NAVIGATING THE WAY FORWARD
Business Traveler|July/August 2020
The New Normal in travel hardly seems normal at all – but the journey is still worth the effort
RAMSEY QUBEIN

As the global pandemic – or at least the global panic that’s accompanied it – begins to ebb, and the world starts to chart its course back, we travelers are entering some murky and unfamiliar territory.

We can’t go back, though, so the only choice is the way forward.

Now the “way forward” for the travel industry will appear mystifying at first, and there is no timeline yet for how long these new measures will endure. There are masks and plastic barriers, disinfectants and UV robots, and truckloads of hand sanitizer. There is also more apprehension and often some confusion.

But, the way forward is also hopeful and bright. There is opportunity for improvement and energy for making the world a better and healthier place. There is also the desire for a robust economy, in which travel plays a fundamental role.

There is a cautious way to approach travel as businesses and organizations churn back to work. Perhaps the most important thing to remember, however, is that we must see things differently. We need to take a “half glass full” approach and be aware of the potential we do have rather than ticking off the things that are different or missing from the travel experience.

Let’s be mindful of the freedom and joy that travel can bring. Making a list of all the things we dislike about the “new normal” is certainly a recipe for disappointment. There will be many things that are not like they once were, but travel can still deliver fruitful results for commerce, for relationships, and for the curious among us.

With that in mind, there are sure to be some changes on your next trip.

Plexiglas & Perplexities

The International Air Transport Association and Airports Council International have partnered to produce what they call a “joint approach” to “multi-layered biosecurity measures to protect health and safety.”

In a statement introducing the measures, ACI World director general Angela Gittens said, “There is currently no single measure that could mitigate all the risks of restarting air travel. But we believe a globally-consistent, outcome-based approach represents the most effective way of balancing risk mitigation with the need to unlock economies and to enable travel.”

Certainly technology will play a role; online check-in and mobile boarding passes were already popular and will become more so. However, some travelers will still need to check in at the airport if they have bags or need to have international documents checked. There, Plexiglas shields protect people at various touchpoints like ticket counters, but they are transparent, which means a smile and a kind word can still go a long way in humanizing this abnormal experience.

The way forward will require patience, humility and a sense of humor, for sure.

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