Welcome back to travel in 2021

Well, we may not just yet welcome back travel, but the possibility is becoming more real again. The first month of 2021 has passed, having brought the anticipated second – and in some cases third – wave of infections due to increased social contact over the holiday season. Depending on where you live, you may be feeling like lockdown is going to go on forever or you may be enjoying the first steps on the way back to normalcy.

The way back to travel

A number of vaccines have been approved for use around the world and mass inoculation programs are being rolled out. In spite of herculean efforts by healthcare workers worldwide, the vaccinations don’t happen fast enough to save this winter’s ski season in Europe.

Italy is cautiously lowering its color-coded threat levels, allowing residents to move in a wider radius from their homes. France on the other hand has added a number of red zones to its map. The mutated varieties of the virus keep border closures very much at the top of the list of measure to control their spread. Even without that drastic step, travel for any other than the most necessary of reasons is still not permitted.

And yet… there is hope. While in early 2020 it seemed utterly impossible that a vaccine would be found this quickly, 2021 holds promise! Most countries predict it will take them until the end of summer at least to set enough jabs to guarantee sufficient levels of immunity, but there is finally an end in sight.

Rules for museum visits remain in place (The Uffizi)

No doubt international travel will be returning to a vastly changed landscape. That in itself will create both challenges and opportunities. Just imagine all the travel guides that will need updating on hotels and restaurants that unfortunately won’t reopen again.

The way forward

Our travel habits may show lasting change as well. The mantra of washing your hands frequently, covering your face and staying well outside other people’s personal space has made the flu drop by 98% worldwide. It shows that relatively simple steps can have unintended but positive consequences.

I certainly would enjoy socially distanced boarding as a fixture, rather than seeing a return to the bonanza it tended to be in the past!

Back to travel in a socially distanced way

Trade indicators are also suggesting a move away from crowded cities in favour of more off-the-beaten-track destinations. I made the case for battlefield tours fitting perfectly in this framework in a previous post. An additional bonus may be that previously overcrowded cities will become a joy to visit again.

Other challenges will remain: museums and local attractions that so depended on footfall for their funding may not reopen their doors. Worse still, some may even see their collections broken up if they didn’t manage to find an alternative stream.

But if 2020 has shown one thing, it is that mankind is creative with finding alternative ways of doing things. It may not have saved every business or venue, but it did provide a lifeline for many. And now we can start planning again, instead of just dreaming of getting away and satisfying our wanderlust.

The countless hoteliers, restaurateurs, museum curators, tour guides, crafts people and shop keepers have missed you. They look forward to welcoming you again. Just a little while longer,… but change is coming!

Share your favourite “travel from your seat” experience during lockdown. Was it a virtual visit to a top class museum, a remote city walk hosted by a local guide or a live webcam stream from a random piazza somewhere? Let us know in the comments!

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