COVID-19 has sent a shockwave through the travel and tourism industry world wide. As the reality of life during a pandemic becomes the new normal, how are others adapting their behavior? Are there ways to make travel safer for individuals and communities? Let’s take a look.
The first and most obvious industry to take a hit was the airline industry. For a brief time airlines cut capacity, flying planes only 50% full in order to reduce exposure, however shortly thereafter were overturned by governments who quickly closed off their borders. No surprises there… Air travel is inherently high exposure, densely packed, and confined. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot we can do about this in the near future.
OK, so what about closer to home? Cities are particularly challenging, given their high reliance on public transport. But with people avoiding public transport, how are the private alternatives to public transit handling all of this? The results are mixed, for some at least. Take ridesharing for example. It’s easy to assume that an industry like ridesharing would be susceptible to something like COVID-19. For the carpooling variant of ridesharing, this is particularly true; with Uber and Lyft both ceasing carpooling services for the immediate future. However interestingly, in states like New York for example, at least to begin with there was a noticeable shift in consumer travel habits migrating quickly from public transport & seeking ridesharing to fill the gap as a lower exposure alternative to local travel.
As things progressed though, ride hailing has also slowed, with a recent study showing driver concern reflects that the number of rides are down 74% at the moment. This hasn’t been isolated to ridesharing either with micro mobility taking a big hit as well. Lime and Bird have pulled their scooter fleets in select markets, and sadly also have announced significant layoffs.
OK, that’s enough doom and despair I think (think we’ve had enough already!). So what’s being done to solve these problems? Lots! Innovation is rampant at the moment.
For inter-city travel, people are still avoiding airline travel & busses (that’s if they’re even in service, most aren’t). However companies like MirrorTrip will let you affordably rent cars for one-way travel without having to pay the expensive one-way drop-off fees normally charged by rental companies. MirrorTrip uses an innovative new approach called ‘ride switching’ to match you with people driving in the opposite direction, so that the car is returned to its original location. MirrorTrip is operating in partnership with Hertz, who’ve also announced that they’re sanitizing vehicles between every use – combined with MirrorTrip’s cost saving ability, this presents a great low exposure alternative to bus, carpooling, and short distance flights. Currently MirrorTrip is only in operation in Western Canada. However they’ve also launched a new tool called Price Lab to help you find the best one-way car rental deals in all cities across North America. For Price Lab though, I’d still recommend that you call ahead to the rental company to verify their sanitization protocol.
Another great example is a company called Wheels, that recently deployed new e-bikes with self cleaning handlebars & brake levers; utilizing an interesting new technology that oxidises the surface more effectively than bleach.
So there you have it, the good with the bad… Yes we’re in a rapidly changing world, particularly when it comes to travel and there’s a lot of bad that comes with that. But you can count on the collective human desire to succeed in order to keep presenting new paths forward.