Could We Return to the Golden Age of Travel?

“Come Fly with Me,” sung by Frank Sinatra (1958) is one of my favorite songs. Perhaps you need a reminder of the lines:

Come fly with me, lets fly, lets fly away,

If you can use some exotic booze

There’s a bar in far Bombay,

Come fly with me, lets fly, lets fly away,

The song harkens back to a time when foreign travel was the domain of “the jet set” and mass tourism hadn’t taken the magic out of many foreign holidays. Might we see a return to those days?

Why It’s Possible?

We are emerging from the pandemic lockdown. Borders are starting to reopen. Some hardy travelers are packing their bags already. The paperwork and procedures might be tedious, but you can travel to more and more places. Cruises have restarted. Cunard’s first transatlantic crossing since the pandemic is December 13th.

Some people will never travel overseas again. You have friends who won’t dine out in restaurants. Perhaps one or two won’t leave the house. Foreign travel will take a hit. For at least a little while, you may experience a return to the Golden Age of travel in the 1950’s.

Let’s assume you have booked a great cruise in the Med. Since it sails from a port in Europe, you’ve got to get there.

  1. Airports. They should be less crowded, especially for foreign travel. It’s logical you have status with your favorite airline, so you can stand on the business or first class check in line. They should be shorter. You might even simply walk up to the counter, like they do in movies.
  2. Airline clubs. They are getting better. American Express is opening more Centurion Lounges. Chase Sapphire lounges are coming. Many airlines have lounges or access to partner airlines lounges through airline alliances. These should be less crowded too. You should be able to spend some quality time relaxing, with a dedicated ticketing desk inside the lounge.
  3. Flying. OK, so you will be wearing a mask in flight. There will likely be less passengers on these long haul routes. I don’t see a return to the flying piano bar anytime soon, but I think it will be a less crowded experience.
  4. Customs and immigration. This should also have shorter lines. I’m guessing the protocol will be confirming you are vaccinated, or had a negative Covid test (and all your paperwork is complete) before you board the plane in your departing city. As you recall, if you need a Visa to travel to a certain country, you don’t get further than the check in desk without your papers in order. Immigration should be a breeze, not an unending, slow moving line.
  5. Better hotels. Business travel hasn’t picked up yet. That another problem! City hotels need to compete for business. Cutting prices is the logical way to sell rooms. You should be able to trade up to a more luxurious hotel for the same dollar amount you were spending pre pandemic.
  6. Less crowded cities. You’ve read the articles. Venice is overcrowded. We need less tourists. Be careful what you wish for! If foreign travel recovers slowly, the famous cities you visit should be more walkable. Taxis should be easier to find, but not in Venice. Cities should have less congestion.
  7. Friendlier locals. After 9/11 foreign travel fell off. We flew to London and found ourselves in a taxi during our visit. The taxi driver was falling over himself with compliments. Thank you for coming from America! Locals understand the importance of tourist dollars.
  8. Access to better restaurants. It’s always tough getting into the Michelin starred restaurants and other famous places. Restaurants have had more than their share of problems. Remember – the business lunch bunch are working from home. It should be easier to get reservations.
  9. Shorter lines and less crowded museums. You’ve been to the Louvre and tried to see the Mona Lisa. You’ve stood in line in Florence. During this period when many Americans are hesitant to travel or think it’s too complicated, there should be smaller crowds.
  10. Better perks. You have your airline upgrade certificates. You have suite upgrades from your favorite hotel chain. The chances of using them should be better while business travel is still behind it it’s recovery. You might arrive refreshed thanks to your lie flat seat, then check into your hotel suite and step out onto the balcony, just like in the movies.

Let’s look at how the Golden Age of travel might be reflected in the cruise industry.

  1. Smaller ships. Some people might avoid mega ships, figuring all suite vessels with sliding doors to let in outside air might be preferable.
  2. Price competition. Cruise lines need to fill cabins. Unlike an airplane, there are thousands of beds to fill every week on a cruise ship. Expect attractive pricing.
  3. Move upmarket. If pricing is attractive, you might step up to smaller ship luxury cruising instead of the ships built for the mass market.
  4. Inclusive tour packages. Because of Covid, it’s unlikely cruise lines will allow you to wander around a port stop unsupervised, then return to the ship and mingle. They will likely require you to take their tour packages. The easiest way is to build them into the fare.
  5. Airport to ship transfers. From a safety point of view, if the airline has tested you before you left your home airport, it makes sense for them to whisk you from the airport to the ship, minimizing contact with the general public. This might be included too.

The bottom line is you might be in for all inclusive white glove service, at least for a little while. This would be a return to the golden age of travel.

 

 

 

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