We know for a fact that domestic travel, as discussed in our article When Can We Travel Again?, will be the first to open, especially those destinations within driving distance: now is a great time to start thinking of and planning your closer-to-home getaways, which our Epperly Travel team is more than happy to assist with. We’re currently providing one-on-one consultations to help clients navigate the best driving distance trips in their areas – reach out here if you’d like to start your own conversation!
For those of us who are anxious to break out our passports, what kind of dominoes need to fall in order to even think about traveling internationally? Based on the research and conversations we’ve been working on over at Epperly, it’s a three-part process for international travel: and each piece relies on what comes before it.
DOMINO 3: HOTELS
Let’s work our way backwards when it comes to these dominoes: our hotel partners. Hotels are where we tend to have the strongest relationships, the best amenities, and the greatest expertise. Thanks to those relationships, the Epperly team was on a call this past week with three General Managers of Caribbean properties in order to better understand their needs and business structures so that we can best educate you, the traveler.
The key to getting to a hotel is being able to actually get to the hotel. This is why the driving distance market will open first in the U.S. and, similarly, destinations that can serve a domestic clientele – think most of mainland Europe – will reopen their hotels as soon as it makes financial sense. The ramp up required for a hotel to reopen is not as simple as flipping a switch, though. One of our GM friends informed us this past week that operating costs of an open hotel, one with all utilities and even a light staff running, are at least double that to the bare-bones hotel shutdowns that so many have opted for.
Hotels will only reopen if they can sustain enough occupancy to support the decision and, in order to sustain that occupancy, most destinations, especially those who do not have a driving distance market, will be relying on the airlines as the domino that must fall in front of them.
DOMINO 2: AIRLINES
Has any single business entity been focused on more than airlines throughout the events of COVID-19? Between government bailouts to the issuing of refunds, it’s no doubt that airlines have been a dinnertime conversation for more than just travel advisors over the past few weeks. Love ‘em or hate ‘em (we love you, Delta!), they are a necessary piece of the travel puzzle, especially when it comes to international travel (obviously!)
Airlines will undoubtedly operate at a reduced rate than we would have seen in the past several years – the facts and the figures of exactly what that means might not even be clear until we’re on the other side of this. I personally predict two parts to that reduction: routes and seats.
From an international perspective, airlines will bring back the necessary and more popular routes first as a simple answer to supply and demand. This will mean that those more remote destinations are not as accessible as a nonstop flight: getting to a more isolated location very well may require additional logistics or the options of flying private (if this is of interest, let us know – the Epperly team is able to arrange for private transport thanks to the partnerships we’ve built up in that sector.)
When it comes to seats, many airlines have drawn up plans to leave middle seats open for the foreseeable future in order to maintain some semblance of social distancing. This would not come as a surprise and, when you do the math, that means that the supply of an airline’s capacity will be down. It also should not come as a surprise if that means the cost of your airline ticket goes up sooner rather than later. There should be a short term drop in prices from airlines to entice travelers, but keep these facts in mind if you see a quick spike in prices.
Regardless of the exact capacity, the airline domino must fall in order to hit the hotel domino, effectively opening those two elements of travel. But, there’s still one more piece in front of the airlines that must be respected for international travel: the governments.
DOMINO 1: GOVERNMENTS
Politics and commentary are unnecessary for this topic, there’s only one fact that matters here when it comes to international travel: the airlines to reopen routes, governments must reopen borders. Simple as that.
What is not simple is how each and every country will determine the point in which it feels comfortable accepting outside citizens into its territory. Each government will create its own plan for reducing the restrictions around who can enter the country, but we would not be surprised to see additional requirements of travelers, like health certificates offering proof of no fever for several days before travel (look at what French Polynesia was doing right before the lockdowns) or even rapid testing in airports upon entry into a country.
The exact measures are still unknown, but we do know that things will change in order for most travelers to feel comfortable about their health and safety, as well as for governments to feel comfortable about the health and safety of their citizens.
My parting advice as we look out at what will be a new normal when it comes to travel is for us to look at these advancements as exactly what they are. Actions such as these are not an inconvenience against the way things used to be, but progress toward bringing us to a place where we can enjoy what we love the most: traveling.