How travel will change after COVID-19: The things that won't be coming back

The world of travel is not dead. It's merely that the world is having a well-earned rest from travel. In the meantime, it may not be as premature as it seems to farewell some of the aspects of travel that have defined it for good and bad, though mostly bad, over the decades.

Many of the things featured on our list are, to quote Charlie Brown, a little too "peopley" for their own good to survive the fraught in the new personal space age or to even last beyond it. Here's our list of seven don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-them holiday goners we're glad to see the back of (and three we're sad about).

GOOD RIDDANCE TO ...

THE BREAKFAST BUFFET

It's goodbye to watery scrambled eggs, the bane (marie) of many a traveller's existence as well as those infernal conveyor belt-like toasters where the toast always seem to require an annoying second, interminable passage through the machine. In the new world of social-distanced travel, where queues to an omelette station could potentially extend out onto the hotel driveway, guests will likely to be encouraged to eat breakfast in the rooms or order by a la carte at the in-house restaurant with tables and seating suitably spaced. Is it too late to bring back the motel-style breakfast hatch, one of the original feats of social distancing?

THE ZANY IN-FLIGHT SAFETY VIDEO

Air New Zealand 'It's Kiwi' safety video

Air New Zealand 'It's Kiwi' safety video.

You're aboard a plane wearing a surgical mask, pathogen-peppered tray table safely stowed, with hopefully a spare seat on either side of you as you're served by flight attendants clad head to toe in PSE garb having just endured and survived the new airport biosecurity measures. Under such circumstances the chances are you're not going to want to have to suffer the airline's latest quirky in-flight safety video extravaganza with a bigger budget than the average Australian feature film. You certainly won't want to watch it a second, third or fourth time on any future flights. Flying in a pandemic is going to be deadly serious business and let's keep it that way, at least until normal conditions resume, thanks.

THE INTERIOR CRUISE CABIN

Before Ruby Princess came Diamond Princess when Japanese authorities thought it was an excellent idea to transform a cruise ship packed with hundreds of passengers into a giant incubator tethered to an anonymous Yokohama wharf. On news of the Diamond Princess's plight, the deepest sympathy was extended by the cruising fraternity to those passengers with the misfortune of having been confined to their windowless, budget-minded interior cabins. It's one feature of the cruise experience that we're not going to miss in the new COVID-19 era, even though it did allow a lot of people to take a cruise who would not have otherwise been able to afford it.

THE GERMY IN-ROOM TV REMOTE CONTROL

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Remember all of those Tripadvisor reviews where people, struggling to find something, anything positive about a hotel, would write that it was "clean"? Well, you ain't seen nothin' yet. The big hotel chains, including Hilton, ahead of the return of non-quarantine guests, are already rolling out their new health and hygiene credentials and one of the biggest targets is the notoriously unhygienic TV remote control unit. This is set to receive, along with other touchy items light switches, door-handles and air-conditioning thermostats, extra amounts of disinfection. Pack your iPad and a good book instead.

THE ARRIVAL CARD

Although Australian immigration officials sensibly abandoned the pesky passenger departure card some years ago they still cling, at least at last word, to the notion of a fully-completed arrival card (even through the airline will have most of your personal details on its database anyway). Already hotels are vowing to rid themselves of pens, paper and guest directories. And who is going to want to lend a hapless fellow passenger your pen during a pandemic ("no, really, I insist, you keep it") to fill out the form.

OVERTOURISM (AND HELLO, UNDERTOURISM)

Crowd of tourists at Old Town Square in Prague.

The Old Town Square in Prague. Photo: iStock

One of the most intractable problems of tourism – the fact that there was far too much of it – resolved itself almost overnight when the World Health Organisation declared the pandemic. Overtourism is no more, and may not be an issue for years to come, but undertourism is now looming as a problem in its own right. Even with a full restart of travel it's hard to conceive that we'll see places like Venice bursting at its canals since fewer people will be able to afford to travel with the paranoid rest less willing to do so. It may become a case of, "come back. Nearly all is forgiven."

THE SELFIE

Selfies in front of the Trevi Fountain, Rome.

Photo: iStock

Long may social distancing last if it means the end of this practice which, embarrassing as it is to point out, was devised by an inebriated Australian though God knows how he remembered he invented it. Selfies were originally meant to be of one person and one person only. But then others were dragged in on the act and then even more. The "unbunching" of travel will mean the time has come to put the "self" back into "selfie" (oh, and please give that damned stick a good disinfect after you used it).

AND A SAD FAREWELL TO ...

THE SUPERJUMBO

Airbus A380

Photo: AP

Sadly for its fans, of which there are legion worldwide, the demise of the fuel-guzzling A380 was already well underway before the pandemic was declared. Now with the aviation industry in a profound crisis, these flying hulks are among those planes clocking up outrageous parking fees in deserts and at airports awaiting news of when they can take to the air again. Unless their generous capacities can be useful in helping airlines fulfil their social distancing obligations these big mamas of the air are going to be surplus to limited requirements.

THE BUSINESS CLASS LOUNGE

The new airport COVID-19 biosecurity and social-distancing measures, combined with the usual post-September 11 security procedures, are set to be so time-consuming that well-heeled passengers are likely to only to have enough time to make a cameo appearance at the exclusive airline business class lounge. And, let's face it, in the past, business class lounges often get more crowded and rowdy than a nearly-as-comfortable café or bar in the terminal proper, something that just won't do in the time of a pandemic.

THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN TAXI FRONT SEAT

It's one of the most authentic of Australian egalitarian traditions. It even made it to a cameo in a not so zany Qantas in-flight safety video, where a young Australian woman hops into the front seat of an (ahem) New York yellow taxi, driven by an unusually polite and easy-going Manhattan cabbie who can actually discern an Aussie accent. Alas, in the age of social distancing, this practice may no longer be possible in Australia with any attempt elsewhere a wholly unwise move.

See also: Eight ways to bring the horrors of travel to your own home

See also: 'Very risky': Overseas holidays unlikely before 2021, say experts

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