Amira Sajwani- The future of Travel

The future of travel post COVID-19

We have all been unable to travel as and when we wish as a result of the pandemic. But I’m interested to find out more about how the virus might have changed our wanderlust. Of course, one thing’s for sure – recent events have made us realise that travel is a privilege none of us will take for granted anymore.

And perhaps one thing that we will see more of is more mindful, appreciative travel.

Sustainability will be more important, with travellers demanding more sustainable options, from the actual environmental cost of flights to eco-conscious room amenities. Will we see “flight free days” in certain countries?

The pandemic and its aftermath have left us all thinking – and thinking hard – about sustainability. As air corridors open up and international travel gradually inches towards a sense of normality, it’s important to consider whether returning to the “old normal” is something we really want. 2020 saw a notable reduction in global CO2 emissions.

Temporarily retired flights and lockdowns lead to a staggering 2.3 billion-tonne fall in carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.

The World Health Organization (WHO) sagely underlines the importance of tourism in its Covid-19 And Transforming Tourism policy brief. And the keyword that could ignite sustainable change is right there – transformation.

The transformation of tourism, both from an operational and marketing point of view, could make all the difference. So, what does this transformation look like?

We don’t have to go too far for inspiration. A quick look at our neighbour, Saudi Arabia, and its upcoming tourism megaprojects is proof that there’s a demand for sustainable travel. And if we look further afield, we see the likes of Ampaire testing low-emission electric aircraft. Done properly, the green future of travel looks promising.

Inclusivity is a need that industry players are increasingly responding to.

We will see more facilities for People of Determination. And here’s a good idea – how about wet suits for people who aren’t of average size, so they too can enjoy water sports while on holiday? Many of us enjoy privileges today that were once considered something you were either born into or did not have access to.

Whether it’s updates that accommodate People of Determination or making an active internal effort towards greater diversity, now is the time for businesses to prioritise inclusivity.

Slow travel is the latest trend to join the slow community. You’ve probably heard of slow food, slow fashion, and slow living.

The pandemic has greatly impacted everyone’s mental health, and while working from home may sound relaxing on paper, the reality is far from it. So now that we can, we should all get back into enjoying travel. But perhaps more off the beaten track?

Visiting destinations in the Global South helps bolster their economies. Staying in smaller, perhaps sleepier, places gives us the chance to experience a different way of living, while also providing vital economic support where it’s most needed.

Slow travel can also do wonders for sustainability, beyond just being a sustainable means of income for local communities.

Visiting lesser-known destinations takes the pressure off the hamster wheel of mass-produced souvenirs and tourist attractions.

Quality will also be more of a priority in the new normal. It’s like your first meal after a week of being unwell, you want it to be good. Given the enforced break we’ve all had from travel, perhaps we should look for more meaningful experiences, planning our journeys from a more experiential point of view, and with less frequency.

And we needn’t travel far for a quality trip. Many of us are still nervous about long-distance travel given the changing nature of the pandemic, vaccination rules, and getting stuck away from home. I think we will see more local glamping, more regional travel, and more road trips.

Let’s not forget the adventures on our doorstep: the mountains, the beaches, and the starry desert skies. We have all come to appreciate a beach or park walk, or an al fresco meal – these can feel like travel moments, and bring some of the same feelings and benefits of travel.

The pandemic has given us all the context, and time, to reckon with the impact of our hyper-consumerist ways. With our “normal” way of life being taken away and then returned to us,  perhaps we can all do more to redefine our idea of normal through the lens of sustainable travel!