By now we already know the face of travel will never be the same again, in fact most places and industries won’t. But for people around the globe the Covid-19 virus has risked much more than their lives, it has taken their entire way of life.
Tourism is what keeps many places alive
The tourism industry accounts for over 10% of global GDP and last year employed over 300 MILLION people across the world. 300 million people who now have their lives and their future at risk if we don’t start traveling again, and soon.
“Never before in history has international travel been restricted in such an extreme manner,” report by UNWTO read.Report by UNWTO.
I want to link you to a very helpful Infographic from the Visual Capitalist Website, this is a great way to get a visual understanding of just how large and all encompassing the travel industry is world wide.
For example: The Caribbean Islands used to get upwards of 20,000 visitors a day from cruise ships alone. Visitors that spent money on food, clothes, tours and provided jobs for countless business owners and their employees on the islands.
Jamaica relies on tourism for 30% of their employment, and last year Croatia raked in about $13B from tourism. Many of these island nations have been in poverty for years, and unfortunately, are also the ones hit the hardest by global travel bans. Camboia, a country that relies heavily on tourism for their labor market, was averaging over 6M visitors a year.
But by far The Philippines has been hit the hardest, losing out on 8.3 Million visitors compared to last years total numbers.
While it may be a bummer to miss out on this years family vacation, these people are losing on over half of this years tourism, including peak season, where the majority of the money is made in most places.
US travelers could help save tourism, but at what cost?
Now that the threat of the virus has mostly subdued, the majority of the world has began reopen their borders and welcome tourism in various stages. Unfortunately, due to the poor handling of the virus by the US government, American travellers who used to boast one of the strongest passports in the world, have been reduced to nine countries (a number raised to 30 when you include places allowing Americans to enter but, have heavy restrictions in place ie: self quarantining for 14 days upon arrival).
This is even more alarming when you consider the fact that the US is responsible for over 15% of global tourism, and up to 50% in certain places. Many countries not only rely on tourism, but specifically American tourism.
The US is Europe’s main source of consistent travellers, both in terms of numbers and money spent. In Italy, American tourism brings in over 2 billion dollars in revenue. With travel restrictions in place, this loss will be heavily felt by Italian tourism companies. It’s estimated that Europe will lose billions of dollars in revenue by missing out on American tourism.
So what do we do?
There are two main steps you can take to help support the reopening of borders to the US, and help stimulate the economy in direct relation to tourism.
Follow the world’s lead
There is no reason why the strategies implemented in the rest of the world won’t work here. That means strict isolation, wear a mask, get tested often, and avoid any unnecessary socialization, especially in groups. It has been proven that isolation works to lower infection numbers and eventually will lead to reopening. You want proof? Look at the over 20 countries that have started easing restrictions due to declining COVID numbers.
Now is the time to understand this isn’t about you, your freedoms, or any “rights” you think you’re entitled to. We USED to have the freedom to visit over 100 countries in the world, and now have been reduced to less than 30. It is also important to remember just how large the cost of banning US citizens is to these countries. They desperately need us for tourism, they are taking a massive loss with these bans, yet they are doing it entirely because we as a country are a huge danger to the rest of the world due to our poor handling of the pandemic.
We are the laughing stock of the world right now, and every decision we as citizens, and our government makes from here on out could potentially determine IF and when we get those freedoms to travel back.
So please do your part. Wear a mask. Isolate as much as possible and….
Start travelling locally
Now this might sound contradictory to everything else I’ve said, but hear me out. Tourism IS greatly suffering right now, and the US is included in that. But while you are busy isolating like a good hearted patriotic American, you’re gonna get bored. So start making small trips to OUTDOOR spaces, where you can safely enjoy much needed breaks from your tv.
National/State Parks are a wonderful place to be visiting right now! Many parks have small fees to get in, and are implementing handsfree payments and strictly enforcing social distancing. But hey, what could be more socially distant than hiking through the woods, or snorkeling in a spring, swimming in the river or so much more!
There ARE ways you can support travel while staying safe and helping speed up the process of reopening. And eventually, when we do get to a point where travel is safe again, take road trips visit local tourist spots. All these things will help push the travel industry as a whole back on its feet.
PS. Stay tuned for Wednesday when we will talk about a few of the ways you can still travel right now!
What if I decide to travel?
If you decide to travel, or if it is necessary for you, make sure you take the following precautions.
A number one thing you absolutely 100% NEED to do before you travel anywhere is to GET TESTED. In many places, especially those referred as “hot spots” where the virus is known to be highly prevalent, proof of a negative test is required before entering the country/state/city. Always check the location/airport/airline that you will be traveling to/through to see their specific requirements.
However, even if it isn’t required it is still the best idea to get tested to ensure you aren’t blindly spreading the virus to your fellow travelers.
Now I want to prepare you, what I am going to say next is going to be very controversial, and maybe you’ll read it and immediately close the tab and never read anything I write ever again…ready?…. You need to wear a mask. I know crazy right? And maybe you’re thinking “Well I’m not worried about getting the virus so I don’t need to wear one” or you’re thinking “Well if other people are wearing a mask then I don’t need to wear one right?”
While I wish that was how it worked, unfortunately it is not. Masks will ONLY work if EVERYONE is wearing them. The reason for this is that when you breathe tiny particles of water come out of your mouth (gross right? But have you ever been outside during the winter and could see your breath? Yeah, that’s what we’re talking about).
And then the virus (among other things like the common cold or the flu etc) can be carried along with those particles or “droplets” as they call them. Then they can land on someone else’s mouth, unless that person is wearing a mask. If they are then it lands on their mask, which is better, but still can be transmitted to said person if their mask isn’t thick enough or if they accidentally touch their mask and then touch their eyes/ears/nose/mouth.
However, if YOU are also wearing a mask then it will limit the other person’s exposure even MORE to the coronavirus, or any number of colds and flus. Think of it this way, when a person goes into surgery all the doctors have to wear masks, not because they’re afraid of “catching” something from the patient, but to protect the patient from their own germs.
So please, wear a mask. Even if it isn’t “required” where you are planning on traveling (which if you’re traveling internationally at any point in the next few years you can expect to be required to wear a mask in public at all times in much of the world).
It’s just a way to be a little more courteous to your fellow travelers so you can all continue to enjoy the amazing journey you’re embarking on!
Keep at least 6 feet or 1.5 meters away from anyone who is not in your traveling party. In addition, try to travel solo or in pairs if at all possible. This is obviously to help prevent you from receiving or transmitting the virus but it has added bonus’s like:
- Knowing you’ll have your own “spot” at the beach.
- Getting to see animal exhibits or museum pieces all by yourself without hoards of people crowding you.
- Better travel photos for the Gram, and people are easier to edit out in the background when they’re all spread apart. 😉
- More direct and clear lines at airport security, no more getting bumped by the guy with the massive backpack over and over ever again!
If there is one thing that this pandemic has taught me is that humans are filthy. I used to think I was a normal person, washing my hands and clothes a normal amount, and surrounded by a community of people who more or less did the same thing. Now I realize that every shop I go into is actually a giant cesspool of disease! (Okay, maybe not that extreme but still).
So please, wash your hands for everyone’s sake. And carry (travel sized TSA approved!) bottles of hand sanitizer to use before and after you touch anything on a plane. And it is even a safe bet to bring your own disinfectant wipes with you to wipe down your seat back, tray table, arm rests, and lap belt. These are things that didn’t get cleaned in between flights at ALL before corona and it’s likely aren’t getting that much more attention now.
And when you get to your destination it is a good idea to go ahead and give everything a good wipe down.
Put your money back into local communities
Most importantly, one of the best things you can do to protect yourself and the global economy is to invest locally! When you chose to travel locally, and shop and eat in at family owned businesses you are actively supporting the tourism industry and stimulating the economy where you live. And what that looks like is kids affording to play soccer, mom who can put food on the table, and Chris’s second semester of college.
As someone who comes from an area that relies heavily on tourism, I can say this is a cause that is close to me. Fun fact for all my Knoxville peeps: The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the number one most visited National Park in the country, AND they are 100% free. So next time you’re up in Gatlinburg, make sure you stop in on one of those adorable shops and spend a little money to help us all get back on our feet.
There are tons more ways you can “travel” while staying distant from others and close to home. Stay tuned for this Friday when we will talk about 10 Socially Distant Activities to Satisfy The Travel Bug, and on Wednesday we will be discussing how to approach travel in this post-pandemic world and share some tips and best practices.
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