Starting in early March, 2020, many countries went into lock-down due to the Coronavirus. Schools closed, people started to work from home, you could not go anywhere without a mask and sanitizer, and takeout became many people’s safest way to shop for food. Then on March 14th, a travel ban was placed on the United States to 26 European Countries. Many businesses and industries were, and are, severely impacted by this pandemic. While online shopping started to be the main source of shopping for many people, one business suffered immensely, and that was the travel industry.
Impact on Travel
Prior to the pandemic, the number of U.S. daily travelers which were reported by the TSA was over 2 million, and have dropped down to less than 100,000 within a few short weeks. That being said, the number of air-travel passengers in general, has dropped 95% these last few months. That is the lowest that it has been in years. In fact, the airline industry is currently losing up to $1.6 billion every day due to the low or no numbers of passengers. Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, it is possible that future traveling will not be the same. According to Micki King, however, a travel agent at Roseville Travel whom I interviewed over the phone.
People are always going to want to travel. Once the vaccine is available, people will be thinking of traveling. It will take a while, but it will all go back to some normalcy and people will be traveling like they were before.
It is this hopeful outlook on the future that helps make things easier for clients, businesses, and the travel industry in general.
Travel Agencies were one of the major businesses that were impacted by the pandemic. Micki King of Roseville Travel was on a cruise herself, when the world went into lockdown back in March. Not knowing much about the situation, she trusted the employees on the ship. They sanitized and cleaned everything to keep their passengers safe. Being a travel agent, King knew that things were not going to be the same once she got back to the mainland. Once back at home, she went right to work at 6 am on a Sunday and started helping her customers.
Given that many of her clients were on cruises or trips at the time of the start of the lockdown, King had to figure out how to get them home safely and refund the trips, while also making sure that her customers received the best service that they can get. Even seven months after the initial travel ban, King is still refunding her clients on a daily basis for all of the canceled cruises, tours, hotels, cars, and trains over the past eight months.
Thankfully, the system that the company is run on is adaptive and every medium could be transferred so she can work from home, “Our computers are all geared to exactly what we have in the office. I could do anything I did in the office, so the office [being] temporarily closed down hasn’t affected me at all.”
The main factor that changed due to the pandemic was the fact that people do not come into the travel office anymore to plan their trips. Future trip planning and meetings are held over the phone. King also meets her clients at places such as Starbucks where they can socially distance and feel comfortable discussing their plans.
King is currently booking trips for next year, given that some cruise-lines and flights are opening up again. However, she is making her clients aware of the possibility that trips may be canceled due to the ever-changing health and safety guidelines. King said, “people are talking about [traveling and wanting to plan ahead], but they also understand that, you know, it could be canceled. I need them to be aware of the ramifications of cruise lines or tour companies canceling their schedules.”
At this time, the safest thing people can do is to not travel and stay home and stay safe, by doing so. King explained, “Masks are required the moment you step into the airport terminal and they cannot be taken off until you are at your destination and outside of the terminal.” This goes for any kind of airline travel that is currently available to the public. As for persons that are traveling at the moment King suggests, “On the flight, I would take Handiwipes, the little individual ones, where you can be wiping your hands, constantly. Also, wipe down the armrests and the tray tables, anything that you would be touching. I would be aware of where I’m sitting. Not all airlines are socially distancing. Delta and Southwest Airlines keep the middle seat empty, but that is to end soon. I would try to eliminate changing planes out of Sacramento if possible, [because] that is one less airport to deal with]. I would just be aware of this, and to be healthy. If you don’t have to travel and do not feel comfortable being around groups of people, stay home. We are all tired of staying at home so people are traveling, more by car than an airplane.”
Considering that some people have to travel for one reason or another, this pandemic has made these trips much more difficult, dangerous, and inaccessible. That being said, airport, airline, and travel employees that work in public risk their health and safety on a daily basis so that people can travel and get to the places to which they have to be.
There is not much that can tell us the future of traveling due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. However, there are resources one can use to keep track of flights and more.
When looking at the COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map given by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) it is clear to see that the majority of countries in the world are restricted in one way or another. The level of restriction varies between countries, their populations, and their number of cases and severity.
The map can be used to check the regulations and restrictions that specific countries have put into place to keep their residents safe. Given that the United States has had over 200,000 casualties to the virus, it is surprising to see that it is only partially restrictive. It is important to mention that just because certain countries are not restrictive, or partially restrictive, that does not mean that traveling is safe or should be done, regardless. Borders are primarily closed and do not let people travel through, which means that all unnecessary travel should be avoided. There is not necessarily a safe way to travel at this moment, and in order to keep everyone safe and prevent the virus from spreading, people need to stay home.
Many people love to travel and see the world or visit their relatives. However, this is momentarily not possible due to all of the travel bans and restrictions. Yes, it is difficult to not see loved ones for awhile, or to not be able to go home, but it is important to keep in mind that this pandemic will pass, eventually. Life will get back to what it used to be like prior to the virus, and people will return to traveling thanks to the help of professionals like Micki King. Considering these thoughts, it is simply a matter of time, the creation of the vaccine, and the participation of every single person in this world that will get us through these tough times.
Written by Kamelia Varasteh