SO what does the remainder of this year hold in store for would-be travellers and the travel industry?

We can all agree it will be painful. Beyond that, well the consequences of this wretched virus are many and varied, and so hard to predict. Alas, they are also likely to be long-lasting.

Even as the spread of Covid-19 eases locally — a welcome trajectory that could offer respite for the domestic sector — it is events overseas that will determine how long Australia’s outbound industry remains paralysed. There are glimmers here too, with several countries beginning to ease restrictions. But it will be a slow, tentative process.

Fundamentally, the future is clouded with uncertainty. Medical experts talk of a possible second wave of Covid. And even as infections slow, at what point will governments be brave enough to re-open borders and allow an influx of international visitors? Will social distancing become the norm? If so, the implications for cruise companies and airlines will be enormous.

Much has been made of the pent-up demand that will theoretically be unleashed once borders re-open. It’s possible, and goodness knows we’ll all need a long holiday after this. Yet increasingly it feels like wishful thinking.

The desire to travel is not in question. But if Covid remains a long term threat, that could wreck public confidence and slow the recovery, particularly given the economic gloom.

Furthermore, international flight schedules won’t suddenly pick up where they left off. And if social distancing does remain, planes will be forced to fly half empty. With limited international capacity, potentially fewer airlines, and a desperate need to generate income, what will that do for pricing? My fear is a return to the days where only the wealthy can afford to travel. The more positive counter argument is that suppliers, airlines included, will have to stimulate the market with attractive pricing. Either scenario is possible.

As for ocean cruising, Silversea UK and Ireland boss Peter Shanks probably had it right by suggesting it could be three to five years before the sector fully recovers. Avid cruisers may return relatively quickly, but it’s hard to see first-timers being tempted anytime soon. Port cities meanwhile, so quick to pocket revenue generated by visiting ships, should hang their heads in collective shame at the way they shunned cruise passengers and crew. However, it’s positive action that is needed, not recrimination. CLIA Australia must get on the front foot and somehow redress the alarming negativity.

If we’re looking for positives in these gravely troubling times it is the opportunity for domestic tourism. That may be scant consolation for the majority of agents who rely on outbound travel. But at least it provides a sales opportunity for those agile enough to refocus.

Good luck to everyone.