As the world slowly reopens for travel, it is a good time to remember that we are emerging from a period unprecedented in human history. Never before have so many people been prohibited from going to so many places – all at the same time. 

The big questions now, for the world’s travel and tourism industry, the millions of jobs supported by it, and the international travellers, are: Will things ever return to normal?What will the “new normal” look like? 

The United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation now says the number of international travellers could drop by as much as 80% this year. One ask the question: could this actually be a good thing?  

The tourism industry has long been under fire for its hugely negative impact on the environment. Then came COVID-19 and suddenly, it turns out that tourism is not so good for business after all. Tourism from mainland China, where experts believe the outbreak originated, ensured that the virus attained pandemic status in weeks.  

The University of Cambridge says that the global economy could lose as much as $82 trillion over the next five years from damages from the pandemic.  

As Europe revives its tourism industry, many of us will be facing longer waits at airports, higher prices for travel and accommodations, reduced services and restricted access to resort areas and cultural attractions. But others will be curtailing their vacation plans, rather than partake in the restoration of the tourism business as it tries to reinvent itself into a safer, more sustainable sector. 

This means we will be spending more time at home and in our own communities, and for those of us living in tourist centres, with fewer tourists, there will be more of our cities and villages we can enjoy by ourselves.