Covid-19: why travel will never be the same | The Economist

[Music] this is what the skies looked like in March and this was one month later when passenger numbers were staggering 94 percent lower than the previous year thanks to the covert 19 pandemic business is now starting to pick up but Travel is becoming increasingly localized and complicated this world of quite easy travel and relatively free movement just sort of vac has evaporated almost overlaid this will have consequences far beyond canceled holiday bookings it could exacerbate existing inequalities create economic hardship and disrupt the workings of the globalized world the tourism industry is enormous every year international holiday makers spend 1.6 trillion dollars that’s more than Spain’s GDP or at least they did before the corona virus pandemic the CDC just told everyone do not travel postpone or cancel all non-essential travel in April twenty twenty planes carried just 31 million passengers around the world the sort of passenger levels last seen in the late 1970s in April this year 200,000 passengers went through Heathrow Airport in London which is fewer than would go through on any single day in a normal month Yatta the airline trade body has said flights will not return to pre-pandemic levels for several years in China flights are now just 21% below normal levels while in America air traffic began to pick up in May but remains 57 percent below normal and in much of Europe flight numbers are still around 75 percent lower than the same time last year and while passenger numbers are creeping up at some areas like business travel may never recover after the last financial crisis the number of overseas business trips taking per person in the UK fell by a third and never picked up whereas leisure travel did eventually climb back to pre-crisis levels were the same thing to happen again it could have a significant impact on airline profits business travellers actually subsidized leisure travelers your 250-pound transatlantic affair in the back of the plane is possible because somebody at the front of the plane is paying 800 or 1,500 airlines are already struggling Virgin Atlantic has announced plans to cut more than 3,000 jobs in the UK air canada lost more than a billion dollars in the first quarter in march Yatta warned that without government aid just 30 of the world’s 700 or so airlines would make it through the pandemic the airlines that survive will determine the competition and prices on certain routes some airlines are in pretty good financial shape within Europe there remains a lot of competition transatlantic flights there is still plenty of competition but all routes where there’s much thinner competition prices will go up there’s no doubt about that for the well-off the price increases may be an annoyance but they could also have a significant impact on global mobility as lower income travelers may find themselves priced out of the skies what happens with FS and with the prices of flights effects not just summer holidays migrants have parents or spouses in one country and work in another and for all of these people it is quite important that they continue to be able to go home in June 189 countries had imposed some form of travel restriction ranging from measures like quarantine to border closures and governments are desperate open up travel as quickly as possible the government is to make it easier for British holiday makers to travel to much of Europe this summer though these arrangements may help tourists they could also create an increasingly inequitable system the British government is working to allow Brits to go off on holiday to say it Spain or France and come back without the need for quarantine but that doesn’t take into account the fact that someone may have a partner in America parents in Nigeria or siblings in Pakistan and they won’t be able to go see people have anything important to them the risk is that we end up with a very uneven and possibly unfair system the relatively free movement enjoyed by many tourists is a modern phenomenon that has played an increasingly important role in globalization and domestic economies take China for around 30 years until the end of the 1970s travel to and from China was heavily restricted but today China sends more tourists aboard in any other country and they spend more money in 2018 Chinese tourists spent over two hundred and seventy billion dollars overseas almost double that spent by Americans and the limitations on travel caused by the pandemic can have a knock-on effect on global cooperation and economic growth the worry is that these these restrictions persist in the long term and then become entangled in all sorts of other things such as reciprocity trade negotiations any sort of geopolitical dispute between countries and so we return to sort of mid twentieth century world of closed borders lots of restrictions and paperwork and just less interchange between countries faced with an ever-changing array of travel restrictions many travelers are looking closer to home for their holidays in May 80% of total reservations on Airbnb were made domestically and between January and April foreign searches for summer holiday accommodation in Spain fell by as much as 94 percent the rise in localized travel could be good news for the environment in 2018 carbon dioxide emissions from commercial flights accounted for 2.4 percent of global fossil fuel emissions the answer to this quandary is not to stop people from from flying rather it’s to make planes more efficient and to focus on innovation in the industry the band directors accelerated the shift towards efficiency so some older planes are being taken out of the sky the covert 19 pandemic would dramatically affect the way in which people move around the world but rather than driving economic growth as the travel industry has in the past new restrictions could affect globalization sewing division and increasing inequality my name is Leo Maroney I’m a correspondent on the Britain desk at the Economist and if you’d like to read more about the impact that Pope 19 is having an international travel click the link opposite

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