Over the Fourth of July weekend in 2019, nearly 3 million people traveled through TSA checkpoints in the U.S. each day. The same weekend in 2020, that number dropped to just 700,000 people.
This year, travel has begun to rebound. 1.6 million people passed through a TSA checkpoint on July 4. The following day, 2.1 million people went through checkpoints — that’s only a few hundred thousand less than on the same day in 2019.
But while travel may be returning to pre-pandemic levels, there are some changes caused by COVID-19 that are here to stay. Keep reading to learn 5 ways that COVID-19 has changed travel forever.
1. Health and Safety are Front and Center
Hand sanitizer stations and additional cleaning measures are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Whether in hotels, on airplanes, at rental car agencies, or any other travel companies, customers will no doubt continue to demand and expect that companies are putting their health and safety at the forefront of everything they do.
This also means that companies that fail to prioritize health and safety measures are likely to see negative feedback from customers more so than they might have prior to the pandemic.
2. Costs are on the Rise
Early in 2021, travel began to rapidly return. With vaccines rolling out and states and cities lifting restrictions, many Americans decided to take some much-anticipated trips. As with anything else, increased demand quickly led to an increase in prices. The low airfare and hotel deals designed to draw in travelers at a time when fewer people were traveling slowly disappeared.
The trend towards more expensive travel has continued. Now, the addition of rising gas prices means that costs of vacation are on the rise. Airlines are passing on the increase in cost to customers.
This may drive families to seek cost savings in other areas, such as on their hotel stay or through booking fewer activities during their trip.
3. Travel Insurance is a Must
There are a number of reasons why more travelers might be opting in to travel insurance than were prior to the pandemic.
The continued spread of COVID-19 and new threats like the Delta variant is definitely one driving factor. Another reason is the increase in travel costs. The more an individual or family spends on a trip, the more that they feel they have to use if plans change.
Even vaccinated travelers may be wary to travel if they feel unwell, or if they’ve been exposed to someone who is ill. For this reason, they may choose to purchase travel insurance ahead of their trip to enable them to get a refund or to reschedule their trip if they are forced to cancel or alter their plans.
4. Business Travel Will Stay Down
Prior to the pandemic, about 20 percent of employed American adults worked from home all or most of the time. At the height of the pandemic, that number surged to more than 70 percent.
But the coronavirus has other impacts on the American office. One side effect has been a big drop in business travel. This side effect is expected to continue in the future as well.
Most businesses drastically reduced business travel during the height of the pandemic, thanks to travel restrictions and to protect their employees. But now, some have realized that their employees can be just as productive without traveling to in-person meetings. As a result, these businesses may allow employees to attend more meetings virtually instead of traveling to them. Some are also forgoing conferences and other events in favor of virtual ones, even as travel restrictions are lifted, to save money.
Fewer business travelers will have a far-reaching effect on the travel industry. It means fewer flight and hotel bookings, especially in cities and travel hubs that once drew millions of business travelers each year.
5. More Travelers Will Be Booking Direct
Besides purchasing travel insurance, another change that travelers are making in order to stay flexible while on the go is booking direct.
Many see booking directly through hotels, airlines, and tour companies, rather than booking through third-party companies, as the smarter choice at this time. That way, if plans change, they can work directly with that company and hopefully face fewer challenges and roadblocks.
For hotels and other travel companies, offering flexible booking and rebooking options is one great way to attract travelers at this time, and to create loyal, happy customers in the future.
How COVID-19 Continues to Change The Way We Travel
The restrictions and shut-downs of COVID-19 are slowly coming to an end. And as a result, more and more people are opting to travel again every day.
However, some of the changes that the pandemic has caused are likely to stick around for years to come.
From higher prices to a demand for health and safety measures, understanding the ongoing impact of these changes will help hotels and other travel companies better serve their customers in these challenging times.