The COVID dark clouds are again gathering and four in five frequent travellers believe that airport lounges and in-terminal hotels will be essential when travel does resume

There are many things we have learnt in 2020, some that we didn’t think we needed to learn, such as the fact that meetings could take place online without the need to travel, or that working from home was easy.

We learnt that there is such a thing as Zoom fatigue and that we really do miss travelling. While the initial rest away from changing time zones, non-stop travel and unglamourous airport to airport trips was welcome to start with, all of us now long for a return to that normal we had become so familiar with.

Another thing we have learnt is that we all appreciate some personal space, particularly when travelling. The need to stay two metres apart has now become such a way of life that it’s likely to continue, especially into next year while the vaccine is still being rolled out across the world. We no longer like the idea of being in a crowded situation and are actively looking for ways to keep ourselves apart from the crowds and therefore safe.

According to a recent survey by Plaza Premium Group, a leader of airport hospitality services, the need to keep ourselves away from the crowds is set to increase with 83% of the 2,000 respondents reporting that the use of airport lounges and in-terminal hotels will be essential when travel resumes, with space and hygiene being our highest priorities.

The research, ‘What is ‘new normal’ in airport hospitality’, says the single most important personal preventative measure, seen by 83% of respondents, was the wearing of a face mask. Behind that with 75%, was the importance of carrying hand sanitiser or alcohol wipes. Some 47% of respondents intend to wash their hands every one to three hours whilst at the airport, with 26% saying they will wash their hands every 30 to 60 minutes.

Once international travel resumes, existing safety and hygiene protocols will remain a priority for the majority of respondents, including body temperature checks, frequent sanitisation of all areas, and social distancing with more private spaces made available for individuals, families and small groups.

Many of us are still undecided as to when we will travel again. Around a quarter of respondents said they are likely to travel within 6-12 months, 21% saying 3-6 months and 25% reporting they are expecting to travel within 1-3 months.

Business travel was given as the reason for travelling in 11% of the cases although a mighty 59% said they would travel just as soon as travel bans have been lifted, boosting the already known fact that there is so much pent-up demand that just as soon as vaccines are in place or bans are lifted, we will be off.

The use of airport lounges is therefore set to increase as we return to travel, particularly internationally. The vast majority of those questioned, 72%, said that they access the use of lounges through eligible credit cards. Only 11% said they access lounges due to flying business or first class.

One complaint we have all had when travelling for business was finding a business lounge overcrowded. It seems lounges are only going to increase in popularity. At some point in the future airlines and airports will certainly have to invest in bigger and better lounges to ensure there is the space that we crave for each person or set new requirements for entry.

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