freedoms they once took for granted.

All remains to be seen.

But it seems less likely that travellers will take weekend breaks.

With the likelihood of enhanced airport measures, potential increases in fares and many countries imposing a 14-day quarantine period (the UK doing this recently – with talk of fines of up to £10,000 for those who break the rules), the effort will not be worth it.

Is there any hope of a holiday?

In the meantime, it seems that domestic travel will shoot up.

According to CabinBookers, 90 per cent of Brits want to go on holiday in the UK when lockdown ends.

There are reports that farmers have been looking to diversify their land for such purposes.

Many Britons have also been excited by the prospect of the UK not imposing quarantine plans on France, even booking holidays accordingly.

Although this idea appeared to be scuppered shortly afterwards.

Oliver Dowden has said the details were not yet confirmed, adding that exemptions were mostly “to keep the economy going.”

Grant Shapps has also told MPs that final details of the quarantine scheme will be confirmed next month, Britons should probably not get their hopes up until then.

But it’s difficult not to when other countries have been allowing movement across regions.

New Zealand and Australia, for instance, have installed what’s known as a “trans-Tasman travel bubble”, and Baltic states have had “travel bubbles” too.

The European Union wants to see similar movement around other nations, and Italy is positive; businesses in Santorini have installed perspex screens around sun loungers to promote social distancing among travellers.

All of this ultimately depends on how badly each region has been affected by the crisis.

Long-term prospects for travel

While the future looks rather depressing for travel, it’s not obvious if Covid-19 will change it to the extent that 9/11 did.

In the short-term, everyone will face much more heightened checks at airports.

But these may only last for the next few years – depending on if a vaccine is found, and/or how much of the global population becomes infected.

Considering the amount of concern climate change has sparked over the last few years, these months (and probably years) off travelling may spark big changes overall.

Scientists will be able to demonstrate how much air travel cuts carbon emissions. 

These have already reduced by 17 per cent, as a result of Covid-19, and people might want to keep that down going forward.

Perhaps the only real certainty across time is that the desire for travel is always there.

Following SARS, Ebola and terrorist attacks, the industry has always rebounded.

When, not if, is the question whose answer no one truly knows…

103 comments for: Blood tests at airports, robot microbe killers, and attendants in PPE: How Covid-19 will affect the future of travel

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