What Does the Future Hold for Travel?


First off, I don’t have a crystal ball, so these musings are just my gut feelings. Let’s start off with the header I just put up on our Emerging Horizons website.

We invite our readers to indulge in a little armchair travel, or maybe even make plans for trips in the coming years; but gently remind you that now is not the time to travel. Stay home and stay safe.

As a travel journalist, I’m somewhat torn here. On the one hand many of my friends in the tourism industry are deeply affected by this tragedy; however on the other hand as a responsible journalist I owe my readers nothing short of the truth. And the truth is, we all need to stay home right now. And maybe for some time in the future.

As I was fact checking my next book yesterday, every travel and tourism website that I visited stated that they were closed due to Covid-19, and had no idea when they would reopen. And after hours and hours of seeing the same message, it really struck me. That’s the reason for the new header on our website. We just have to be realistic here.

Personally I have cancelled all of our travel plans through the end of the summer, and things are on hold for the rest of the year. I am definitely not taking our planned trip to China in 2021 – which included a visit to Wuhan and a Three Gorges cruise. And right now I’m thinking that I don’t want to get on a plane until they have a tried and true vaccine for Covid-19.

Big events – like the Utah Shakespeare Festival – are definitely out of the question too. I got a refund for my August tickets to four plays yesterday. I know the folks at the festival are trying their best to put on the shows and keep within social distancing standards, but I’m just not comfortable with it.

Why? Am I afraid of getting sick?

Not really; in fact there’s a good chance that Charles and I have already had it. And even if we haven’t, we both have strong immune systems.

I’m more afraid of being a carrier. There is so much that is not known about Covid-19 and I would hate to unknowingly bring the disease to others. Yes, I know they are developing serology tests for antibodies, but even if you test positive, there’s no guarantee that you can’t also be a carrier.

Like I said, there’s a lot we don’t know about this disease.

As far as foreign travel goes, mostly I fear being stuck in another country when the next wave of the disease hits. And most experts agree that there will be a second wave.

I think after the shutdowns are lifted travel will rebound very slowly. I think we will see more domestic travel and more road trips. That said, we may see some state border checkpoints in some of the least affected states, at least for a while. It will be a gradual opening up of the country – it’s not like we will flip a switch and everything will be back to normal.

Cruises? That’s a hard call as there will be so many discounts to lure passengers back, but it’s just hard to erase the visions of those poor folks who were trapped on the cruise ships. And the phrase “floating petri dish” lingers on in my mind. I think the cruise industry will be slow to rebound, and perhaps fewer sailings will be offered by the cruise lines. After all, it’s expensive to sail on a ship that’s half empty. And the cruise lines need to turn a profit, especially now.

We’ve also seen an amazing turn for the better with Mother Earth during the shutdown – pollution has subsided and nature seems to be healing itself. And that’s not a bad thing. In some ways I yearn for what travel was like 40 or so years ago – when it was harder to actually get to some places. It kind of made the journey all that much more magical. I think that may also be the case to some extent in the future, because some small suppliers just won’t be able to survive.

As for me, I’ve been writing – a lot – and I plan to continue to do so. I haven’t been posting much because I wasn’t sure if that was the responsible thing to do right now. But now that I have the disclaimer on our website, I feel more comfortable posting travel articles, so at least folks can dream of the future.

Like I said, I don’t have a crystal ball, but these are my feelings on the state of the travel industry, and what the recovery will look like.

For now, stay home, and stay safe. And enjoy a little armchair travel.