Many readers who contact me are interested in learning about what may be around the corner — good and bad — in the travel world of the future. Today we will touch on information about things likely to open up first and the changes we will face as we jump back into travel.
Over the last few months as the prospects of being vaccinated have been improving, suppliers and the public see mass vaccinations as the only real opening for a major industry bounce back. In the meantime, those early adopters to what may be the new normal in travel, want to be certain that the options they choose are as safe as they possible can be. Enter the concept of the vaccination passport. These vaccine-timed assurances of greater virus protection can open the door to worldwide travel. For the countries which adopt them, they are also seen as a way for their own citizens to explore their countries more safely in hotels, aircraft and on tours. The United Kingdom has taken major steps forward in approving the use of these documents. Iceland has already approved COVID vaccination passports as the ticket for entry and the Baltic countries are supposedly close behind in making such announcements. There is support for this in the airline industry as well as its association body — the International Air Transport Association (IATA) makes ready to introduce its new app which was created so passengers can safely store all of their vaccine records online.
Passenger drop-off charges
Prior to the pandemic — regardless of which airport you left from around the world — the passenger drop-off lanes were often clogged as family or friends chose to personally drive their travellers to the airports to drop them off. While the numbers of people travelling must have surely cleared these lanes substantially over the past months, airports have been losing money in large amounts without the traffic inside the departure and arrival areas. Nevertheless, England’s Gatwick Airport will begin charging the equivalent of about $8.80 for vehicles to drop off passengers outside its North Terminal next month. They say it is to reduce congestion — but it will also be an important revenue stream during the difficult financial times brought on by the pandemic. There will be a free shuttle for those who wish to save money by dropping their passengers off at a more distant parking lot. Watch for an expansion of this policy in other airports.
New eVTOL air taxi
It is a concept hardly off the drawing board, but both United Airlines and its regional affiliate Mesa Airlines are committed to buying dozens of these new short-haul electric helicopter style aircraft. The old fuel helicopters of times past proved to be too expensive and unprofitable. These new-wave air vehicles are being developed by the air-mobility company Archer — which has secured major billion-dollar investments from United and others. These planes may be more efficient than anything before them, but with a capacity of only four passengers, the price will likely be out of range for most ordinary travellers. However, for New Yorkers and other major city travellers around the world whose airport access is either far or slow, this may be the answer, especially for business leaders in a rush. Time and economics may make these trips more affordable for the masses.
Many countries have adopted the same policies as recently announced by our Canadian government, which require arriving passengers to quarantine in approved hotels, and receive mandatory tests at their own expense. While this may be saving lives — many destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are feeling that it is also killing the tourism business in their countries. The costs for an arriving family are seen as too onerous for most travellers to bear, and the time required in quarantine may stretch beyond the available holiday time of the traditional vacationer. Vacation plans are usually arranged well in advance, and even with the positive affect these policies may have on putting a stop to the COVID-19 spread — the DMO’s are recognizing that travellers not only want to know their choice of destination will be safe — but also need to be assured they will not be burdened with the extra time and costs during their trip.
A writer and a podcaster, Ron's travel column appears in the Winnipeg Free Press every Saturday in the Destinations and Diversions section.