As we marked one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of our borders, with the roll out of the vaccination, no local virus transmission and the aviation industry with the government help injecting some motivating deals in the market, at least for domestic travel, many of us have been looking back at the time lost.
Now, it is our time to start turning around and think about the adventures ahead.
I still remember some crises that have affected the travel and aviation industry, economic recessions, terrorist attacks, SARS etc. but none of them has had the devastating impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had.
Will the coronavirus ever go away?
No one knows for sure. Scientists think the virus that causes COVID-19 may be with us for decades or longer, but that does not mean it will keep posing the same threat.
The virus emerged in late 2019 and it is difficult to predict how it will behave over the long term. But many experts believe it is likely the disease will eventually ease from a crisis to a nuisance like the common cold.
That would happen as people build up immunity over time, either through infection or vaccination. Other viruses have followed a similar path.
Right now, it is hard to be upbeat when thousands of people around the world are still dying each day from COVID-19. And millions of others are without work. The pain and suffering are very real.
Yet, in Australia we have been quite lucky and now we find ourselves at a juncture. After months of fear, confusion, anger, isolation and exhaustion, there is finally hope.
Travellers like myself are dusting off their suitcases and getting ready to rediscover travel again and there is nothing wrong if it is limited just to our beautiful backyard.
Australia is a nation of travellers. That part is hard to deny. Whether we are exploring our own backyard or spending sometime abroad, we itch to get away to see more.
After on and off lockdowns and isolation, the thirst to travel is real and we do see it through the flights to nowhere promo as well as the domestic promos, signalling that Australians are ready to travel again when it will be possible and safe.
People are finally reconnecting to their families and friends in other states and grandparents with grandchildren. Delayed honeymoons are on the way. Travel might be making its comeback, but for many people, it will not be familiar when it returns.
Many people purchased cars and recreational vehicles during the pandemic and have a newfound love for road trips. Others turned to vacation rentals for the first time and will not soon be going back to hotel and resort stays.
We were all forced to rediscover or, perhaps, discover for the first time what was in our backyard.
Australians took on new outdoor pursuits, activities such as hiking, cycling will be most likely activities where people will build future vacations around.
As the world reopens, some of us will continue to seek isolation and solitude, while others, perhaps tentatively, will return to big cities and live events.
Business travel has certainly seen a seismic shift. Many people have become digital nomads and with new, flexible corporate policies, might continue to work from a different destination every month after the coronavirus pandemic will hopefully be in the past.
After all, technological advances have been spurred along by the crisis.
Keyless entry, QR codes and food delivery apps have been around for years, but for many people became an important part of staying safe and healthy during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, some of these changes have stripped the spontaneity out of travel. It’s never been more important to plan ahead and prepare for a worst-case scenario. And that sensibility could stick with us all for a long time.
In a world of gleaming airports, soaring megaresorts, and posh shopping centres, it has always been easy to get lost. Many of us got caught up in the fantasy of what travel should be, not what it really is.
So, after our timeout from globetrotting, will we all return to over touristed destinations loathed by travellers and locals alike? Or will we reframe, and continue reimagining what it means to be a traveller and where our trips will take us?
Either way, I am happy to be where I am now, at the point of travel comeback, instead of being locked away at home.
By Joe Cusmano