How Travel Will Change Post-Pandemic: 10 Expert Predictions

UK surfing
Photograph: Alamy

Industry pros tell where we’ll be travelling in years to come and how hotels, flights, airports and even luggage will evolve—for the better. 

1. We’ll rethink Europe. 

Expect a cooling of the romance with Europe’s capitals and new affection for less-crowded cities with strong cultural offerings. “I’d keep an eye on Lyon and Hamburg,” said UK-based travel writer Annie Fitzsimmons, who also predicts a rediscovery of less populated European islands. Among them: Germany’s 24-mile-long island of Sylt, a Teutonic Nantucket. 

2. Alaska will beckon.

The pandemic’s searing impact will add a FOMO-like urgency to personal bucket lists. The fresh air appeal of Alaska and Montana will propel them into top spots, thinks Erin Francis-Cummings, CEO of travel data company Destination Analysts.

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3. As will esoteric food.

Legions more food travelers will seek out the Faroe Islands, predicts TV producer Irene Wong, who travels the globe filming cooking shows. A windy island chain between Scotland and Iceland, it offers a unique cuisine centered on seafood, dairy and hardy root vegetables. “Any place that’s far and hard to get to is what gets people the most excited,” said Ms. Wong.

4. We’ll eye quick check-in.

“In 10 years your face could be your airplane ticket,” said Andrew O’Connor, vice president, airports and borders, at SITA, a Swiss-based information technology provider. Biometric software installed in terminal video cameras will recognize and match your features to your flight while assessing your security and health risks, allowing most travelers to stroll unimpeded from check-in to gate.

5. We’ll pay for hygiene.

Germophobic fliers might have the option to pay extra for “Hygiene Class,” a premium cabin that comes with a higher standard of cleanliness, according to Christopher Schaberg, author of “Airportness,” and, coming later this fall, “Grounded: Perpetual Flight…and Then the Pandemic.” Though the air filters shared equally with economy will still do the real work to prevent illness, these higher-priced seats will come with more frequent sanitization and scented sprays.

6. We’ll cruise the Arctic.

As pleasure ships steam past the pandemic and implement new health protocols, expect to see new destinations. Cruise industry specialist Clare Weeden sees massive growth in trips through Canada’s Northwest Passage from passengers eager to view polar bears and other Arctic species before they vanish.

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photo by HFT Guide

7. Alterna-tours will rule.

City tour offerings with minority perspectives will flourish, predicts cultural travel consultant Norie Quintos. Black Panther Party tours in Oakland and explorations of Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jewish neighborhoods will increase in number. “Tours that make people think will only grow in popularity,” said Ms. Quintos. 

8. We’ll tip robot-maids.

Hotels will become airy places with AI behind the scenes, said Professor Stephani Robson of Cornell School of Hotel Administration. Open lobbies and guest rooms that allow the outside in will be the blueprint, with frump and fuss banished. Also booted: coffee makers and minibars. Anything hard to clean will be suspect in a post-pandemic-era room. Robots will be present but discreet, vacuuming hallways at 2 a.m. 

9. Hover-bags will take off.

Roam Luggage CEO Larry Lein imagines jets of air replacing the wheels on roller bags. Built-in tracking systems would pair the bag with your phone so the hovering luggage would tail you as you walked.

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10. Leopards will matter even more.

Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks, a nonprofit that manages 18 national parks and reserves, said countries combining good governance with conservation will become tomorrow’s stars. Two Mr Fearnhead singles out: Benin and Malawi. The former, in West Africa, is developing Pendjari and W National Parks that feature elephants and lions, while Malawi, in southeastern Africa, is priming reserves with rhinos and leopards.

Based on materials of the Wall Street Journal
Photos by Health Fitness Travel