The Future of Travel: Predictions and Hope for 2022 and Beyond

It’s Winter 2022, and all my guests are readying themselves to fly to Hawaii for my wedding. Yes, even in this topsy-turvy world we live in, I’m still getting married. I’ve postponed the more significant celebration until a later date to ensure all my guests could be vaccinated and bypass the strict travel protocol in place. While this isn’t the state of travel today, it’s a reality we could all be facing soon enough. 

COVID is predicted to become flu-like, requiring yearly vaccinations to stave off the worst symptoms. The new normal for travel will be stylish face masks, socially distanced queues, and vaccination fast-passes. Just think of South Korea meets Disneyland, and you’ll get the idea. And you may be asking why we couldn’t just go back to the way things we before? Well, that’s because our behaviors and habits are changing irreversibly. When you look at the entire world’s response, it’s not that strange. Facemasks have been a part of everyday life for billions of people well before the pandemic hit. It’s new to Western countries but not so unfamiliar to those in Eastern countries. With programs like CLEAR, Global Entry, and TSA-Pre, the notion that one could bypass these security protocols isn’t such an outrageous idea. So what does a Bollywood wedding in a post-pandemic world look like?

Front of the Line, Please

While we’ve had little cooperation between governments initially, we’re more likely to see a unified travel approach. Perhaps one issued by an entity like the World Health Organization that many of us will adopt. Every country will adhere to the process set forth by W.H.O. That would include digitally adding your vaccination records via blockchain so you can bypass the regular lines of temperature scanners and breathalyzers. Feel a little too far-fetched? What’s happening in travel right now is building upon the behaviors needed to make this a reality. Would you pay not to have to wait in long lines or plan to deal with all the new check-in procedures? What if you were traveling internationally? Would that make a difference?

When you think about it, we’re already using our phones to manage our life, and that’s not going to slow down. When we head to the airport, we might pay for parking with Apple Pay or Google Wallet and scan pre-filled custom forms. Valet parking, bag drop-offs, and dinner on the go- all managed via your mobile phone. How much more difficult would it be to add your vaccination records and a temperature check? I’m betting it wouldn’t be too hard to convince others, especially if it saved them time.

Patience and Preference

A.I. bots rule the hotel industry. Don’t believe me? Have you tried checking into a Marriott lately? You can check-in, request room service, and ask for another pillow all before you park your car. This increasingly contact-less type of service isn’t just suitable for helping us stay socially distanced; it’s convenient too! In a lot of ways, it reduces some of the stress around traveling. Having interacted with hotel chatbots before, I always find that walking into my room with a bottle of champagne and orange juice puts me in a better mood. However, that might just be me. 

Then we have the behavioral shifts of being socially distanced, which has generally made people more patient. Yes, of course, if you look at the news now and see how the U.S. is acting on Spring Break, that might seem out of control. But that’s where we need to look East and see how South Korea has handled the pandemic, with bars and restaurants still open until 11 pm. People are still gathering, and families are celebrating. We’re more aware of our space now and, in general, wait for others to finish their turn before we begin ours. I’ve seen a lot of kindness now than I have in years past. It makes one hopeful.

Grab a Lei to the left and a Mai Tai to the right.

Which brings me back to my original statement: What would my wedding look like in a post-pandemic world? Well, my guests would have their vaccination records sorted out and arrive on Oahu without having to queue. They’d be checking into their hotel rooms while being socially distanced shuttled to the hotel. Upon arrival, they’d pick up their room keys, drop off their suitcases and find snack packs waiting for them after that long flight. Feeling refreshed, they’d head to the pool where appetizers and drinks were waiting for them. Now, in a setting explicitly curated for their enjoyment, they’d catch up with family, say hello to new friends, and all-in-all, it wouldn’t feel too different from traveling before. They might even feel like it was easier when all was said and done.

Is that what my wedding will be like? I don’t know. What I do know is that travel will have changed forever. Suppose we can keep some of the patience and kindness I’ve seen and improve upon our technology. In that case, it will be a change I welcome, especially if it comes with a pineapple Mai Tai.

Photo by Marc Babin on Unsplash

Source: Glimpses of Recovery - Traveler Sentiment Survey Edition 1
Featured Image: Photo by Lisanto 李奕良 on Unsplash