Domestic tourism is set to throw the ailing tourism industry a much-needed lifeline as countries around the world ease travel restrictions, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. 

As lockdowns open up, travel will initially return to domestic markets through “staycations” providing a shot in the arm for local tourism, the global private sector tourism body said. 

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As further restrictions are lifted, travel will then return to a country’s nearest neighbours, before expanding across regions and then continents. 

People in the 18 to 35 age category – who appear to be less vulnerable to Covid-19 – are likely to be among the first groups to begin travelling once again. 

Digital acceleration 

To facilitate this “new normal” for travel and tourism, digital technologies will play a key role in limiting unnecessary human contact. Contactless payments, for example,  will replace cash payments.

Travellers are also likely to have their temperature checked before and upon arrival at destinations in the coming months until a vaccine has been developed and distributed globally.

Aircraft will also be subject to intensive cleansing regimes. These measures will be combined with contact-tracing, via mobile app, that will allow flights to depart airports Covid-19-free.

Similarly, cruise operators are also taking measures to make sure that ships are more frequently deep-cleaned, while staff will wear compulsory personal protective equipment. 

Hand sanitiser stations, meanwhile, will be located throughout airports and the use of stairs and escalators will be encouraged as opposed to lifts where social distancing is more difficult to maintain.

Airplane designs may change too. Seats, for example, might be fitted with hygiene screens and redesigned middle seats could face backwards, according to Italian aircraft seat and cabin interior supplier Aviointeriors. 

Tough new protocols

Many of these new protocols have already been implemented in China as it eases restrictions and the country’s domestic travel industry has begun to pick up. About 30% of domestic capacity has returned to the Chinese aviation market in the last two months, according to aviation consultancy Cirium. 

Domestic flights have also resumed in other countries, such as in Vietnam between Ho Chi Minh City and capital Hanoi. 

Travelling under the stricter protocols will require more effective collaboration between the private and public sector, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. 

“Private-public sector collaboration is crucial,” said Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council.

“A quick and effective restart of travel will only happen if governments around the world agree to a common set of health protocols developed by the private sector.”

The global tourism body said that the travel and tourism sector is facing more than 100 million job losses worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic at a cost of up to $2.7trn of global GDP.