As with any story we start at the beginning – in an airport far far away, well actually just a two-hour flight away, and having taken my last flight in Jan 2020, I had not been inside or anywhere near an airport in the past 14 months. Needless to say, I was nervous, having heard the horror stories of arriving two hours prior to a domestic flight, the long queues for screening, lack of social distancing – I prepped as if I was going to war – sanitizer, double masks, face shield, anti-bacterial wipes etc. I must admit that it was not as busy as expected especially during this peak time and the process was pretty painless – except having to remove watch, cell phone and belts – but then again that is nothing out of the ordinary for most seasoned travellers.
Even though I was armed with anti-bacterial artillery, I felt safe inside as the airports have sanitizers at every turn with constant loud-speaker announcements of “do not leave your luggage unattended” to now including “please keep your mask on at all times”.
The usual behavioural habit of flying starts with one grabbing the inflight magazine to page through places we know we may never visit but are nice to look at, in fact I am certain we all page straight to the menu before the plane has even taken off. The inflight magazine was a regular media choice on the schedule for clients operating in the tourism/hospitality space as well as those of luxury brands – sadly this source of the media has become a casualty of the Covid war due to safety reasons. On the bright side, the one major positive to come out of the airport experience was disembarking – two rows at the time – this is something I believe airlines should have implemented a long, long time ago.
Back at the hotel, containers of used and sanitized pens grace the reception desks. In the rooms instead of the usual folder containing information on the hotels facilities and room service menus - this has been replaced by a QR code sticker to scan for download – sorry for you if you don’t know how!
It fascinated me on how many boxes hotels had to tick to ensure they are compliant in every manner – from the floor decals noting correct distancing at the egg station at breakfast, to repurposing staff as Covid compliant monitors to ensure that no more than two people enter the lift at any given time.
Their list must have been endless, but in all the admin drama – I could not help but reflect the absolute importance the role of advertising plays for covid savvy consumers in their decision-making process especially when travelling with families. No longer shall we filter for inter-leading rooms, heated pools, free shuttles – we now filter for daily sanitized rooms and complimentary PPE.
Whether we like it or not, Covid has changed every facet of our daily life. This disciplined behaviour of mask wearing, frequent washing of hands etc has enabled us to make better decisions for our own safety, as a result my choice of hotel, restaurants and airline carrier was done on this very basis, all because these establishments made an effort of putting their compliance and going the extra mile out there via advertising.
Apart from highly compliant establishments chosen to solidify my decision to travel, it was also our weekly infection rates that are now well below the globally accepted high-risk threshold and the commencement of the vaccine roll out. These factors have somewhat changed the stormy skyline on the travel horizon to look only slightly overcast. As more countries start to reach acceptable vaccination thresholds the impact on banned travel will reduce and consumer trust in travel will increase, however at the current vaccination rates this likeness may only be expected towards 2022.
The illustration above shows that international travel is expected to remain passive for the rest of the year, but local tourism is starting to show signs of recovery back home. SA Tourism’s report confirmed that domestic tourism has seen a positive recovery in overnight trips of 50% as compared to 2019 with holidaymakers preferring travel by road as opposed to air, as the movement of light motor vehicles is only between 10% - 20% less than 2019 against the 60% reduction in air travel. However domestic air travel is now doubled that of any regional and international air travel.
It was comforting to learn from the report that we are not in isolation with our reduced travel stats as globally, regions are experiencing reduced international travel of more than 70% compared to the previous year, and it is with this reason the sector weighs so heavily on encouraging domestic travel.
So, if you are tired of the walks from the kitchen to your makeshift office and are thinking about taking that well deserved break – do it.
Do your homework on places of stay, plot safe routes and most importantly support local – you will not regret it. I certainly did not.