Richard Turen
Richard Turen

They say that "when the going gets tough, the tough get going." But, going where? There are few places left that will let us in. We find ourselves in the unusual position of being unwelcome in large portions of the world. We're not sure that there are airlines willing to fly us or small hotels willing -- or even still open -- to host and charm us.

And few of the folks who we'd like to come visit us from overseas are willing or able to journey to the U.S. and risk being turned away or quarantined.
The pandemic's effect on our tourism economy is much more serious than first envisioned.

The World Travel & Tourism Council has issued a report that the U.S. economy stands to lose $155 billion as a result of the collapse of international travel in 2020.

This catastrophe equates to a loss to the U.S. of about $3 billion each week, mirroring a 79% drop of international visitors.

But we're doing our best to make up for this. In fact, we're doing the only prudent thing left to do: We're going on vacation ourselves, along with our clients, visiting the country with the highest number of Covid deaths worldwide -- our own. We're driving, we're flying, and a growing number of us are buying or renting RVs. Some of us will social distance when we get there -- others of us feel certain that there is a mask manufacturer on a back road in Wuhan, China, that launched this entire hoax. 

Meanwhile, we try to step back and view the travel landscape as practitioners in the travel arts. 

Unfortunately, it is not a pretty sight.

On Oct. 1, airlines in the U.S. will again have the right to furlough tens of thousands of employees.

Hotel chains and independents have tasked their marketing departments to create memorable "We're Uniquely Safe" messages to consumers. But, how to stand out with that kind of messaging?

Logic seems to dictate that tour operators will need two buses instead of one to maintain any kind of social distancing. Perhaps two guides, as well.

The cruise industry has been making some real progress, and many are surprised to learn that a few ships and riverboats have been successfully sailing this summer. Officially, the cruise industry, when given CDC approval, will be "good to go" when the order is given.

But that may not happen all at once. Some lines will likely not be able to launch until next year, and I have heard projected start dates as late as July 1, assuming there is a vaccine this year. And launching "fleets" may not be the norm. It is more likely specific ships on specific itineraries will first test the consumer waters.

We are seeing brick-and-mortar travel offices close more quickly than new dollar stores are opening. No one is paying real money to acquire travel agencies anymore, but we are seeing numerous realignments and mergers. 

The concept of face-to-face meetings with clients who live nearby is fast becoming a fond memory of times past. Zoom is the newest iteration of what passes for human interaction in our industry. 

We will emerge from these times renewed and successful. The best among us will survive and then thrive. But we won't make it if we underestimate the challenges still ahead. 

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