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Apr 23, 2020

14 Ways The Coronavirus Pandemic May Change How We Travel In The Future

Because we all want to get back out there — but we need to do it safety.

It wasn’t long ago that we were hopping on planes every chance we got — but in a shockingly short amount of time, the world changed.

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In 2019, approximately 83.4 million US citizens traveled overseas, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. Today, with a global level 4 health advisory in effect, trips to South Korea are being replaced by virtual tours of Seoul's museums, and travelers who dream of making pasta with the pros are tuning in to pasta-making livestreams from Italy.

The abrupt change from globe-trotting to quarantine has got travelers everywhere wondering what travel will look like in a post-coronavirus pandemic world. So we talked to industry professionals whose very livelihoods are on the line.

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Travel pros Jesse Neugarten, founder of Dollar Flight Club, a subscription service that delivers cheap flight alerts, and Joanna Lord, chief marketing officer at Skyscanner, an online travel company that offers flight comparison tools, looked into their crystal balls (and survey-generated data) to give us their best guesses on what the future may hold.

1. It’s uncertain when travel will resume, but some industry professionals predict it’ll be as early as mid-June.

2. Most Americans plan to stay stateside this summer. But when international travel returns, people are gravitating toward Europe — and should expect low holiday fares.

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According to Dollar Flight Club's April report, which surveyed 20,000 of their most active members, over 56 percent plan on staying in the US over the summer.

Meanwhile, 61 percent of travelers reported that they’d feel comfortable traveling internationally over the next six months, with Paris, London, Rome, and Barcelona topping respondents' wishlists.

When it comes to prices, international flights over the holidays have dropped by up to 65 percent, according to Dollar Flight Club deal experts, who've found $278 roundtrip tickets between Chicago and Paris and $296 roundtrip flights between New York and Athens.

3. Airfare prices might drop through 2021, then recover and surpass 2019 pricing.

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Dollar Flight Club analyzed airfare and industry data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on 9/11 and the Great Recession of 2008, using a regression model to predict how the pandemic will affect travelers and airlines in the future.

Based on that, Dollar Flight Club's report estimates that airfare prices will decrease by 35 percent on average through 2021 before increasing sharply (by 27 percent on average) to surpass 2019 levels through 2025.

4. Big airlines may merge, budget airlines could be swallowed up, and flights might be cut.

5. Over time, the result may be packed planes and pricey airfares.

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If airlines merge and cut flights, people may have fewer options, funneling everyone onto planes that will be more crowded and less comfortable, the Dollar Flight Club noted. A similar sentiment was echoed in reporting by CNN, which predicted a reduced number of seats, fewer choices, and higher prices for air passengers in the future.

6. Baggage, seat, and ticket change fees may increase as airlines scramble to get back on track.

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The Dollar Flight Club’s report estimates that airlines will ramp up additional fees to help them turn a profit. “We expect bag fees to come back to major carriers in addition to additional seat fees, charges for snacks and drinks, and increased ticket change fees,” according to the report.

7. But it’s not all about money. Travel companies will likely shift their attention to flexibility.

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While we’ve already seen an increase in flexible cancellation and refund policies, Skyscanner's Lord noted that “when it is safe to travel again, we anticipate that travel providers will want to encourage hotel, flight, and car rental bookings. Price will be one of the elements influencing travelers’ decisions, but they will also be looking at a number of other factors, such as safety and flexibility.”

To find that flexibility, Neugarten said that they "expect people to book directly with airlines rather than through third party sites like Expedia. By booking directly with airlines like Delta, you get access to the lenient cancellation, refund, and change policies that airlines are currently offering. If you book with third party sites, that becomes more complicated and harder to take advantage of."

8. And with health a prominent concern, travel insurance may become a must — especially early on.

9. The way we board a plane and a flight's onboard food and drink offerings might change.

10. People may opt for lesser-known destinations, leaning toward ethical travel so they can spend their travel dollars in destinations devastated by the decline in tourism.

11. Solo or small group travel might be more appealing than big tours or cruise ship travel.

12. Long-term travel may be the new norm, and the number of digital nomads might increase.

13. In the near future, Americans may not be able to travel internationally as freely as they once did — and might have to prove their good health.

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Historically, American passport holders have had an easy time hopping borders — but that may change thanks to the pandemic. Currently, the global level 4 health advisory states that "many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice."

Neugarten believes that these regulations, which were put in place to slow the spread of the virus, could linger for Americans. “Over the next year we expect only a handful of countries to open up borders to travelers from hard hit COVID-19 countries like the United States. If they do open up borders, they will likely require travelers to obtain proof from a doctor or testing facility to prove that they are not a risk for transmitting COVID-19 or high risk for getting sick.”

14. Travel will return, but may usher in a new normal.

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Even with all the unknowns, half of Dollar Flight Club survey respondents said that COVID-19 has not impacted how they feel about future travel.

This is a sentiment Lord at Skyscanner can get behind. “In the long term, we are optimistic; travel is such a fundamental part of being human. People will always want to explore other cultures, to see different parts of the world and simply connect with each other, whether that’s at home or abroad,” Lord told BuzzFeed. “We'll never go back to 'business as usual’— it will be ‘business as unusual.’”

Don't forget to check out Bring Me! for all of BuzzFeed's best travel tips and hacks, vacation inspiration, and more!

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