Long before anyone had heard of a thing called coronavirus, diligent, seasoned travellers already carried little packs of alcohol-infused wipes, gels, and sanitisers in their pockets. People who baulked at the idea of touching handrails on trains, buses and escalators were once accused of OCD but now sit firmly in the seat of wisdom. And where the occasional mask-wearing commuter was once singled-out with a giggle, the practice is now enforced as law or a strong recommendation.
When you consider how all flu and cold germs have been spreading in the same way as the COVID virus for eons, the retrospective view suggests these practices have long been the domain of the commonly sensible. I suspect that even after this eagerly anticipated vaccine arrives, the world will continue to follow this more hygienic approach to travel etiquette. The stigma of excess caution will be wiped away along with much of the lurking bacteria, and health-conscious travel will become part of the new normal.
And how we all long for the day when normality returns. Whenever that new normality appears.
What else has changed?
With work or holiday travel still in a state of flux and uncertainty – for most international destinations – I thought I would look at some of the other changes in the industry over the years. Maybe there’s hope that this situation will have lasting benefits, like other lessons of the past?
Smoking in the skies: It may be hard to believe, considering the limited places smokers are permitted to puff freely today, that smoking was once encouraged on commercial flights. It was not until the 1980s that you were limited to seats at the back of aircraft if you wanted to light up, and then late into the 1990s before most airlines banned the practice altogether. And apparently, pilots are still allowed to smoke in the cockpit on some airlines today. Even without having to open the window.
No surprises: Before setting off on any trip whether it be for business or pleasure, a traveler will most likely have checked out their destination already. Before TripAdvisor, Google Maps, Airbnb, social media and dozens of other forward planning apps, your trip was a mystery waiting to unfold. Even the most up to date edition of the local, printed guidebook was pretty much out of date before you arrived.
Domestic destinations: Again, it may be surprising to today’s tech-dependent, small world, zoom-generation, to think that most people never even went abroad. In the 1980s, international holidays were the reserve of the wealthy or groups of young people on booze cruise cheapo getaways. By the early 1990s it was more a part of average family culture. From 1995 to 2015 the number of holidays abroad pretty much doubled.
Lonely work trips: Until recently, short work trips were destined to be dull and lifeless. You would arrive at your temporary office and spend the day with colleagues or customers that hitherto you would only have conversed by phone or email. After which, you would check into your hotel. The solo dining experience and aimless evening walk around the town could be lonely. Perhaps even a little disconcerting. Followed by an early and often restless night. Since the development of our new TravelBuddy app, however, things have changed. There is much to explore and plenty to do out there. Like minded mutually supportive company to enjoy it with can be just a few clicks away.