Our travels usually have us paying attention to the four essential ‘P’s: Passport, Portable charger, Pennies, Precaution (insurance). In 2021 we add the fifth most important ‘P’ – a PCR test.
Tamara Spanovic & Milos Ivanovic
Exactly one year ago we were packing for the newest backpack.me adventure to Israel and Palestine, oblivious to the fact it will be our last trip without surgical masks, strict regulation, heaps of paperwork and constant uncertainty.
The Corona virus has brought about great change in the world, both to our daily tasks and the way we travel. Going away for a trip has become a luxury available to the minority and a real challenge – organising travel is nearly impossible with the high number of flight cancellations, border closures and invincible regulations helping control the aforementioned virus.
Flying is nowhere near what we are used to – April and May last year already saw airlines and hotels facing a huge crisis. One of the largest airlines in the world, Emirates, announced a mass layoff of over 30,000 of its employees in early May 2020. This formalised the beginning of a wave of budget control by many large companies which are directly dependent on tourism.
The new circumstance forced airlines to refund each customer for their cancelled flights, and completely adapt their business model. Up until a year ago it was unimaginable to buy an airplane ticket only to later change date of travel, name of passenger, and other trip details, all without a cruelly high fee.
Today there are many airlines offering a date change as a standard, free service, thereby demonstrating flexibility and preparedness to show consideration to their passengers. The attempt to unify transit policies within the EU has also been a huge relief to many passengers who are embarking on trips to other continents.
Hotels and other companies within hospitality have changed their operations; in many countries restaurants are open with 30% capacity, while hotels offer complementary meals, lower and more affordable prices for overnight stays, and no fees for date change.
Apart from the new travel rules – including a mandatory face mask, social distance, and limited movement – we are also adopting new travel accessories. We like to joke that our travels usually have us paying attention to the four essential ‘P’s: Passport, Portable charger, Pennies, Precaution (insurance). In 2021 we add the fifth most important ‘P’ – a PCR test, a pre-condition for entry into the majority of the world’s countries. A single PCR test will cost you 9,000 Serbian Dinars (some 76 EUR). You will agree that this significantly affects the planned cost of one’s trip.
And just when we thought all the obstacles are behind us and we are ready for new adventures, we hear rumours of ‘Covid passports’. There are no countries in the world currently requiring a ‘Covid passport’, nor are there any clear definitions as to what that would be. It’s interesting that Georgia is the world’s first country which allowed entry to any foreign citizen with documentation and confirmation of having been vaccinated against Covid-19.
There is a tendency to relax measures when the economy is about to collapse; we have seen this example in many neighbouring countries with tourism as the main piece of the GDP puzzle (Greece, Croatia, Montenegro). The question is – is this the new normal? Is this what travel will look like in the future?
There is nothing we can do except patiently wait for new adventures and, in the meantime, care for our own health and the health of those in our vicinity.
Tamara Spanovic & Milos Ivanovic, two young people who have been independently organising worldwide travels at affordable prices for over 6 years. Founders of ‘backpack.me travels’.