travel cruise

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Experts weigh in on what travel will look like in the months to come

Here’s what industry experts predict the world of travel may look like in the recovery phases of the pandemic in the months to come.

travel cruise

Image: Unsplash

While the news that South Africa has gone back into an adjusted level 4 lockdown to try and beat the third wave was a heavy blow to many, unlike last year, we can see the silver lining on the cloud.

According to the New York Times COVID vaccine tracker, more than 2.96 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide and South Africa’s phase 2 vaccine programme continues albeit slowly. 

Here’s what industry experts predict the world of travel may look like in the recovery phases of the pandemic, in the months to come. 


Expect a phased approach, with destinations slowly opening their borders. We’ve seen this already with some countries being forced to open, close and reopen their borders as the reported cases yo-yo.

For some countries, air or travel bubbles are the answer. Travel bubbles can allow for quarantine free travel between countries that have managed to contain the virus to a degree. The Trans-Tasman air bubble was set up between Australia and New Zealand in April this year and Hungary and Turkey has an immunity travel agreement. Many others are in the works.


BCG’s COVID-19 Consumer Sentiment Snapshot Series draws data from global consumers every two weeks. From as early as 13 April, the study reported that “nearly 60% of consumers are willing to fly if certain health and safety measures are in place.”

Travel confidence is at an all-time low so customers will need to be reassured that not only can they leave their country without facing a 14-day quarantine on their return, but trust that boarding an aircraft is safe.

Phased approach

As for when airlines are expected to return to the skies, it’s a phased approach. 

International carriers Virgin Atlantic resuming flights between London and Joburg, plus the arrival of the inaugural flight of United Airlines from New York to Joburg in early June, signalled fresh hope for travellers needing to fly overseas.

An airline’s priority will be to up passenger screening long before they even step on board, and to minimise the risk on-board transmission.

Digital health passport

The World Economic Forum has reported that we could see the introduction of a digital health passport, indicating a passenger’s current health status, travel history and risk profile. 

Onboard transmission

Reducing the risk of transmission on board remains a priority. Research has shown that transmission on board is actually low. Risk increases with allowing unwell passengers to board and prolonged exposure. Social distancing at airports and onboard, where feasible, and enhanced screening of passengers before they board, including technology such as thermal scanners, will be in our future for air travel. SimpliFlying’s infographic details proposed changes of “sanitised travel”.


  • Masks and gloves for all crew and passengers.
  • Optional extras to purchase pre-flight? An empty seat next to you, mask and gloves.
  • Thermal scanners and disinfection tunnels at the airport.
  • No more inflight magazines.
  • Enhanced cleaning, even during the flight.
  • In-flight services adjusted to minimise contact between crew and passengers.

This will become the new norm for air travel, at least for the rest of the year. 


From virtual check-ins to health screenings, your hotel experience is likely to look substantially more thorough in the months to come.

Safe stamps or recognition, showing that the hotel or destination is adhering to global recommended health and safety protocols have become a selling point, providing holidaymakers with additional peace of mind.

For example in Mauritius, a favourite with South African holidaymakers, Beachcomber Resorts and Hotels have implemented a series of “safe place” measures, after partnering with an accredited international bio-analytical laboratory. Strict audits around food safety and room hygiene in line with WHO-approved disinfection protocols and on-site infirmaries will be the new normal. 

Expect to see:

  • Restaurants and dining areas to allow for social distancing between diners, at least one metre apart. 
  • Preference for à la carte over self-service buffets and more al fresco dining areas. 
  • Limited numbers of guests allowed in spas, studios and other indoor spaces.
  • More private experiences, such as small group tours and safaris.
  • Payment options likely to favour EFTs over credit card swiping. 
  • Daily housekeeping may become a thing of the past. Deep cleaning will rather be done pre and post guest, paying extra attention to frequently touched surfaces including door handles, furniture, the buttons of the lift, light switches and remote controls.
  • Hand sanitiser and spare masks available for guests.
  • Flexible cancellation policies.


Many major cruise lines are already sailing, at reduced capacity and in certain destinations.

But don’t expect entire fleets to take to the waters. Instead, a few vessels will start sailings with fleets only predicted to be fully operational towards the end of the year, or the beginning of 2022.

Priority may be given to smaller vessels visiting more remote ports of call, such as exploration cruises.

Contemporary cruise line Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has announced its return to service offering guests a wide range of destinations to choose from, including departures from Europe, the Caribbean, the US and many more, with itineraries ranging from voyages departing from Europe and The Caribbean starting 25 July 2021 to cruises from the US, Australia and Asia. All vaccinated passengers are welcome onboard.

What will your cruise ship experience look like when you finally get to step onboard? 

Image: Adobe Stock


  • Stringent sanitation and disinfection guidelines and regulations. 
  • Increased space in restaurants and staggered dining and theatre show times. 
  • Regular crew testing. 
  • Expanded on-board medical centres, with more doctors and nurses and isolation areas. 
  • Balcony cabins will become even more sought after as cruisegoers opt for the fresh air and the increased space of a private balcony. 
  • Rerouted itineraries. Port intensive itineraries may spend more days at sea, depending on how many country’s borders open. 
  • Upgraded air-filtration systems.

Nervous about cruising? The plus side, as cruise experts are quick to point out, is that cruising, like hotels and airlines, are controlled environments. Meaning that you could very well be safer onboard, with strict protocols and procedures in place, than roaming free in public.

Pre-pandemic, cruises were one of the most value-for-money holidays, especially for rand-conscious South Africans. Post-pandemic, the value for money nature of cruising is going to remain a drawcard.