5 Ways International Travel Changed Since Covid-19

Oct 15, 2023 | Travel Journal, Travel Tips

The COVID-19 public emergency had a big impact on the travel industry. When the shutdowns and travel bans first began, it put everything at a standstill – vacations were canceled, entire countries were closed off from tourists, and some were even stranded in foreign lands. As the shutdowns extended from weeks to months, many who rely on tourism lost their livelihoods. The pandemic was a total shock to my colleagues and me, and the travel industry as a whole.

But 3 years later, we’re up and running again! Countries have reopened, mask mandates have been scrapped, and many people are prioritizing international travel as their “big-ticket” annual purchase.

It’s great to be back at it, but international travel is not the same as it was pre-COVID. As a personal travel plannerm, I’m seeing first-hand just how different things are now in a post-COVID world, and the huge impact the pandemic had on travel costs, supply, and demand.

So what do these changes mean for international travelers? In this article, I discuss the 5 biggest ways international travel has changed since COVID, and what you can do to be prepared for your next overseas trip.

What does international travel look like after Covid?

1. There’s no such thing as a “high season” anymore

Before COVID, there was what we in the travel industry called the “high season” – the time of year when travel was at its peak. This coincided with summer break from school (June-August) and it was during these months that travelers were most likely to take any type of big vacation.

But after COVID, no date nor month is off limits. Parents now have no issue with pulling their children out of school to take a big trip. The same goes for adults; people are done timing their lives around work and are instead prioritizing travel.

Additionally, in the post-COVID world, many employers have become more flexible with work schedules. This means that big tourist destinations are always busy, all year around. These days, it’s harder to recommend “slow” or “quiet” seasons to international travelers visiting popular places like Italy, Greece or France (though locations like Malta and Cyprus do still provide an opportunity for more low-key international travel).  After being cooped up during the pandemic, and realizing international travel could be taken from them at any moment, people are taking their overseas trips anytime they can.

2. The cost of international travel has gone up

Before COVID, travelers rarely planned a trip without finding a discount or incentive attached. Perks like reduced airfare, upgraded rooms, or all-inclusive packages that offered cost-savings lured travelers to destinations they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford.

But now, with COVID behind us, international travel is more expensive than ever before. In the decade before COVID, there had been subtle increases in travel costs (5% year over year). Post-COVID, the travel industry is seeing a record 20%-30% increase in costs. The Euro’s inflation rate is one contributing factor to this rise is costs, but inflation worldwide is also having an impact. Other factors such as rising fuel costs and labor shortages are also playing a role in the increasing price of international travel. This increase has pushed the average price of a vacation to be 15% higher than it was in 2020. Expect to pay more for plane tickets, hotel rooms, meals, activities, and more.

3. Suppliers aren’t budging

Before COVID, booking an impromptu international trip was no big deal because suppliers were willing to bend over backwards to make your travel happen. It was also easy to make last-minute changes, like upgrading your seat hours before boarding, or requesting a room with a better view at check in (though take note: Luxury Travel Planners like me can still make these upgrades happen 🙂).

These days, those perks are harder to come by without the help of a professional travel planner. COVID hit hard the revenue on the supplier side, so now they need to play catch-up and can’t make the same accommodations. COVID also caused a huge worker shortage in the tourism industry, which makes it hard for suppliers to even offer the incentive in the first place.

And since there is so much demand for international travel, suppliers don’t need to offer incentives. The rapid uptick in travel has benefited suppliers by putting them in the driver’s seat. Airlines have started capitalizing on last minute travelers with higher costs on flights. An international flight for example, could cost as much as 37% more than last year. Many 5-star hotels have increased prices by 184% and getting a refund on your deposit is harder than it used to be. Even a travel agent’s hands are tied when it comes to negotiating pre-priced packages for your benefit.

4. Travel insurance is a must

In 2018, only 38% of travelers who purchased travelers insurance cited trip cancellation as the primary benefit. For everyone else, it was viewed as an unnecessary expense with little payoff.

But then COVID happened, and travelers who didn’t have travel insurance lost a lot of money on their security deposit, airfare, tour bookings, and more. The travel industry remained unpredictable in the two years after the shutdowns began, and no one could give a guarantee that an investment in travel wouldn’t end up a sunk cost. And even though we are past the worst of COVID now, modern society now realizes how the world can change almost overnight. We may not see another novel coronavirus the likes of COVID-19 in our lifetime, but there are other factors – war, climate change, gas shortages – that could bring travel to a standstill once again. Because of this threat, travel insurance is a must if you’re planning an international trip.

5. Travel agents are essential

With international travel as popular and expensive as ever, it makes sense that travel agents are a hot commodity. In fact, between 2022 and 2023, the travel agent market grew nearly 14%. And there are many reasons why travel agents offer a lot of value in the post-COVID world. Travel agents can:

    • Provide specific information about the country’s COVID experience, best practices, and political climate surrounding the topic
    • Help you plan an itinerary that prevents you from visiting locations that are permanently closed due to COVID (not even Google knows all the details!)
    • Give tips and advice to save money, despite increased costs
    • Help you navigate how to travel to your destination with reduced exposure

With a wealth of experience, extensive knowledge, and comprehensive services that ensure a smooth trip from runway to runway, it’s not such a bad idea to enlist the help of a professional travel advocate. A personal travel planner or travel concierge can really guarantee smooth travel in the time of COVID.

With Covid cases still dropping, is travel insurance still necessary?

Travelers insurance is worth it for 5 reasons:

    • It protects the cost of your trip if you have a travel delay or need to cancel for any reason.
    • It offsets the added expenses due to travel delay or lost, delayed, or damaged luggage.
    • It protects from expensive medical bills in case you are injured or become ill while traveling abroad. 
    • It covers accidental death or flight accidents.
    • It provides assistance by offering 24×7 customer support claims overseas.

Covid cases are still on the decline and that’s welcome news to travelers that are tired of being cooped up. With travel more popular than ever, the far-reaching changes tend to have little impact on the decision to book a trip.

Is it safe to travel internationally despite COVID?

When it concerns COVID and international travel, most travel restrictions have been lifted. As of May 2023, there are a handful of countries that still have their borders closed to non-citizens, but the vast majority of countries are fully open (especially if you are vaccinated), or allow entry upon proof of a negative COVID test (you can see the full country list here).

Because most countries have opened their borders for travel, it’s a good indication that COVID doesn’t pose a risk to international travelers. Do keep in mind that those who are immunocompromised should take precautions to protect against contracting COVID-19. Additionally, as of this writing (May 2023), CDC guidelines advise that travelers should take precautions to minimize the risk of exposure. These guidelines include:

    • Practice good hygiene by keeping your hands washed and limiting contact with others.
    • If you are vaccinated, stay up to date on boosters and other vaccinations.
    • Be aware of the infection rate of the place you’re traveling to.
    • If you are staying at a public place, consider a location that offers a bit of seclusion from others.
    • Try to remain outdoors as much as possible.

Though it’s always encouraged to check the local embassy for travel advisories before you begin your vacation, chances are, you won’t find COVID as a reason to hold you back.

Though it’s always encouraged to check the local embassy for travel advisories before you begin your vacation, chances are, you won’t find COVID as a reason to hold you back.

If you’re interested in international travel after COVID and are looking for an advocate to get you a trip you’ll remember for years to come, then contact Partenza Travel to find out more about our personal travel planning services. We offer travel planning to many international destinations.

Plan for tomorrow by booking a trip with Partenza today!