The day will come when the beaches will be packed. | R.L.


The day will dawn in the hopefully not-too-distant future when all will return to normal. Like Pammy waking up, finding Bobby in the shower and realising that numerous episodes of Dallas minus Patrick Duffy had in fact been a bad dream, the sun will shine on that beautiful dawn, planes will vie for runway space, queues will form at hotel receptions as transfer coaches disgorge holidaymakers in their thousands, the lager will flow in bars thronged by Premier League and Bundesliga addicts, there will be barely an inch of space to be found on the jam-packed velvety white-sand beaches of Majorca or indeed of any other destination.

That's the dream, but then there are what may be the realities. We are now in the realms of post-virus scenarios. What will tourism be like? Will there be a return to complete normality? Can there be a return to complete normality? Until there is a proven vaccine, there is a view that there cannot be such a return.

Let's take one scenario that is being floated. Are you a senior citizen? If you are, "the authorities" may decide that your scope for travel should be reduced. Yes, seriously, this is a scenario that elements in the tourism and travel industry - if not authorities (yet) - are contemplating. As older people are more vulnerable, restrictions of some sort could be imposed, or if not restrictions being imposed, then recommendations against travel being issued by the these authorities. For the tourism industry, a significant market segment would be disrupted.

While the imposition of restrictions would be drastic (and pretty unlikely, you would think), this elderly segment could in any event be affected because of a reluctance to travel. Which could, however, be said for any age group, and this is why - among the various scenarios - there are potential arrangements for travel. Social distancing or some sort of social limitation, even after it is deemed safe to get back on planes, trains and boats, could have to be applied. Under this sort of scenario, the cost to travel would go up and considerably so. Effective social distancing would mean eliminating great numbers of seats.

A scenario being offered by the consultants PwC in Spain is that there is only going to a partial recovery until there is a vaccine, and that could be up to a year away. This will mean that there will be limitations on capacity for pretty much everything - planes, hotels, restaurants, you name it. For hoteliers, it is being suggested, there may have to be a fundamental rethink. One product that may have to go by the board is all-inclusive, because with all-inclusive there is a greater propensity for close gatherings of people, such as them all arriving for meals at the same times.

But this would surely apply to hotels with other types of offer, so the rethink may have to be far more along the lines of the apartment hotels, but these have restaurants as well. And then what about being around pools? You wonder about the practicality of all this.

A more optimistic scenario is that recovery of normality will take around nine months. The first phase of recovery will come principally from domestic tourists. They reckon it would take a good couple of months for tourists from other countries to feel confident about travelling. Much would depend on when this first phase is. If this were, say, June, then the peak season will clearly be badly affected. Even under this more optimistic vision, will there not have to be the same sort of limitations on numbers of people? Half-empty hotels, half-empty planes out of both necessity and anxieties about travel, and that's before one gets to the safety arrangements. Forget about complaints about queues for passport control, there'll be the health queues and checks.

Another consultancy, Deloitte, suggests that essential travel will start up again in June but that there won't be much of it. For domestic tourism, on which hoteliers are pinning most of their hopes for this summer, Deloitte reckons August will be the start, with September being stronger. As for international tourism, the consultancy believes that this won't truly reactivate until December.

These scenarios could prove right or they could prove wrong. But while some limitations may well have to continue for several months, there is another scenario by which by June much of Europe will find itself in a situation akin to that which now exists in China - a normalisation of travel but limited in scope to areas where the virus is in retreat. The positive view under this scenario is that Mediterranean destinations such as Majorca will benefit because holidaymakers will be completely ruling out going long distance and especially to some exotic destinations where the health risks will be perceived as being greater. July to October could therefore be saved after all.