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Comment: Expect changes for the better

Covid has driven innovation at airports, says Andy Besant, managing director of travel experiences at Collinson

Covid-19 has meant the days of international travel seem like a distant memory.

We felt the excitement of going on our holidays, city breaks, and even business trips, but we also took them for granted as part of everyday life. Now we miss them and are champing at the bit to get out and explore the world again.

It’s been great to see a successful vaccine rollout across the UK, and for vaccination programmes to be picking up pace around the world.

We know vaccines will need to go hand-in-hand with testing in the effort to safely open up travel again.

Testing is the only way to catch positive cases at the border, while vaccines are the best way to keep the population protected – and both will be needed for safe, quarantine-free travel to resume.

Once travel can resume, we know that British travellers are keen to take to the skies again, having felt the effects of not going on their annual getaways.

Many say the past year is the longest they’ve gone without a holiday, and that it’s having an impact on their overall mental wellbeing.

But what will the travel experience look like when it returns?

We’re conscious people are expecting a shift from what once was. Even the most seasoned travellers are feeling apprehensive about the journey ahead, unsure of what to expect at the airport.

Of course, there will be changes; with new testing regulations, processing these at check-in or quarantine rules to get to grips with.

However, while travel has been on standstill, there have been sustained efforts from the ecosystem to go above and beyond, making sure the experience is as safe, comfortable and enjoyable as ever.

We’ve already seen a number of innovations across the airport. Technologies that had been talked about for a while were expedited into fruition.

So, when travellers return, they will be met with enhanced health protocols and, in many instances, a more optimised, personalised and digitised airport journey.

Take airport lounges as an example. Today, in-lounge experiences are as important as ever; providing a place for comfort and quiet, especially if new Covid procedures mean travellers must get to the airport even earlier.

Visible health and safety measures are now baseline critical, but airport lounges are innovating in other ways.

There’s a raft of contactless solutions arising for in-lounge travellers, to order food, drinks and even duty-free shopping straight from their mobile device, to be delivered to them in the lounge.

Innovations like these give travellers a more contactless airport experience, while at the same time connecting them to the exciting and luxurious aspects of travel they’ve always loved.

And, even as health protocols continue to change with vaccine and testing rollouts, these kinds of solutions will be key to restoring traveller confidence and safely re-opening travel routes. It’s Covid-driven innovation that will change how we travel for the better.

But it’s not just in lounges we’re seeing these innovations. Just as socially distanced, contactless measures are now upheld when we do daily tasks such as our grocery shopping, we’re seeing the same procedures introduced at the airport.

We’re already seeing more contactless passport desks, as well as pre-booked security processes, so that passengers can turn up at a certain time slot and not have to wait in a long queue.

Again, while these innovations have been expedited due to Covid, and have been brought in to help allay any anxiety for travellers making a move at this time, they’ve helping to make the traveller experience more seamless.

For that reason, we think they’ll be here for a while, re-shaping the journey long into the future.

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