Jeremy at CBoardingGroup is a long-time affiliate partner. When he’s not running the CBoardingGroup travel blog, his day job takes him around the world as he leads a global operations team. Be sure to check out CBoardingGroup for tips on business travel and comment on this post with any questions for Jeremy.
Travelers all over the world are currently grounded (mostly anyways). COVID-19 effectively stopped all travel, business or leisure, in a few short weeks wreaking havoc on a previously robust industry. As one of these grounded travelers who normally travels for work, my world has completely flipped on its head. It’s anybody’s guess when business travel will bounce back or what travel will even look like, but there are already some early indicators.
What travel will look like for the foreseeable future or at all is an interesting question. The Knack Bags team asked me to opine on this subject, so I’ve gathered my thoughts, opinions, and viewpoints on what travel might look like going forward.
We’ve been here before...sort of
After 9/11, traveling took on an entirely different shape. Locked cockpit doors soon appeared. Limitations on the amount of liquids or gels you could carry on a plane emerged. Long security lines with enhanced x-ray and scanning machines soon became the norm. And a heightened sense of security settled into the travel industry.
What can we learn from 9/11? If history is any indicator the travel industry will bounce back just like it did after 9/11. Sure, there were dramatic changes to the travel experience as a whole, but over time, passengers settled in and simply got used to the new measures.
In time, some of the restrictions started to lessen as risks changed and technology improved. As a business traveler, I am keen to get back on the road and I am certain there will be some unique measures taken to keep travel safe. Some of these measures may be here to stay while others may be more temporary until we know more about this virus.
Let’s examine what we know today and consider where we may be heading.
What do we know so far?
The travel industry is already reacting to the pandemic in creative, if not sometimes overreaching, ways. While the airlines are experiencing devastating economic setbacks, many will, and some are already, implementing new safety measures designed to keep passengers safe in the air, at airports, hotels, taxis, Ubers and more.
For example, all airlines now require face masks for travel. An entire cottage industry is springing up selling face masks specifically designed for travelers. While airlines are openly lax about enforcing them, I suspect this will change once the supply and demand equilibrium shifts. Personally, I believe the need to wear face masks is temporary and will soon become an optional but recommended countermeasure that less than 50% of travelers will adopt.
The TSA, the CDC, and airlines are wrestling with the notion of temperature checks for passengers. This is almost a certainty at this time, and while the volume of passengers is low right now and this intrusion will likely not be too much inconvenience, it certainly doesn’t scale. It’s more likely that camera-based temperature screening systems will be deployed and passengers with fevers will be pulled aside during the security process. In the short term, however, expect it to be a bit of a mess.
Hotels are getting into the mix too with many introducing radical cleaning measures designed to keep guests and staff safe. Some of these measures (like contactless, agentless check-ins) are here to stay, while others like guests bussing their trash and sheets will fade over time.
Taxis and car services, often used heavily by business travelers, are also increasing their safety measures. For example, Uber recently announced that passengers and drivers must wear face masks and rental car companies are performing extended deep cleaning on cars after they've been rented.
In fact, most travel providers have modified, at least temporarily, perhaps permanently, the safety and cleanliness of their products and experience. Some of these changes are here to stay while others will fade over time.
Passengers will change how they travel, too
The new safety measures being taken by travel providers are only part of the equation. Passengers too will likely establish their own routines, methods, and rhythms for how they travel, where they travel, for how long and what that travel looks like.
For example, any traveler who didn’t travel with hand sanitizer is now going to have a bucket of it with them on every trip. Even when airlines relax the face mask rules it’s very likely that some percentage will continue to wear them out of an abundance of caution.
Businesses will scrutinize travel more heavily too, and business travelers may opt for fewer trips, shorter trips, or simply not travel. I personally believe that business travel will be back, albeit somewhat smaller, but there are definitely some short and medium-term changes on the horizon.
Frankly, as someone who spent most of my life traveling from one airport to another, I like the notion of spending more time with my family and having my trips be a little shorter. It’s entirely possible that the “one-bag life” mindset may increase in popularity as folks will try to avoid the number of personal items that can get germs on them and shorter trips mean less stuff to travel with.
That’s perfectly fine with me as I try to travel light anyway and use my Knack Bag as my sole bag on more than half of my trips anyway. Will I be able to dump my suitcase for good? Probably not, but it may collect a little more dust now.
Where do we go from here?
The world is an unusual place right now. But humans are tough and they will undoubtedly rebound. Sure, travel right now and perhaps the foreseeable future will be different, but there will be travel, including business travel. The only question is how fast and how much. For now, enjoy the time home, get comfortable in your backyard this summer, and hope for better days.
Bio: Jeremy is a frequent business traveler who spends more nights in hotel beds than he does his own bed (when not facing down pandemics). His business travel blog, the CBoardingGroup.com highlights the daily grind of the work traveler with business travel tips & hacks, humor, and travel gear reviews. Business travel has taken him all over the globe...with his Medium Knack Pack, of course...and he can’t complain one bit (although he still does).