Just in time for holiday travel, COVID-19 restrictions and public health guidelines for international travelers to the U.S. who are fully vaccinated will ease in early November. While easing these restrictions will help connect family and friends abroad, travelers need to pack patience and prepare for the new travel norm this holiday season, says Virginia Tech travel and tourism professor Mahmood Khan.
“The pandemic has changed how people view travel, whether for business, leisure, or religious reasons. Crowded airports, health screenings, and quarantine requirements will impact travel long-term,” says Khan. “Psychologically, the fear created by the pandemic will exist for a long time, if not permanently. People will think twice before booking airline reservations and will question whether it’s worth the risk or expense.”
For those who choose to make the trip, Khan says be forewarned as restrictions have made some people impatient, less empathetic, and impolite. “This is evident by stories about difficult customers in airlines, restaurants, and other public places,” he says.
“Hand sanitation and wearing masks have already become a part of daily rituals. Maintaining distance in buses, trains, and planes will be a consideration in planning. A cough and a sneeze will never be taken lightly.
“Visiting shorter distances, using a personal car, restricting visits to close family members, avoiding exotic destinations, carefully selecting bed and breakfast lodging, advance bookings, contactless operations, and using food delivery services are among the possible trends previously expected to be short-lived,” the professor says.
Mahmood Khan is a professor and director of the Pamplin College of Business Master of Science in Business Administration/Hospitality and Tourism Management program at Virginia Tech in the Washington, D.C., metro region. Major areas of his research include hospitality franchising, services management, customer relationships, food service and operational management, and consumer preferences in hotels, restaurants, and institutions.