Blog, Travel Tips, & News

What can you expect from Covid travel this year and beyond?

work of a waiter in a restaurant in a medical mask

As more folks get their vaccinations, there’s definitely been an increase in calls for planning travel for later this year and beyond. I spend a lot of time staying current on the changes in regulations and our travel suppliers’ plans and Covid protocols, so this week’s article covers what you can expect for travel this year and after…

What to expect in travel for 2021 and beyond

The news is peppered with favorable reports of the positive impact of the vaccine, and as more and more folks get vaccinated, there is already a definite uptick in travel bookings. As we move forward and travel slowly becomes more available, there will definitely be some changes and modifications in how we travel.

Last month I wrote about the CDC requirement for a negative Covid test when flying into the US from an international destination that went into effect January 26, and previously I’ve written about the travel experience on flights and all-inclusive resorts. So now let’s look forward into what we can expect.

Looking to the future, one of the key things we can count on is shifting requirements, so it will be important to stay informed or have the support of a travel professional. The ability to respond to new announcements will be critical. The travel industry is very resilient and quickly came up with solutions to the CDC’s unexpected testing requirement last month, and we expect that we’ll continue to need to be fluid as travel guidelines evolve. A key Delta executive noted that the CDC order caught them by surprise, even though the airlines would need to be the entities to implement that CDC’s plan. So overall, the playbook is being written as we go, so flexibility is key.

Travel in 2021

Travel for the time being will continue the protocols we’ve already seen from destinations that have been open: Wearing masks in public spaces, social distancing, expanded use of outdoor spaces, extensive and frequent cleaning and sanitizing by staff.

These protocols are likely to continue in some form or fashion throughout 2021 and into 2022 until the virus subsides and overall population becomes comfortable with going back to ‘normal’ procedures.

The general consensus is that we are going to test our way out of this situation. As borders open, you will see testing as a key driver to safely open up travel.

We expect to see some type of electronic format evolve to help manage individuals’ testing results and the information required by each country.

Covid Passport?

There are talks of a ‘Covid passport’ – some type of medical registries to track negative testing or vaccination.

One option is the IATA Travel Pass Initiative, a digital platform that has been designed by IATA – the International Air Transport Association. In addition to providing accurate information on travel requirements by country and passenger testing and vaccination status, it plans to offer locations of authorized labs and test centers. The IATA Travel Pass will be free to download and use by passengers. The app is expected to be available by the end of March.

While IATA has been proactive in developing this tool, governments worldwide will ultimately choose which formats it will approve for tracking passenger testing and vaccinations.

Another option is requiring the vaccine to travel to a particular destination. While this may sound radical at first, it’s actually similar to how there are certain vaccinations required in Africa, and travelers to that destination comply.

The President of the European Union Commission is supportive of a common vaccination certificate, and other individual countries have made similar statements referring to vaccines as a critical component in opening borders. There are a number of tourism-dependent countries that are already considering or implementing plans to allow travelers who have been vaccinated, such as Seychelles, Cyprus, and Greece.

The key thing to note is that governments make the rules on entry requirements for travelers and which tools or apps they accept, not the airlines or IATA. Travel suppliers may also have rules as noted below, but the overarching regulations are determined by each country.

Travel Suppliers Implement New Traveler Requirements

As vaccinations become more available and the expectation that older travelers will be fully vaccinated in late spring, some travel suppliers have announced the requirement that all travelers, as well as crew, must have a vaccination to travel.

As vaccinations become more available and the expectation that older travelers will be fully vaccinated in late spring, some travel suppliers have announced the requirement that all travelers, as well as crew, must have a vaccination to travel.

These smaller cruise lines, which have vessels that hold between 100 – 1000 people, have a more limited clientele and have surveyed their guests to find that this vaccine requirement encourages their clients of safety to get them traveling again. Larger cruise lines with ships of 3000-5000 passengers have huge ships to fill, so they will likely not implement such policies. But Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have already required that all crew members must have vaccinations.

Globus provides a likely example of how most travel suppliers will implement traveler requirements. Globus Family of Brands includes Globus and Cosmos escorted tours, Monograms hosted travel, and Avalon river cruising, so clearly, they have a lot of passenger spots to fill worldwide. They recently announced a plan that says all guests will be required to show printed or digital verification of a Covid-19 vaccination obtained at least 14 days prior to travel, proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel, or proof of recovery from a confirmed Covid19 diagnosis within three months of travel. This goes into effect on April 1. This policy that straddles the vaccine or testing or recovery situations covers all the options and will become more common as a requirement for travel.

Reset Expectations

When planning a trip for 2021, you can’t have the same assumptions as travel in normal times. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a great travel experience but setting the right expectations will help you enjoy your trip.

Ask questions about amenities that are important to you. At some hotels, resorts, or destinations, some of the restaurants may be closed. For larger all-inclusive resorts that have reciprocity to a nearby sister resort (i.e., the Adults Only resort guest may normally be able to visit the affiliated Family resort for dining), at some properties, that reciprocity may be cancelled for now. Some are not formally operating their kids clubs but still providing some limited kid activities.

Promotions and Adjusted Terms

While there may be some promotions to help fill out the open slots for travel in 2021, particularly as we wait to see how this year opens up, 2022 and 2023 are already booking up so there will be fewer promotions farther out.

There will be more flexible terms and conditions as the travel industry tries to attract travelers to book trips. Many travel suppliers have created ‘Book with Confidence’ programs that allow the ability to change dates without penalty or to change destinations totally. Many have adjusted their payment schedule and delayed final payments to closer to travel so clients don’t feel locked into a particular trip in destinations that may not open to Americans for a period of time.

There are currently people traveling now in the United States and to the countries that are open to Americans, like Mexico, Egypt, Caribbean Islands, Morocco, and many African countries, and we’ll see more people traveling going forward as countries begin opening up as the vaccine becomes widespread. Travel suppliers are ready to deliver a safe and healthy experience by implementing strong protocols to protect their guests. Expect to see testing and vaccines as crucial tools in facilitating travel, along with smaller groups, travel bubbles, and reduced capacity to encourage travelers to hit the roads and skies again.