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Vaccine passports, historic flight surge: experts predict big travel changes to start this summer

Masks on planes and heightened cleaning procedures will likely stick around through, and even beyond, 2021.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After nearly a year of COVID-19 restrictions, travel experts predict this summer will see the biggest travel boom in decades.

“One of the things that I've heard over and over and over again is folks say as soon as I get vaccinated, and as soon as I feel like it's safe to go out, the first thing I'm going to do is get on a plane and go travel somewhere," said Scott Keyes, founder of flight deal site Scott's Cheap Flights.

“This is not just a couple people who have this idea to go travel once they get vaccinated," Keyes said. "I think this is a extraordinarily widespread sentiment. So that's why I think you're going to see a huge surge in demand for travel.”

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Keyes said the best time to book your summer travel is between January and March, especially with airlines offering better flexibility than ever if your plans change.

“Lock in the cheap fares while they're cheap today, but also have the flexibility to be able to change your plans if the situation warrants it," he said.

Keyes said masks on planes and heightened cleaning procedures will likely stick around through, and even beyond, 2021. And he predicts “vaccination passports” may soon be required for all travelers worldwide.

"It might be an analog passport, where, you know, you think when you get vaccinated, they give you actually a little white card," he explained. “Or the more likely option in my mind is a digital app, you know, an app for your smartphone, where essentially, once you get vaccinated, you upload proof to this app”

U.S. tech companies like IBM and "CommonPass" are already developing those apps.

Credit: WCNC

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Commonpass CEO Paul Meyer said it's already widely used in the U.K. and is likely to expand even more if and when countries like the U.S. make vaccine passports a requirement for travel.

"We're rolling out with additional airlines with united, with JetBlue, with Lufthansa, with swiss, with Virgin in the coming weeks, and we'll be expanding from there," Meyer said.

 And while the security of such technology is top of mind and many are still hesitant to make plans, travel will likely be making a record-breaking comeback before we know it.

Tourism both revived and forever changed.

“For millions of us who have been stuck indoors not being able to travel," Keyes said, "it's a small price to pay to be able to once again, get out and see the world."