How the lessons of 2020 may make travel better in the long run


By Christopher Elliott,

The conventional wisdom is that 2020 has nearly destroyed travel. And though it’s true that covid-19 ruined our vacations and took a wrecking ball to a large part of the industry, the conventional wisdom is wrong.

“Actually, the pandemic is making travel better in many ways,” says Clayton Reid, CEO of MMGY Global, a marketing company known for its research on consumer trends and travel. “It’s forced travel companies to introduce innovative contactless service. They have new booking procedures and a commitment to cleanliness and safety. I believe these are long-term shifts.”

He’s right. Many of the positive changes appear to be here to stay. Among them:

●Contactless service: The travel industry has made a massive push toward automation, introducing cleaning robots and apps that double as hotel room keys. In the future, you may not have to interact with staff when you travel — unless you want to.

●New booking policies: Travel companies have bent over backward to accommodate customers who want more flexibility during the pandemic. From “no risk” bookings that you can cancel at the last minute to eliminating change fees, experts say the new rules could be here to stay.

●Commitment to cleanliness and safety: Airlines, car rental companies and hotels have introduced programs that promise a cleaner travel experience. Delta’s CareStandard and Etihad Airways’ wellness, sanitization and safety program are standouts. These programs will almost certainly survive the pandemic.

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