Travelling defines our zeitgeist and this is why the mainstream and social media is abuzz with one question: when will we travel again? Arguably, nothing defines an era than adventure. Travelling experiences to new places have over millennia been subject of musical hits and other art expressions. Culture is now commonly regarded as a dynamic phenomenon due to the interaction of different people.
There is no doubt that the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19 has significantly changed the world. When asked what the world will be like after COVID-19, pundits throw hands in the air. ‘No one knows, this has never happened before,’ has become a standard answer. Some weigh various permutations; all but acts of hypotheses. One fact is surely agreeable. The world as we know it, will not be the same again. The normal we are familiar with will be changed forever.
The evolution of travel
Travel has evolved over decades as driven by necessity – the will to survive. In the medieval period, people travelled to new frontiers in search for food, favourable climate and even marriage. In Africa, we have an idiom that says: ‘the most ideal of suitors is found in places yonder. ‘
With the invention of convenient, fast forms of transport, travelling has advanced into a commercial wade, leisurely pursuit and or discovery quest.
The Golden Centuries
Travel became the Holy Grail in the 20th and 21st centuries. The increase in technology whetted the appetite to travel. Air travel became more affordable; cruise ships increased the decadence and road trips turned into an alluring trend. The exposure to the global community through the Internet revealed places that we would otherwise have not known during the analogue days.
Travelling became fashionable. Social groups organized themselves into ‘travel squads’ exploring attractive travel packages. Innovative technologies changed the travel and tourism market into a community. Services such as AirBnB and e-hailing provisions made travel even more convenient and bespoke. This, until Covid-19 happened.
The status quo
Undoubtedly, Covid-19 has shaken the bedrock of the world economy. The World Bank forecasts an 8% slump while the International Labour Organisation predicts that 25 million jobs could be lost. Reserve funds have been diverted to the priority case of Covid-19.
This is a phenomenon that will change the world trajectory permanently. Economists predict that it will take at least a few years to stabilize the global economic base. What will also change is the way we interact, relate as a people. Trust and physical interaction will be earned over time. Travel requires both of these.
The future of travel is traveller-centric. The stretched lockdown period has accentuated our need to be in nature. As the adage goes, ‘one never knows what they have until its gone.’ We wallow behind the lockdown walls.
This is a pointer that post Covid-19, adventure tourism is what the market will require. People yearn for natural experiences. Bespoke, out-in-the-bush experiences is what will appeal to the people as they seek to commune with nature.
However, the tour operators will be working with a paranoid clientele, rightly so. This is the reason why there will be a need for more hygienic provisions. It will be difficult to unlearn the sanitary consciousness that Covid-19 is forming in our collective psyche. Sanitized modes of transport, lodging facilities and physical distancing and basic protective equipment are some of the acquired habits we will live to learn with in travel and tourism.
At country level, before borders are open, a vaccine might need to be available and we see a Covid-19 vaccination certificate as one of the precautionary rules that will be part of visa requirements.
Travellers will require assurances that some hygiene protocols are in place before they embark on an adventure. However, the world will travel again.
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Gugu Sithole is a travel expert and director of Glamping Adventures www.glamping-adventures.co.za , a bespoke glamping company that hosts roving events in major tourist attractions around South Africa.