Looking Forward: The next 12 months of travel
President, Canada East Region
Although we haven’t made it to the annual finish line quite yet, there is no question that 2020 will go down as one of the toughest years on record. Particularly for an industry that values face-to-face interactions and experiencing new places, the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be felt by the travel business well into 2021.At Direct Travel though, our Executive Team is reading the signs and mapping out the next 12 months with positive indicators ahead. Most notably, the recent news that Pfizer’s and Moderna’s stage three trial vaccines have yielded success rates of nearly 95%.
Already Canada and the US are preparing plans for a vaccine rollout, meaning the question is not if widespread vaccinations will begin in 2021, but when.
Start the year off right
In a best-case scenario, we hope to see the first wave of these vaccines distributed Jan. 1, 2021, prioritizing of course our frontline workers and vulnerable populations.
The initial rollout would be augmented by widespread rapid testing at all major international airports to ensure that even non-essential workers and the healthiest members of our population would be cleared to resume travel again.
We have seen success on a smaller scale with such testing programs, including Air Canada’s, which has conducted testing at Toronto Pearson International Airport on more than 13,000 arriving passengers since September.
While individual airline testing has been helpful, it’s time for a concerted and comprehensive approach to testing that makes it easy for travellers regardless of which airport they are flying to/from or which airline they are using.
Coupling such testing with vaccine distribution would allow the borders to begin the reopening process and business travel to resume early in the first quarter of 2021.
While this is an aggressive timeline, with the right leadership and scientific advancements, I’m bullish that this best-case scenario is still possible.
Those of you in our industry know by now that I am the eternal optimist, and truly believe we are in for a recovery like none other before!
What’s on the flip side?
Of course, even an optimist like myself must consider the flipside.
In a worst-case scenario, we expect business travel to maintain it’s slow trickle of growth with little movement until mid-2021.
We know people are eager to travel again, but without wide-scale testing and vaccine distribution, much of the next 12 months may be a painful process of stops and starts towards resuming travel.
Thankfully, I personally do not believe that worst case scenario is the reality we face.
Looking forward to spring
While it may not be as rosy as a January 1 resumption of business travel, I expect that testing and vaccine developments will lead to the easing of border restrictions and allow our “Road Warriors” to get back in the air sometime in the spring, perhaps March or April, which would mark one year since the first wide-scale travel restrictions were enacted.
As an industry veteran since 1977, I know it’s tough to look to the future and not focus on the barriers posed by present day challenges, but the next 12 months are an opportunity to apply our learnings from this experience and re-instill the spirit of travel that motivate so many of us and drives the work we do each and every day.