The World Awaits
Travel Beyond the Pandemic
By Susan Hammond: Agency Owner/Luxury Travel Advisor
As I write this article, the state of Colorado is moving towards the Safer At Home phase of this pandemic. Retailers are opening via curbside, dog groomers can get back to clipping our pets’ nails and trimming the hair out of their eyes, and we all are continuing to keep our hands washed and practicing social distancing.
Throughout the last 6 weeks, we have seen the world go from bad to worse in the travel industry. I recall getting a phone call at midnight on March 16 from my dear clients traveling in East Africa. They were just told that the borders in Kenya were getting ready to shut down, and they needed to evacuate immediately. Trained in crisis management, I instantly sprang into action getting their air rebooked before the airport shut down and thankfully getting them home as safely and quickly as possible.
We have all seen the horror stories coming by way of social and mass media with some online travel agents (OTAs) like Bookit.com ceasing operations and stranding thousands of their passengers all over the world. Call hold times to OTAs, Costco, cruise lines and tour operators were maxing out 3-4 hours, only to be disconnected. I and all the travel advisors at Endless Travel spent many hours getting all our clients home safely and either cancelled or rebooked their current vacations that were planned over the next few months. I was proud of our efforts and that when our clients called, we answered the phone on the first ring.
When the coronavirus releases its grip, and we slowly start to safely emerge from our homes, the world we see will not look the same as we entered a quasi-hibernation in March 2020. So, I will attempt to speculate what the travel industry will look like on the other side of this mighty virus.
Over the past several weeks, I have been spending many hours reading, participating in industry webinars, and partaking in Zoom meetings with our preferred travel suppliers. One Zoom meeting recently included executives from Travel Guard, Apple Vacations and Royal Caribbean. You think I have a tough job right now? Think again! The VP of Sales from Royal Caribbean never ever dreamed that she needed to worry about finding a parking lot for 27 cruise ships!
Just like 9/11 forever changed air travel, I think the cruise industry will need to make the biggest changes in order to entice their guests aboard again. There are reports that buffets will be turned into food courts allowing the crew to serve each passenger with a plexiglass shield acting as a barrier. Staggering embarkation times, temperature reads, more in-depth health questionnaires and requiring high-risk passengers to have a doctor’s note that they are fit to travel are just some ideas that are currently being discussed by the cruise industry executives. There is also talk about adding medical staff to ships, and I personally would like for each mid to large size vessel to convert a section of the ship that can easily and quickly be transformed to a quarantine ward protecting all those that are healthy.
Beyond this pandemic, I believe that our world is going to be much cleaner and more sanitized. I receive an email every business day from our favorite travel supplier located in Livorno, Italy that works with cruise lines and travel advisors offering shore excursions and tailor-made tours all over Italy that never disappoints. They report that marine life has joyously returned to the lagoon of Venice. Jellyfish propelling themselves along near the surface, schools of fish swim peacefully by, crustaceans clinging to the city's famous jetties, and seaweed of every colour wafts gently on the current is occurring now due to the murky waters clearing in this beautiful and historic city. Airplanes will be cleaner too. Some airlines are already blocking out middle seats on their aircraft and considering loading the planes from the rear first. JetBlue is now providing masks to be worn onboard, and United is promoting that they are electrostactic spraying all their airplanes.
In the foreseeable future, I am noticing that the travel suppliers are continuing with flexible cancellation and rebooking policies. I believe that Americans will emerge from a haze of cabin fever eager to explore the world again. We value the freedom to travel more than ever before, but we expect with different priorities and intentions. Anticipating a trip is a lot like looking forward to a special meal. Both offer the promise of pleasure, a carnival for the senses and a break from our everyday life.
Travel is going to be more complicated going forward, and the benefits of working with a professional Endless Travel advisor cannot be understated, especially now. In addition to knowing the best travel suppliers (and who may be having special deals), we are well-informed about the solvency of various suppliers and can steer you away from a bad investment, which is key during this tumultuous economic climate. And when it comes to navigating travel insurance, we can also match your circumstances with the right provider and policy.
We are all working at home, available to assist or answer any questions. We send best wishes to everyone in our community and hope everyone is safe, healthy and staying sane. We believe that travel really brings people together so see you soon!