As the number of coronavirus cases in America and abroad continues to rise, travelers with a U.S. passport stay on the ground. So far, only nine countries are open to Americans without restrictions. If Belarus, Serbia, Zambia, or any of the other six countries on this list aren’t on the maps, then travelers longing for an international flight will have to wait.
How long is still unknown. Elizabeth Becker, author of Overbooked: The Exploding Travel and Tourism Business, notes that the pandemic “decimated” the global travel industry by $ 8 trillion overnight. “These essential pillars of 21st century global travel – open borders, open destinations, and visa-free travel – are not going to return in the short or even medium term,” she says.
What does this mean for the future of travel? Despite the turbulence, experts see a blue sky. Bruce Poon Tip, author of Unlearn: The Year the Earth Stood Still and founder of travel company G Adventures, says we’ll not only travel again, we’ll do better too. “I still believe that travel can be the greatest expeller of wealth the world has ever seen,” he says. “This break gives us time to think about how we can travel more consciously.”
From a renewed commitment to sustainable tourism to creative ways to become a globetrotter from home, learn how travel writers, bloggers, and podcasters navigate.
Sustainability will be a driving force
A silver lining from the pandemic? Consumers are doubling their sustainability. Becker predicts that travelers will take on the role of “affected citizens” who demand responsible travel guidelines. The industry will respond with active measures to prioritize a healthy world over profit margins. “Don’t be surprised if countries mandate ‘fly-free days’ and other measures to control climate change,” she says.
Tourists crowd St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy in 2013. After the pandemic, experts predict greater interest in visiting less crowded places.
Photo by Rocco Rorandelli, TerraProject / Redux
Take Action: Reduce your carbon footprint by buying offsets from companies like Cool Effect and staying in certified green hotels. Check out websites like Book Different that rate properties for eco-friendliness.
(See also: This is how Greece is rethinking its once bustling tourism industry.)
Our trips are becoming more inclusive
The Black Lives Matter movement has brought the issue of representation to light in all industries, including travel. That’s overdue, says Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon. The award-winning journalist and television presenter hopes the industry is moving towards significant change, but fears that any change will be short-lived. “When the pandemic is over and the hashtags are no longer in vogue, will the industry gatekeepers continue to be out to attract, cater and celebrate?” She writes in an email. “I’m cautiously optimistic, but not entirely convinced.”
Martinique Lewis of the Black Travel Alliance believes the industry is moving in the right direction and remains confident. She notes that companies are listening to different customers’ needs and says the time has come. “For the first time, they think about what a trans woman is going through, not just when she chooses the bathroom in a restaurant, but also when she checks into a hotel and shows her license to someone else,” says Lewis. “Now plus-size travelers want to surf and dive, but can’t because the lack of wetsuits in their size is recognized. Now we are thinking of blind travelers who want to experience tours and extreme sports while on vacation. “
Take Action: Visit one of nearly 200 living history museums in the United States, where historical performers portray characters from the past. They shed light on painful issues (like racism in America) and hidden narratives (like those of people of color whose stories have been suppressed).
Small churches will play a bigger role
Travelers can make a difference in small towns that were struggling economically before the pandemic. Y Travel Blog’s Caz Makepeace says she and her family have always traveled slowly to lesser-known areas “instead of running through destinations.” Now she supports these places by supporting local businesses and donating to charities.
Kate Newman of Travel for Difference suggests that travelers focus on the “global south” or developing countries that depend on tourism. “We have to diversify our locations to avoid mass tourism and focus on the places that really need it,” she says. “It has resulted in so many communities suffering during COVID-19 [this issue] to illuminate. “
Take Action: Contact the non-profit Impact Travel Alliance for Sustainable Tourism to learn how to empower locals and protect the environment.
We will look for quality over quantity
High mileage travelers think more about their bucket lists. “With COVID-19, I was able to rethink how and why I travel,” says Erick Prince of The Minority Nomad. “It gave me the freedom to explore travel projects for passion instead of paychecks.” Instead of focusing on paid appearances, the Thailand-based blogger says he will start a self-funded project to highlight the remote provinces in his adopted country.
Eulanda Osagiede from Hey Dip Your Toes In takes the breaks on international trips and cites travel as a privilege that many take for granted. “Privilege comes in many forms, and the recognition of our travel-related privileges has made us more focused and less likely to think about travel – if the world ever begins to resemble its pre-pandemic days.”
Take Action: The Transformational Travel Council provides resources and recommendations on operators who can help organize meaningful trips.
The road trip will shift into high gear
For many, road trips may be the only viable option for travel right now, and frequent fliers like Packs Light’s Gabby Beckford are picking up speed. Driving across national borders can be just as exciting as crossing international borders. It’s about the mindset. “Driving on the road has shown me that the core of traveling – curiosity, contact with new things and amazement -[is] a perspective, not a goal, ”she says.
Take Action: Plan a coronavirus-conscious trip to Colorado, home to superlative stargazing spots – and possibly the world’s largest dark sky reserve.
(See Also: Check Out These Eight Epic Drives Across America.)
Some high-mileage travelers plan to focus on meaningful experiences in remote areas such as Chimney Tops in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Photo by Dan Reynolds Photography, Getty Images
Travel advisors are becoming indispensable
Conde Nast Traveler sustainability editor Juliet Kinsman predicts a shift to booking travel through agents and incumbents, citing her invaluable knowledge and industry connections. “I think what 2020 has shown and taught is that the expertise and financial protection of booking through a travel agent often outweighs the commission amount,” she says. In addition, she hopes consumers will turn to agents who specialize in the environment. “Anyone who cares where they send their customers can intuitively cut through greenwash and really make sure that every link in the supply chain is an honorable link,” she says.
Take Action: Find Travel Advisors: The American Society of Travel Advisors maintains a database that allows travelers to search by destination, type of trip (e.g., ecotourism or genealogy), and cohort (e.g., LGBTQ + travelers). Virtuoso, a network of consultants specializing in luxury travel, can help with great deals, convenient itineraries and tailored experiences.
We will appreciate staying closer to home
Some are discovering the benefits of traveling at home too. Epicure & Culture blogger Jessie Festa and Jessie on a Journey usually travel internationally once a month. Nowadays, online cultural cooking classes, games, and virtual experiences help her “keep the spirit of travel alive by taking into account the emotions traveling creates,” she says. Sharing postcards with her extended travel community is another “great way to relive travel safely,” she adds.
“If we compare everything to being locked in our respective towers indefinitely, a walk to the park can feel like a journey,” says Traveling Mitch blogger Chris Mitchell. “Now people are ready to see the magic of a meal on a terrace in a street restaurant.”
Take Action: Get outside, says the Norwegian concept ‘friluftsliv’, an idea of outdoor living that promises to make the colder months of the pandemic more bearable.
(Related: Here’s Why Walking Is The Ideal Pandemic Activity.)
Planning trips will be fun again
Although some people make the most of being grounded, this difficult time reminds them that travel is important to promoting mental health and personal growth. There is research to back it up. A 2013 survey of 483 adults in the United States found that travel improves empathy, energy, attention, and focus. Planning a trip is just as effective – a 2014 Cornell study showed that the joy of travel significantly increases happiness and anticipates more than the purchase of material goods.
Joanna Penn can testify to the healing effects of both. The UK-based author and podcaster of The Creative Penn and Books and Travel usually travels to research her books. “For me, my writing life is all about what I’ve learned while traveling,” she recently said in a podcast, “the ideas that arise when you’re in a new place.” Her future trips include hiking the Camino de Santiago in 2022. Studying maps and setting a route makes her feel like she is working towards a real destination. “I can expand my comfort zone without too much stress, especially if I accept that things may be canceled,” she said.
Take Action: Plan a trip now inspired by this essay on why travel should be considered an essential human activity.
Steve Brock is a writer and photographer based in Seattle, Washington. Follow him on Instagram.