What will travel look like in the future?

What would happen in 6 months, 1 year, and 2020 onwards?

Authored by Jerry Liu, Growth PM for Nomad

January 14, 2021

Read Time: 5 mins

As we start the new year, the vast majority of us are hoping the future is brighter than what we went through in 2020. One key aspect that many of us digital nomads hope to back to is the freedom of not being tied to a specific location, and countries opening up for travelers again. Here, we break down the timeline for travel into 3 key phases, halfway into 2021, the end of 2021, and 2022 onwards. This article will be written primarily from a US perspective. Naturally, local and international travel restrictions will differ by country.

6 months from now

It is very unlikely that travel, especially international, will return to anywhere near pre-COVID levels within the first half of 2021. Although vaccines have begun to be distributed, they are primarily for frontline workers who would not be traveling anyways. The majority of Americans will not receive the vaccines until the second half of the year. For more details on the vaccine, check out our updated article on the vaccination schedule.

Confidence in travel is unlikely to be restored within the next 6 months, and given the current rates of infection, the government will likely limit it to essential travel only. In order for the restrictions to be lifted, the main parameter that will be analyzed is the level of new infections in the community. The rate will provide the most meaningful picture on the trend of the epidemic curve and whether it is safe to begin taking controls off.

Travel is unlikely to return within 6 months

1 year from now

In the next year, restrictions will hopefully begin to loosen and the ability to travel locally and internationally will increase. However, even if the restrictions lessen, travel itself will begin to change. The use of travel insurance and travel advisors will likely see a permanent increase. Furthermore, there will be a lasting preference on driving over flying and vacation rentals over hotels. We will likely see consumers still interested in road trips or destinations closer in proximity to home, a concern that was not as significant a factor in deciding where to go for a getaway. 

It is likely that the safety and cleaning checks currently being done on planes and airports will continue to take place. Temperature checks and COVID testing will still be present, and face masks may still be mandatory for any international travel that is done. 

Air travel will continue to have regulations

2022 onwards

Current estimates have the virus being around for 2 years at least. By this point, we will have approached a new norm in terms of travel and the idea of travel itself will likely have a new definition that is widely accepted across the community. Some of the processes that currently feel new to us, such as temperature checks, will become a routine part of the onboarding process. 

Fortunately, by this time our understanding of the COVID-19 virus should be very thorough and standardized practices around the prevention, treatment and management of the virus will likely be implemented throughout legislation and along some international standards through the help of organizations such as the World Health Organization. This will help monitor and maintain the long term control of COVID-19 and other viruses in the future. 

At this point, it’s hard to say what safety precautions will be necessary, as that will be dependent on the effectiveness of the vaccine as well as the full understanding of the effects of COVID-19 on the body. However, at this time, we should get used to the precautions in place and treat it as the new standard rather than a temporary fix that will get reversed.