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Masks will be a mandatory fact of life for travelers, both for domestic and overseas flights, for a long time to come, according to experts. Courtesy photo
Columns Hit the Road

Hit the Road: Americans hesitant to travel, survey says

The COVID-19 pandemic has done more than make people ill; it has changed our way of life, especially when it comes to travel.

A recent survey by FinanceBuzz, an informational website that provides tips, advice on making financial decision, gives us a snapshot of Americans’ attitudes about travel. FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,500 adults 18 years and older “who comprise a nationally representative sample of Americans,” on May 13. Here is what it found:

• Nearly half of respondents said they don’t plan to fly in the coming year.

• As for summer travel, 56% have canceled their trips, 19% have changed plans and 25% are holding off making plans.

• Despite shelter-in-place rules, 36% of male respondents say they’ll travel anyway; 26% of women will do likewise.

• Reasons for canceling or changing this summer’s travel plans include health concerns (69%); travel restrictions (50%); and financial concerns (42%).

Bottom line, the survey concludes, is that, “Until a vaccine is found, companies ranging from airlines to hotels to restaurants to travel credit cards will need to find ways to adapt to the new normal.”

When we finally get around to traveling again, what can we expect?

Travel writer Adam H. Graham has pondered this question and takes a stab at imagining the future of travel on the AFAR website.

There’s no doubt about one thing, Graham writes: Face masks will continue to be essential and they will be necessary to board an airplane. Lucky for us, there are plenty of styles available — both fun, funny and fashionable. Graham also envisions the use of more touchless technology like phone apps to open hotel rooms and operate elevators; make payments; buy and receive tickets; and process check-ins and identification.

Travelers also should be prepared to have their temperatures taken, undergo rapid-testing for COVID-19 and be tracked once they enter a country. Hotels may have robots for room service and cleaning.  And then there are the “travel bubble” agreements. This occurs when a group of neighboring countries who have similar low rates of coronavirus agree to let all residents travel relatively freely among them. Also look for destinations to market more to locals. 

Because the rental car industry has lost 95% of its business during the pandemic, current rates are low and lower, but it may be a while before consumers have enough confidence to take to the road again in someone else’s car. The hesitation is due to the uncertainty about rental car cleanliness, but the industry is working hard to assure customers that it is taking all precautions, according to veteran traveler and consumer advocate Christopher Elliott.

Rental agency employees will be outfitted with personal protection equipment, and frequent hand-washing and social distancing will be encouraged. Eventually customers may be able to open car doors with their phones, and each company will have a disinfection regimen and a seal on the door or other method of letting customers know procedures have been completed.

When it comes to passports, the U.S. State Department is processing only requests for emergency cases, and travelers must have documentation for the reason. This includes a death certificate or a note from a physician, and applicants must already have purchased a plane ticket. Many passport application facilities are closed, so check on the nearest one by calling the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778.

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