We asked three travel industry experts to dust off their crystal balls and predict when (if ever) our holidays will go back to normal
The travel industry is going through its darkest hour. Planes are grounded, countries have closed their borders, the notion of a quarantine after a holiday has become normalised.
So different is the landscape of ‘the holiday’ that it is hard to fathom that, this time last year, you could book a break without a care in the world.
There are some elements of our holidays that have changed forever. Hand sanitizers will likely remain in airports, our travel insurance policies now have pandemic clauses carved into the smallprint, while some holiday behemoths like STA Travel and Flybe have sadly disappeared.
But one day we will be able to book a holiday without fear of cancellations, worries of a quarantine on return, or having to go through tedious social distancing measures on arrival. When will this be?
We spoke to three industry experts who share their insights on when they think we might return to the 2019 glory days of stress-free holidays.
‘June 2021 onwards will feel very different’
Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency
“That is the toughest question of the year and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked it.
“I would say June 2021 onwards will feel very different. Technology will have improved dramatically to make it easier to travel without face masks and airport tests – we’ll be used to testing in our daily routines and a vaccine will be in wide distribution by then.
“We will know so much more about Covid-19 by then as well, which should make decision-making by governments faster and more citizen-friendly. I can’t wait.”
‘Unlikely until the end of 2022, at the earliest’
Paul Nuki, Telegraph Global Health Security Editor
“If you plan your holidays in advance, booking not just a time slot but a country, flights and accommodation in advance, things are unlikely to get back to normal until the end of 2022, and perhaps not even then. It will be a story of anxiety, disappointment and cancellations.
“But for those happy to travel independently and who are willing to be flexible, there has not been a better time to holiday since Laurie Lee set out one midsummer’s morning, or Kerouac hit the road. Prices for flights and accommodation have never been cheaper. Mountains, beaches, cathedrals, forests and oceans are blissfully quiet. And restaurants, boutiques and patisseries have never been more attentive or grateful for your custom and company.
“You can wait with the herd for the old normal to return or you can embrace the new one today. The choice is yours.”
‘Two or three years, possibly longer’
Derek Jones, Managing Director of Kuoni UK
“Travel will eventually return to normal but we will all need to be patient. The catalyst will be one of two things; either we develop a vaccine for it or it becomes endemic to humans and we accept it as a normal human disease, like the flu, which comes back year after year, albeit in smaller numbers.
“We are all putting our faith in a successful and universally accepted vaccine, and there’s no doubt that this represents the best chance of an early return to normal travel, but the demand for travel will not go away and even without a vaccine the epidemic may well die down naturally.
“I think it may be two or three years before we return fully to normal – possibly longer.’’
The current travel situation
Here's a look at the countries that have a UK quarantine imposed, and the ones that could be next.
In a Twitter poll, we asked when you think holidays will return to normal. The results were as follows:
It seems that most of you (47 per cent) think that travel won’t go back to normal until 2022 at the earliest. The second most popular option (24 per cent) was the winter of 2021, while 6 per cent think that we are facing a longer-term battle to return to normality on our holidays, later in the decade. Some 22 per cent are hopeful that travel will return to normal by the summer of next year.
When do you think holidays will return to normal? Comment below to join the conversation.