The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced the results from its latest poll of people who have travelled recently, which revealed the growing confidence in a return to air travel, frustration with current travel restrictions, and acceptance of having to use a travel app to manage health credentials for travel.
Those surveyed by IATA expressed frustration with current travel restrictions. Put into numbers:
‘While there is public support for travel restrictions, it is becoming clear that people are feeling more comfortable with managing the risks of COVID-19,’ said IATA’s report.
People are also feeling frustrated with the loss of freedom to travel, with 68% of respondents indicating that their quality of life is suffering as a result. Travel restrictions come with health, social and economic consequences. Nearly 40% of respondents reported mental stress and missing an important human moment as a result of travel restrictions. And over a third have said that restrictions prevent them from doing business normally.
“The top priority of everybody at the moment is staying safe amid the COVID-19 crisis. But it is important that we map a way to being able to re-open borders, manage risks and enable people to get on with their lives. That includes the freedom to travel,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
“It is becoming clear that we will need to learn to live and travel in a world that has Covid -19. Given the health, social and economic costs of travel restrictions, airlines should be ready to re-connect the world as soon as governments are able to re-open borders. That’s why a plan with measurable milestones is so critical. Without one, how can we be prepared for restart without an unnecessary delay?”
Future travel trends
So what do those travellers surveyed by IATA predict for future travel? Again in numbers:
The survey responses would potentially indicate that people are becoming more confident about resuming travel activity. Those expecting to travel within a few months of “Covid -19 containment” now account for 57% of survey respondents (improved from 49% in September 2020’s survey). This is supported by vaccine rollout, with 81% of respondents indicating that they will be more likely to travel once vaccinated. And 72% of respondents want to travel as soon as possible after Covid-19 is contained to see friends and family.
The survey did find some headwinds in travel trends though. For example, 84% of respondents saying they will not travel if it involves a quarantine period at their destination. And there are still indications that the pick-up in business travel will take time, with 62% of respondents saying they are likely to travel less for business even after the virus is contained. That is, however, a significant improvement from the 72% recorded in September 2020.
“People want to get back to travel, but quarantine is the showstopper,” added de Juniac. “As testing capacity and technology improves and the vaccinated population grows, the conditions for removing quarantine measures are being created. And this points us again towards working with governments for a well-planned re-opening as soon as conditions allow.”
Electronic travel passes
IATA has been developing a Travel Pass that digitally stores vaccination and testing status, creating a clear way to demonstrate Covid safety when crossing borders. Travel health credentials are already opening borders to some countries, but IATA recognises that such a system needs global standards and the highest level of data security.
The survey produced very encouraging data indicating travellers’ willingness to use a secure mobile phone app to manage their travel health credentials. Four out of every five people surveyed would like to use this technology as soon as it becomes available. They also expect that travel health credentials (vaccines or test certificates) must comply with global standard – a work that is still in progress by governments.
Survey respondents also sent a clear message on the importance of data security. 78% of travellers said they will not use an app if they are not in full control of their data. And about 60% will not use a travel credential app if data is stored centrally.
“We are designing IATA Travel Pass with the traveller in mind. Passengers keep all the data on their mobile devices, and they remain in full control of where that data goes. There is no central database,” said de Juniac.
“While we are making good progress with numerous trials, we are still awaiting the global standards for digital testing and vaccine certificates. Only with global standards and governments accepting them can we maximise efficiency and deliver an optimum travel experience.”