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Moving in place

Year 2020 may have put a stop to travel, but dreams still took flight

A journey in time: The author negotiates a glacier at Skaftafell National Park in Iceland. — PHOTO BY JAKOB KURC

WHAT AN IRONY it was, that when I started focusing on travel stories for “Velocity” early in 2020, the pandemic was soon declared and all forms of leisure travel were brought to an abrupt halt.

I also remember writing a magazine column exactly a year ago, talking about what were then the latest forecasts and trends in the fields of transportation and tourism. I mentioned that there had been a documented rise in the demand for eco-tourism and, with it, some stronger consumer influence over the sustainability index of the latest vehicles.

I pointed out that even the mobility needs of global events, such as those of the originally-scheduled-for-2020 Tokyo Olympics, had become strongly driven by environmental sensitivity. The futuristic Japanese capital had aimed to become a glorious example of how civilization could choose to do things right; and even committed to showcase their latest in transportation technology, sustainability, and even accessibility for the disabled. Robots have been designed to greet visitors and to help give directions, while as much as 90% of their vehicles meant to service people around was slated to be electric — with even some of them driverless. As a matter of fact, the country’s goal was to achieve a level of emissions that would be the lowest ever recorded of all the Olympic games in the past: A massively challenging, but unsurprisingly Japanese gesture of respect for the planet.

But the Tokyo Olympics didn’t happen last year. And many factory production lines in factories were temporarily disrupted with the advent of the pandemic. Hopefully, this is merely a delay in schedule of things that are still bound to happen.

While the rise in the availability of electric and hybrid vehicles still holds true in our country, the transition may have partially slowed down due to the economic toll of the ongoing pandemic. We have instead seen a spike in the purchase of second-hand vehicles, and also an even larger demand for more affordable motorcycles. It appears that in the absence of any safe and reliable form of mass transportation, people have begun to better appreciate the value of independent mobility, no matter how basic.

Moreover, with several provinces slowly reopening their tourism industry (in an effort to help keep their hotels and merchants afloat), it appears that land travel has become one of the more popular and trusted ways to go for a quick and safe holiday — even if only to help keep people’s mental health stable.

Happily, the introduction of new vehicle models went on in 2020, as car manufacturers seemingly rolled with the economic punches from the crisis by adapting their business models to the times and offer ever-more affordable vehicles with even more bells and whistles to entice even the most cost-particular consumers. Case in point: We now have a vast plethora of Chinese-made, extremely affordable and feature-packed vehicles. The models that have been brought in are so carefully selected, and the majority of them lean towards crossovers and SUV variants. Meanwhile, other manufacturers are bringing in products built in Malaysia to likewise decrease production cost, increase product value, and compete in the Philippine motoring market.

What does 2021 hold for us? To be honest, it’s hard to say — but we certainly must ready ourselves for even more surprises.

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