The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted international travel. In November, the number of people flying remained considerably lower worldwide than the pre-pandemic norm.
But is the pandemic making people feel unsafe, or are border restrictions preventing them from travelling?
I created a survey on the reopening of international travel to the U.S. to inform my final paper. I targeted my social media channels on LinkedIn and Twitter, sent to my contacts via WhatsApp and posted in various Slack channels to drive engagement. The survey had received 36 responses at the time of writing.
I began the survey with general questions focused on getting a broad overview of my respondent pool. When asked where they were from, 15 respondents said they were from the U.S., 11 respondents from the U.K., five from Europe, one from India and four from other countries.
I also wanted to find out whether my respondents were frequent travellers. 23 of the 36 respondents said that they made between zero and two international trips per year on average before the COVID-19 pandemic. 11 said they had made between three and six international trips per year on average, with only two saying they made ten or more.
I then transitioned to questions on travel safety and COVID-19 disruptions to travel. Here’s what people had to say:
Would you feel safe travelling internationally at the moment?
“I have traveled internationally since the pandemic began and I felt safe each time I was on the plane.
“I would feel safe traveling currently. Friends and family have travelled without issue or illness.”
“It depends on if the airline is doing anything to make flying a little more safe, like not booking middle seats. I’ve been flying within the country so I don’t see how flying internationally would be that different.”
“It depends on where. If it is a country without proper covid response and vaccine availability, I would not be comfortable visiting despite being vaccinated myself. I would also feel very bad risking exposing a population that doesn’t have access to vaccines to covid.”
“I work at an indoor concert venue where 100s of people take their masks off in the crowd every day. Traveling doesn’t seem like a big risk in comparison.”
“Although I am fully vaccinated and follow safety measures, it always takes more than one in order to get the job done. There are people that are against the vaccine and people that do not follow safety precautions in order to prevent the spread of the virus, and anyone can be a victim of that.”
Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your attitudes towards international travel?
“Yes! Being on a plane has always been gross, but now it can be lethal.”
“Realised quite how dirty and unhygienic it was before.”
“The airport and planes are places a lot of people go to, so I have learned to take measures like distancing, washing hands, using antibacterial gel, etc. I will definitely be taking these measures whenever the pandemic is over too because it is just hygienic basics.”
“It definitely feels more complicated, and I feel more anxious about hygiene in airports and planes.”
“It has changed my view of international travel from an environmental point of view. It was astounding to see in the early days of the pandemic the empty airports and the little graphics that showed the comparisons between planes in the air prior to the pandemic and after it had begun to take hold. This demonstrated clearly the effect of international travel on our environment.”
“It made me even more aware of the fragile health systems in some regions of the world and made me worried about getting sick or injured abroad.”
“It has changed my awareness of what I carry with me when I travel anywhere. I am more aware of safety needs and the diseases I bring with me.”
“Definitely makes me a bit more cautious, but doesn’t prevent me from doing it all together.”
What have you missed most about travelling abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic?
“Experiencing new cultures.”
“Seeing international friends and family.”
“Seeing my family. As an international student with family all over the world, it has been hard to be apart of them for so long.”
“Flexibility to go wherever and meet up with friends regardless of their passports”
“Different cultures, new experiences and spontaneity. I miss the thrill of booking last minute tickets and exploring new places.”
“Visiting other places and people, discovering the new.”
“Experiencing other cultures, meeting new people and learning new things.”
“The ability to connect with my loved ones who are far away.”
“I definitely felt a bit stuck during the worst part of the pandemic, and it’s nice to know that the option is open again.”
This survey provides a clear insight to respondent’s outlook on the COVID-19 pandemic and international travel from around the globe.
It is clear that while safety concerns remain, and some attitudes towards travel have changed, it’s importance has not been diminished by the disruption.
Many plan to return to the skies when restrictions relax, and with many borders reopened, 31 of the 36 respondents said they were planning an international trip in the next year.
This survey was informal and unscientific. Take the survey here.