With travel beginning to open up in some states, many people are wondering what to expect when they next have to travel for work.
Hand sanitiser will be something that every traveller packs in their hand luggage, along with true understanding of the meaning of ‘social distancing’. Language that certainly was not every day prior to this but now feels so normal. However, a resulting consequence of our heightened awareness will lead to increased levels of anxiety for travel managers and travellers returning to the skies. “How soon is too soon to put my travellers back on the road?” managers may ask.
Travellers themselves, despite the frustrations that lockdown brings, will also be cautious about hopping across borders for meetings and events. So what are some of the things we know will change that we can already see happening from airlines, hotels and ground transport that will potentially ease some of that anxiety?
Airlines, hotels and other industry suppliers are all working their way through official guidelines to figure out how best to continue operating whilst keeping their guests safe from the risk of COVID19. We’ve already seen of the big players release their policies, and we know they will continue to evolve as new information and technology emerges. Here are some of the things you can expect to become the ‘new norm’ in travel.
CONTACTLESS CHECK-INS AND SOCIAL DISTANCING
We are already seeing how some hotels are responding as travel begins to return. Marriott Hotels recently launched a “Global Cleanliness Council” to address guest concerns and advance their current levels of cleanliness standards in order to enhance customer safety. Marriott guests can expect to see things like more signage in lobbies enforcing social distancing rules and spaced out furniture in communal areas.
“We are living in a new age, with COVID-19 front and centre for our guests and our associates,” said Arne Sorenson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Marriott International. “We are grateful for the trust our guests have shown us through the years. We want our guests to understand what we are doing today and planning for in the near future in the areas of cleanliness, hygiene and social distancing so that when they walk through the doors of one of our hotels, they know our commitment to their health and safety is our priority. It’s equally important to us that our associates know the changes we are making to help safeguard their health as they serve our guests.”
Hilton has also followed suit with “Hilton CleanStay”, partnering with the company behind Lysol, and introducing measures such as disinfecting wipe stations and contactless check-ins.
Check-in and check-out precautions are not the only opportunity that hotels are looking at for a contactless service, with many looking to invest more in innovation and technology which could mean that robotics-powered meal deliveries become the new normal.
PLANES WILL ALSO FOLLOW THE TREND
Airports and airlines have begun implementing social distancing measures from check in to departure lounges, right through to boarding the aircraft. Contactless check in and self-scanning of boarding passes is also becoming more commonplace to reduce human contact.
On-board, we can expect to see that masks and sanitising wipes will likely be made available to all passengers. Earlier this month, Regional Express (REX) introduced a new measure requiring that all passengers on their network must wear a mask, as an extra layer of protection against the spread of COVID-19 as well as for the safety and wellbeing of all passengers and staff.
And while the idea of spending several hours in close quarters with hundreds of other passengers on a plane might sound risky, Qantas believes that the risk of inflight transmission remains extremely low on their services due to the following precautions:
- Air-con systems on all Qantas and Jetstar aircraft are fitted with hospital-grade HEPA filters, removing 99.9% of all particles including viruses
- Air inside the cabin is refreshed every few minutes, ensuring the highest possible quality of cabin air, with inflight airflow directed from ceiling to floor
- Configuration of aircraft acts as a natural barrier, with people are not seated face to face.
- Passengers are asked to limit movement around the cabin, once seated
Many airlines are also cancelling or reducing inflight food and beverage services to reduce interactions on board, and limiting inflight magazines to digital copies only. In-flight entertainment systems, too, have been disabled by most airlines to avoid unnecessary transmission through contact with touchscreens and headphones.
STAYING CLEAN ON THE GROUND
So what’s happening on the ground? Transfer companies and ride sharing services are working to ensure that new hygiene procedures are in place to protect both drivers and passengers from risk of infection. Companies like Jayride are making it easier to book transfers with confidence, by highlighting ground handlers meeting new hygiene measures including:
- Hand Sanitiser and or disinfectant wipes available
- Disinfecting and vehicle before/after each transfer
- Driver wearing protective gear such as mask and gloves
- Social Distancing
Look for their "COVID-19 Prepared" icon when booking online or request this when you book via your FCBT Travel Manager.
Likewise, car rental companies like Hertz are increasing their already ‘high’ standards for cleanliness such as regular disinfectant wipe-downs of surface areas in cars and pick up locations. A spokesperson for Hertz noted that they ‘remain vigilant in upholding these practices and will take additional precautions as recommended by the Centres for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and local governments.
The question remains: will this ‘new normal’ be enough to ease travellers back into the road-warrior lifestyle or will it take much more? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
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