Will we change our ways? Should we try? Two travel editors weigh in. Illustration by Miles Donovan for The Club

THE DEBATE CLUB • August 2020

Will Covid-19 change the way we travel forever?

The lockdown has given us all plenty to think about, which is why The Club has created a new forum for debate. This month we ask two of the industry’s most respected travel editors to give their two cents on travelling in a post-pandemic world, but what do you want to hear about nextLet the debate commence…

No way

Says who: Ed Grenby, editor of The Sunday Times Travel Magazine

How are the Spanish lessons going? What about your daily session with Joe Wicks? And that thing where you stop and smile and chat every time you pass someone on the street, because we’re all in this together now?

Mmm, thought not. So I’m just going to take a crazy punt here and guess that – ooh – maybe around none of those wonderful new habits you started in March survived the first fortnight of lockdown. I’m not judging (¡Hola! ¡Alerta hipócrita!), I’m just observing… that the thing about best intentions is that the clue’s in the name.

So do I think we’ll all stop travelling now? No. Do I think that we should all stop travelling now? Also no.

Because yes, sure, this is a great time to make a few tweaks to how we move about the planet (permanent ones, ideally) and learn to truly appreciate our ability to travel since it was briefly taken away. But, will we? I give this one about six months before the novelty wears off and we’re back to racing around the world at the same speed as before. More than any of this, though, it’s a great time to remember how important it is that we do keep pottering on.

I give this one about six months before the novelty wears off and we’re back to racing around the world at the same speed as before.

See, if the last few crazy, beautiful, horrible, death-shadowed, life-enhanced months have shown us anything, it’s how small, how close, how interconnected the world is. How we actually are all in this together.

And it’s the same with your holiday decisions. Tourism provides a living, directly or indirectly, to one in ten of the world’s population – so if folk stop travelling, folk stop eating. But that’s only part of the story. When borders close, minds close with them; when people stop meeting strangers, they stop making friends; when horizons narrow, so does our outlook.

In fact, nothing brings us closer to our neighbours than visiting them. So it’s vital for that feeling of global community the species is going to need in order to meet its biggest challenges that we try to carry on travelling as much as we always have – since Homo erectus booked that first ever trip out of Africa two million years ago. (And still somehow found towels on the sun loungers when he arrived.)


It should – and will

Says who: Juliet Kinsman, sustainability editor of Condé Nast Traveller magazine

I try to see silver linings, and recent times forcing us to slow down and adopt a more considered approach to how we spend our time and money should be celebrated. Now is absolutely a time for less travel, better travel and more responsible travel.

Nature was given a chance to recover during the hiatus – and we’ve been reminded of our need to nurture it for all our sakes. Instead of all-you-can-consume cruises, savvy travellers will instead start to think about entwining their travels with conservation. An eco-friendly holiday in a biodiversity-enhancing resort, such as Grootbos in South Africa or Wanås in Sweden, isn’t enriching just for you, but for the places you leave behind.

The pandemic has made so many people that bit more mindful, and it’s something we have to channel into travel: after all, tourism is an incredibly powerful transference of wealth from folk that have it to those less fortunate in deprived regions. With more time to invest in the planning of our escapes, we can be cannier about how to maximise the amount of traveller cash left in local communities. Just as we’re eschewing fast fashion, we’re wising up to the importance of honouring better supply chains in travel.

Just as we’re eschewing fast fashion, we’re wising up to the importance of honouring better supply chains in travel.

In this new normal, we’ll favour locally owned eateries with menus supplied by independent producers, farmers’ markets and family-run delis and skip those plastic-steeped supermarkets while we’re away. We’ll choose quality over quantity – picking small characterful hotels over big business-traveller-focused international chains. The effects will even show up in our suitcases. Mine will be filled with ethical and organic products such as Green People suncream, super-sustainable Yatay trainers and vintage charity-store finds.

The great pause has given us the opportunity to ponder the why of travel as much as the where. The impact of the pandemic is so far reaching that it’s impossible to imagine all the good work that’s emerged as a result is just a fad. It’s a time for much-needed and great change. Let’s hope it will mean a paradigm shift and inspire us to help effect change for the better. “Life's most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” was how Martin Luther King Jr put it all those decades ago. And I genuinely think we’re all asking ourselves that more and more.

Juliet Kinsman’s book, The Green Edit: Travel (£9.99, Ebury), is out on 10 September 2020


So you can take off with confidence, The Club recommends checking the most up to date FCO advice before arranging travel. To learn more, click here

This article has been tagged Opinion, Travel Tips