Some things never change. Even when traveling. Yes, even during a pandemic.
You’re probably a little tired of all the headlines proclaiming that COVID-19 has changed our lives forever. So maybe it’s heartwarming to know that the travel industry is the same as ever, for better or for worse.
By “better” I mean some of the positive aspects of the trip have also remained constant. And by “worse” I mean some parts of air travel and hotel accommodation have stubbornly stayed the same, despite all promises. Taking an inventory of these permanent aspects could help you plan your next trip.
Airlines lose fees but keep bad service
Airlines made a big deal when they dropped some – but not all – of their ticket modification fees at the start of the pandemic. They did not mention that these fees were initially ineligible, or that the airlines were receiving generous federal aid ($ 80 billion and more).
Rick Versace, a frequent air traveler who is the CEO of an airport limousine service, says that while he appreciates the elimination of airfare, flying is still a “call of the cattle.”
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âAirports are packed, and flight attendants and ground staff are overworked and exasperated,â he adds.
It sounds a lot like flying before the pandemic, doesn’t it?
By the way, don’t take your eyes off the airlines. It won’t be long before they quietly reintroduce all of these fees. That’s one hell of a way to say “thank you” for all the taxpayer support during the pandemic.
Hotels are not “clean for COVID”
Hotels would have you believe that their rooms are cleaner than ever, thanks to their new sanitation protocols. But in conversations with hotel insiders and guests, it’s clear that these cleaning initiatives are mostly just promotional campaigns designed to attract more bookings.
âAnything that is ‘COVID clean’ is BS,â says Chloe Cohen, a New York real estate investor. âI saw stickers that say ‘self-sanitizing’ on an elevator keypad in a New York City hotel that was not backed by technology to emit UV-buffered sanitation. So basically it was just a sticker. The same goes for doorknobs and key cards. There was no evidence of virus-related cleanup. “
All of this talk about UV robots and super-clean hotel rooms will probably wear off soon. And what will we have left? Hotels will begin to charge for daily cleaning. Thanks for nothing!
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Car Rental Companies: Older Cars, Higher Prices
Here’s a complaint as old as the car rental industry: Travelers complain about overpriced, high-mileage vehicles. But they became more similar during the pandemic as the rental car industry struggled to adjust to the new normal.
On the contrary, the situation worsened after the epidemic. And the outlook is more or less the same, as car rental companies struggle to manage their fleets and keep up with customer demand. Complaining about old cars and high prices will remain.
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Road trips are still in fashion
Not all consistency is bad. Travel by car, which was already important before the pandemic, has become even more popular after the outbreak. Of course, they did: they offered the promise of safer travel within your family group and the possibility of a lot of social distancing.
âMillions of Americans have taken a road trip,â says Tim Hentschel, CEO of HotelPlanner. “What hasn’t changed either is people’s desire to visit friends and family.”
Car travel has never gone out of fashion, even when record numbers of Americans were flying. And if you took a road trip last summer, you know why, and also why it’s awesome.
They don’t call it the great American road trip for nothing!
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Travelers still use advisers
Travel counselors are still there too. A recent Internova Travel Group survey found that 4 in 5 Americans prefer working with a human rather than an online travel agency to plan an important trip.
Why? They love the personal attention, the added perks, and access to deals they can’t find online. Additionally, agents are more relevant than ever in the era of COVID-19, helping travelers navigate the world of PCR testing and ever-changing travel demands.
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âTravelers can expect consistency from their travel counselors,â says Angie Licea, president of Global Travel Collection. âWhy try to figure this out for yourself when this industry is built on assistance and service to travelers? “
A wise advisor has always been one of the most effective travel tools. And it’s true now more than ever.
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And yes, people still love to travel
Another thing that hasn’t changed: people still love to travel. Even at the height of the pandemic, they booked trips and remained optimistic. A recent survey by Generali Global Assistance found that 41% of travelers expect a return to normal in 2022, without masks or other precautions related to COVID-19.
âGiven the lingering impacts of the pandemic, it is reassuring that Americans are optimistic about normalization of travel in 2022,â said Chris Carnicelli, CEO of Generali Global Assistance.
Maybe one of the reasons they’re so optimistic is that no matter how many people talk about change in travel, so little change in reality. This familiarity – at least on the positive side of the travel experience – is reassuring and heartwarming.
How have you changed since the pandemic?
The travel industry hasn’t changed much, but travelers have. Here’s how – and what it means to you:
Travelers plan their trips at the last minute. More than half of hotel reservations are made seven to 14 days in advance. This is a big change from before the pandemic, when lead times were often measured in months. âAs hotel occupancy rates continue to rise, you need to plan,â says Michelle Russo of hotelAVE, a hotel consulting firm. “If you’re not sure what the future might mean when planning, select destinations that will offer more flexible cancellation policies.”
They take shorter vacations. Another change: journeys are shorter than in the past. John Gobbels, chief operating officer of Medjet, an air medical transport and crisis response program for travelers, attributes the change to continued uncertainty. âPeople are making a series of smaller, easier to cancel trips this year instead of a longer one,â he says. But if you’ve got your shots and don’t mind being outside for a few weeks, now might be the time to plan a longer vacation. You could also save money.
Travelers buy more insurance. Amid all the uncertainty, more and more travelers are buying insurance. And for good reason, explains Daniel Durazo, director of marketing and communications at Allianz Partners USA. “Our claims volume is up 75% from last year, and customers tell us they didn’t expect to have to cancel their trip, but they are glad they purchased travel insurance.” You have a limited time to purchase insurance and receive the maximum benefits.