Photo by Alessia Coconi/unsplash
I will be back in Italy again soon, as soon as I can.
Now is the time to think about the endless allure of travel, why it always bounces back, and how we can support our friends around the world.
With the storm of events, cancellations, and all-around sad news surrounding COVID-19, I have been thinking a lot about why I love the travel industry. Daily, I’m emailing and texting friends weathering the storm with their travel businesses.
My first instinct was to nest a bit. Bake from my new favorite cookbook, Midwest Made. Watch a lot of Netflix. That’s fine, too. But I am so glad we did not cancel a family trip to Portugal last weekend.
We considered it, even though the United Kingdom has no travel advisories except to mainland China, South Korea, and Italy. (Beloved Italy! We will travel there as soon as we can.) The headlines felt relentless. Would the airport be a ghost town? Turns out, traveling was the only thing that helped us feel better, to realize that the world is still turning. With the industry’s appropriate focus on how to combat overtourism in the past few years, I was scared of the opposite end of the spectrum: no travelers at all. But the airport and flights were packed, the island was lively with tourists, people were pouring out of cruise ships in port.
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Then we got home and the week spiraled. Italy was shut down. The United States announced no flights to and from Europe (not including the United Kingdom) for 30 days. It is a minute-to-minute whiplash of information. Obviously, we all have to make our own decisions right now. My family and I will likely stay home for a few weeks and then choose to travel. I assume more restrictions are headed our way in the United Kingdom, which has taken a calm, measured approach so far.
In Portugal, I realized more and more the importance of our (and others’) money and where it was going: the wonderful staff at our hotel, tour guides, taxi drivers, restaurant workers, shop owners, baby-sitters. That is one side of the industry, the people we meet and support when we go. And as I enter my fifteenth year in travel, I am reminded of how important our friendships and connections are within the industry. I know exactly who to call when I need a new trip idea, a great restaurant in Paris, the best tour guide in Buenos Aires, a gut check on a hotel. I have work (work!) memories with friends and colleagues watching fireworks over Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, sailing on the Mekong River, waking up early for the sunrise at Angkor Wat, trying on diamonds in India, watching the penguins emerge from the water on Phillip Island in Australia, riding bikes through the English countryside, dancing in Cannes. I met my husband at a travel conference, so I will always be grateful.
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Ever since I was a journalism major in college, I wanted to work in travel. It’s a long story, but I clawed my way in and eventually started working for top travel magazines and newspapers. It is glamorous to see the world, and I always say the second I’m jaded about an amazing hotel room view, I need to get out of this industry, because we are so lucky. But that is not what’s most important for me now. It is connecting the dots between people I know. It’s working to figure out what will make more people want to get off their couch and go. It’s figuring out how to be a more responsible and sustainable traveler.
Industry influencers like travel advisors will be the ones booking and encouraging people to travel again. Across a wide range of businesses—travel agencies, onsites, media, cruise lines, and tourism boards—we work so hard to create and deliver the best experiences, information, and access in the world for travelers. And we need to keep doing it. The trips might be for a few months from now, but travel isn’t going anywhere.
Now is the time to think about the endless allure of travel, why it always bounces back, and how we can support our friends all around the world. I’ll see you at the airport, or the train station, as soon as we can.
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