Travel in a post-pandemic world looks set to be vastly different from what we might be used to. Instead of breezing through the check-in gates, be prepared to undergo the likes of rapid COVID-19 tests, full-body disinfection, and health-screening measures before you board the plane.
Checking into your favourite hotel could feel slightly alienating too—with warm hospitality replaced by social distancing measures where meals are delivered by a robot instead of a chirpy staff member. The upside? It’s all in the good name of keeping you safe and healthy.
With travel resuming around the globe, perks and discounts will likely be rolled out in order to attract guests. While that might not mean drastic drops in room rates, guests can expect to enjoy dining perks, complimentary spa vouchers, and more.
With Asia-Pacific being the first region to recover its travel demand as the pandemic subsides, here are the trends that jetsetters can look forward to:
The preference for short-haul trips
While travel restrictions are gradually being eased in countries like Thailand, South Korea, Japan, and the Maldives, most Asian countries allow for no more than domestic or inter-state travels at the time being.
According to a travel trends survey by Trip.com and Google, more than 70 percent of consumers are looking for short-haul trips within the region. Top destinations include Bangkok, Seoul, Shanghai, Jeju, Tokyo, Bali, Manila, Busan, Xi’an, Kuala Lumpur, Osaka, Penang, Da Nang, Bintan, Taipei, Singapore, Pattaya, Hong Kong, Phuket, and Macau.
Meanwhile, digital travel data provider Sojern recorded an increase in domestic flight searches for counties like Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan.
Those planning to embark on outbound trips are motivated by agencies and airlines offering free cancellations, pre-sale promotional offers, and insurance coverage—all of which are important during these unpredictable times.
To prevent imported cases of COVID-19, airports around the region have made health-screening measures the new standard as part of their check-in process.
While Singapore’s Changi Airport and Hong Kong International Airport have conducted temperature checks well before the pandemic reached its height, some airports have only recently begun to incorporate these checks as routine.
At Doha International Airport, thermal screening helmets are used to assess travellers’ temperature. These high-tech helmets utilize technologies such as infrared thermal imaging, artificial intelligence, and AR (augmented reality) display for accurate measurements.
Meanwhile, all passengers arriving in Malaysia are also being screened for coronavirus symptoms, with airport operators issuing Health Alert Card (HAC) to passengers to indicate their health status.
The use of cleaning robots
To speed up the sanitisation process at touchpoint across the airports, robots and other high-tech machines are being used.
Singapore’s Changi Airpot said that it has doubled the frequency of its cleaning regime at all four terminals, as well as lifestyle mall Jewel. The airport now uses disinfectants in place of general-purpose cleaning solution.
At Hong Kong International Airport, self-driving robots are being deployed to clean public areas. Among these robots are its Intelligent Sterilization Robots (ISR), whose heads spin 360 degrees to spray disinfection and whose bodies are lined with bulbs that emit ultra-violet, germ-killing lights.
A full-body disinfecting machine is also being tested, said to be equipped with antimicrobial coating which can kill bacteria and virus on both human bodies and clothing.
Low-touch travel experience
To curb the spread of coronavirus, human touch will be replaced by a low-touch or even touch-less experience at the airports.
Malaysian low-cost carrier Air Asia now uses contactless kiosks and payment options at its Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, and Japan airports.
Contactless health screening kiosks are being used by Etihad Airways, which can monitor a passenger’s temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate so as to pinpoint those with early coronavirus symptoms.
The UAE national carrier said that the system will automatically suspend the self-service check-in or bag drop process if a passenger’s vital signs show potential symptoms of illness.
In the future, physical check-in desks could also be replaced by mobile check-in services so as to maintain social distancing. Aside from boarding passes, airports are likely to make use of biometric technology such as facial recognition to minimise touch points even further.
Pay-now, stay later hotel deals
With the hotel sector struggling to bounce back after the pandemic eases, creative promotions seem to be the way to attract travelers. To entice guests to stay during these unprecedented times, Marriott International Hotels and Resorts are offering holiday packages and hotel stay vouchers that can be gifted to loved ones. The hotel group has rolled out a three-day, two-night stay package with low rates for a stay period until 2021.
A new “buy now, stay later” initiative also encourages travellers to buy “hotel bonds” in increments of $100 and redeem them for $150 after 60 days.
Meanwhile, luxury resort Mulia Bali, is dangling an equally enticing carrot: Stay for three nights, pay for two. Or stay for five nights, pay for three. Alila Seminyak is offering hotels vouchers under its “Gift to Educate” campaign, in which guests receive a one-night complimentary stay for every two nights paid. 15 percent of one-night’s charge will also be donated to the Bali Children Foundation.
Enhanced hygiene practices
To put guests at ease, hotels reopening post-pandemic will be put to the test when it comes to maintaining its hygiene practices. New measures include the use of the Air Condition (HVAC) system technology for enhanced air filtration in guestrooms, as well as electrostatic spray technology for a higher level of surface disinfection.
At Fullerton Hotels and Resorts, health measures include requiring temperature checks, equipping guest-facing staff with gloves and face masks, as well as having touch-free hand sanitiser dispensers throughout the property.
To reassure guests, Intercontinental Hotels Group launched its “Clean promise” in June. This ensures that guest rooms will meet the hospitality group’s high standards of cleanliness—from visible verification of sanitised items to the use of “last cleaned” charts.
In Accor’s properties, guests showing any COVID-19 symptoms will be isolated and notified in collaboration with relevant medical authorities.
In Singapore, an audit initiative that gives hotels a clean bill of “health” has been launched. Should an establishment meet seven criteria, including temperature checks and safe distancing, they will be given an “SG Clean” stamp.
City Square Mall, a shopping center in the Lion City, has launched autonomous disinfection robots. These will help to effectively eliminate germs and viruses at hard-to-reach areas after operating hours.