If you’re just about at the end of your social-distancing, self-isolating tether, you’re probably very pleased to hear that a lot of cities are relaxing their lockdown rules. That’s right: museums and attractions are slowly reopening (with new capacity rules). Travel restrictions are loosening up (if you stay close to home). And, while you may be required to wear a mask outside (depending on where you live), you’ll soon be able to go out in public again without wondering how to justify buying ice cream as essential travel.
But before you race to book your next holiday or rush to research weekends away, hold up – travelling after the COVID-19 outbreak is going to be a little different. Here are our tips on practicing good tourism in a post-pandemic world.
Let’s start with some post-coronavirus travel advice
Over the past couple of months, coronavirus travel advice has generally been: just don’t, unless you have to. That advice has taken its toll on the travel and tourism industry, from airlines to hotels, museums, and attractions. This means that it may be a while before the travel and tourism industry goes back to normal. But, we know that many of you are ready and eager to get back to travelling. So, until scientists have found a vaccine or a better way to treat COVID-19, here’s what you can expect on your next plane trip.
What to expect from post-coronavirus air travel
Wondering what to expect on your next flight? Emirates has given us a pretty good idea of what to be ready for. On 15 April, the airline announced its new measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among passengers. While many airlines have yet to announce their own post-coronavirus travel guidelines, the picture painted by Emirates is probably a pretty accurate one. Here are some of the new measures Emirates has put in place:
Rapid COVID-19 tests as part of the boarding procedure. Emirates was the first airline to use 10-minute blood tests to check for the virus in passengers. This is not to say all airlines will implement this measure (some might implement temperature checks), but if you’re a fan of flying, it may be time to face your fear of needles!
Social distance-friendly boarding and seating on the plane. This is one measure that many airlines likely have to put in place. You can anticipate a slower boarding process but more room during your flight – dare we describe the latter as a win?
Face masks will be required. Time to put your sewing skills (or your sourcing skills) to the test! Emirates requires passengers to wear their masks.
No more in-flight magazines. Looks like you’ll have to bring your own reading material on your next flight.
New and safer food and drink packaging. Let’s hope for an improvement on what’s inside that packaging too…
New baggage restrictions. If you only recently mastered the art of traveling light with only carry-on luggage (and avoiding pesky add-on fees for cabin baggage), this one will hurt. At least you can go back to packing your full skincare regime – and skip the destination shop for sunscreen, shampoo and razors.
While not all airlines and airports will necessarily put these measures in place, they will have to implement similar ones to comply with the almost-universal rules for public spaces in a post-pandemic society.
Advice for visiting tourist attractions
Wandering through corridors lined with art, hopping on a rollercoaster, peering at historical artefacts in glass cabinets, exploring ancient ruins, gasping at modern-day architectural wonders – museums and attractions are high up on our list of things we can’t wait to do post-pandemic. And they’re high on yours too: 50% of the people who took our survey on travel and COVID-19 said they miss visiting museums and attractions. So how can you make sure your next museum visit is a safe and considerate one? These hygiene guidelines will help you out.
The coronavirus mantra will live on: wash your hands. Soap up right before you enter a museum and right after you leave.
Keep your distance. Another long-lasting piece of coronavirus advice: maintain a 1.5 metre distance from other people at all times. Museums and attractions will help make this possible by allowing fewer people through their doors at a time and designing routes to improve the flow of visitors – but you’ll need to do your part too and be aware of getting too close to other people.
Maintain your mask. So you’ve bought a face mask and you’re dutifully wearing it in all public spaces, but there’s a little more to it than shoving on a mask each time you walk out the door. A few basic tips: Make sure that when you put on your mask, your hands are clean. If you’ve bought a single-use mask, make sure that’s the amount of times you use it: once. If you’ve bought a washable mask, do what’s in the name and give it a regular wash. There are also some great sources on making your masks.
Look with your eyes, not with your hands. Already a golden museum rule, the “look, don’t touch” approach is equally important when it comes to curbing the spread of the coronavirus. Be aware of reaching out and touching things in museums and attractions – including your own face.
Choose to visit at a time you think may be less busy. To keep their capacities at a manageable level, a lot of attractions will likely ask you to book in advance and for a specific time slot. If you can, opt for a time slot and day that will likely be less busy to minimise contact with other visitors.
It’s easy to look at some of this information and be scared straight back into your apartment. But who wants to spend another month rewatching Friends and failing at making sourdough? We’re all itching to get back out there, to get reacquainted with our favourite cafes and restaurants, to discover new cities and places and to find more ways to culture. A couple of new rules and some more conscious travelling habits should not hinder us from that. Museums and attractions are gearing up for these changes too, and between our awareness and theirs, good tourism will be something we can all get back to enjoying in no time.
How to be a good tourist
You’re prepped and primed for a new age of air travel and tourism, and ready to brave a whole new world. But there’s more to being a good tourist in a post-pandemic world than following the hygiene guidelines and remembering to pack an extra face mask for your flight.
Lean into sustainable tourism
One of the unintended positive consequences of a world in lockdown is the impact on the environment: fewer cars on the road and planes in the sky have led to a decrease in carbon emissions, Venice’s canals are so clear you can see fish in them, and wild animals are frolicking about in cities that are usually populated by thousands of tourists.
As the world emerges from lockdown, carbon emissions will increase once more; humans will reclaim the fountains in which ducks have been swimming and the canals in which fish have been sighted. Unless of course, we use this strange reminder of our impact on the environment to fuel a passion for sustainable tourism.
Skip the long-haul flight (and the airport blood test) and explore somewhere closer to home. Help your local tourism industry back on its feet by visiting museums and attractions around the corner instead of halfway around the globe. Rent a bike next time you’re exploring a new city, instead of a car. There are countless ways to make your travel habits more environmentally friendly.
Get in touch with your inner planner
This might be a tough one for the spontaneous types, but it might well be necessary if you want to enjoy some of the most famous tourist attractions in the world. Museums, historical sites, restaurants and shops will need to be much stricter on the number of people allowed in their venues. And that means booking in advance will be more essential than ever.
Make your next trip easier on you, and the places you want to visit, by booking things in advance. You’ll save yourself a whole lot of disappointment and you’ll help the various places you want to see better manage their visitor flow.
Good tourism means getting back to nature
You can also be a good tourist by skipping that city break and opting for a more remote getaway instead.
Cities are notoriously busy and the more crowded they get, the easier it is for a virus to spread. By holding off on a city trip and heavily crowded areas for just a little longer, you could be doing both yourself and society a service.
So, swap out a trip to a crowded capital for a visit to a smaller city or somewhere more remote. Get out the camping gear and head for the mountains, search for a tiny town for a quaint escape, or strap on some sensible shoes and go hiking.
Fall back in love with where you live
Who says you can’t be a tourist right where you are? A lot of us take our hometowns for granted; we walk past museums and galleries without noticing them, get excited about foreign traditions and cultures without appreciating our own, and search for hidden gems in faraway places without knowing where to find the ones right under our noses.
Many of the tourist attractions in our hometowns and cities have suffered in the last few months, so before we take to the skies or the roads to visit other attractions, let’s start with rehabilitating the tourism industry in our own neighbourhoods.
A good meal, a novel tradition, a beautiful work of art – those are all things we can probably find around the corner. So when we’re allowed outside again, why not start with those?
The good tourism challenge
The challenge to practice mindful, good tourism in a post-pandemic world may seem like a tough one. But with patience (there will probably be a whole lot more queueing), respect (there will be far more rules), consideration (that face mask is there to keep you and others safe), and a planner’s mindset (if you’re not already on the online booking bandwagon, it’s time to jump on), it’s one we can very easily meet.