The Coronavirus. It’s everywhere - literally and figuratively. It’s continuing to show up in more places worldwide. It’s on our televisions. It’s in our newspapers, on the radio and podcasts. It’s discussed at the office water cooler. The virus has now been detected in 56 different countries, and as the worldwide numbers continue to rise, the media continues to keep us in a mild panic with 24-hour coverage. Now, I am somewhat apprehensive writing about this particular subject and how it pertains to you and your travel plans. I, like most of you, am certainly concerned and somewhat fearful of the unknown. Like any virus of this kind, this too shall pass over time, but at what cost? My heart aches for anyone who has been directly impacted physically, emotionally or financially by this virus. That being said, we all have to continue living our day-to-day lives and for many of us, that includes traveling. Whether it’s for business or leisure, many of us continue to travel during this time of uncertainty concerning the virus. Hopefully, this article will provide some much-needed clarity and help you feel a little more at ease about any upcoming travel.
It has been widely reported by news outlets and the CDC, that the Coronavirus will escalate to worldwide pandemic. Due to the severity of the situation, in the coming weeks, months (and years) this virus will have a negative impact on the travel and tourism industry in a number of ways. And while I’m certain you’re sympathetic to those whose lives have been adversely affected by this deadly virus, you may also have concerns about you and your family’s travel plans. I have a few thoughts on “where we go from here”.
First, the Centers for Disease Control has reported that there are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. According to them, COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. Current symptoms reported have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. The CDC believes that the symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days of as long as 14 days after exposure.
The information below is taken directly from the CDC’s website, regarding travel during the pandemic. As you’ll see, they have multiple levels of concern based on your travel agenda:
“CDC provides recommendations on postponing or canceling travel. These are called travel notices and are based on assessment of the potential health risks involved with traveling to a certain area. A list of destinations with travel notices is available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html.
Warning Level 3: CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential travel to destinations with level 3 travel notices because of the risk of getting COVID-19.
Alert Level 2: Because COVID-19 can be more serious in older adults and those with chronic medical conditions, people in these groups should talk to a healthcare provider and consider postponing travel to destinations with level 2 travel notices.
Watch Level 1: CDC does not recommend canceling or postponing travel to destinations with level 1 travel notices because the risk of COVID-19 is thought to be low. If you travel, take the following routine precautions:
Reality and The News Media
It is important to let the current statistics comfort you rather than be the fuel that fans the flames of the unknown. All of us have been told that throughout this situation we may be asked to adjust our daily lives, albeit for a short time. The phrase I hate the most is “out of an abundance of caution”. I say, educate yourself with current facts from a reputable source, like the CDC themselves. Let those facts drive your decisions when it comes to travel plans. Be vigilant about what some may believe is sensationalism in the news media. Images of people walking around in face masks with bold, anxiety provoking headlines are all we see in our newspapers lately. The 24-hour news cycle’s goal may just as much be about turning a profit as it is about educating the public. While news organizations serve a vital role in keeping their consumers informed, media organizations have an equal commitment to their advertisers. Which means they want to keep people engaged for as long as possible. As long as you keep up with CDC announcements, you'll be just fine. Follow the simple preventative steps they recommend. There’s no need to panic. Don’t go out and buy that 10-pack of facemasks, that’s overkill. In fact, the CDC recommends not using face masks at all. Most people use them incorrectly and they do very little to prevent the spread of COVID-19. So go ahead and shut off the cable news.
Postpone Your Trip
I think it goes without saying that if you have plans to travel in Asia or anywhere the virus has been actively spreading, you should postpone this trip or travel on a must-need basis. If you already have a vacation booked (even if to a destination unaffected by COVID-19) and any member of your travel party has serious concerns, then go ahead and postpone your trip. My small children have fears about this virus so we have to quell their fear and address their concerns. In some cases that may mean adjusting travel plans slightly. At this point, based on current information, if you have to postpone your vacations, possibly move them to the fall in hopes that this is contained by then.
Airplanes, Airports And Large Groups
Places where large groups of people gather (for any reason) are locations which are usually best-equipped to deal with anything out of the ordinary. That being said, simply use common sense and adapt appropriately. For instance, today I am in Los Angeles. I’ve traveled through two major airports (JFK and LAX), flew on a packed commercial airplane and am staying at a major brand hotel chain. Yesterday and today, I washed my hands more often than I normally do. I avoided touching my face and paid attention to whom was in my close proximity. That’s the best I can do. I did not cancel my trip here. We have a full slate of travel as we produce episodes for our television series and we have not altered our travel plans based on this outbreak. We’re simply keeping extra cautious and diligent during all travel.
Stay Close To Home
If you are considering travel for leisure, but have concerns about leaving the country, then the answer is simple - don’t. If you haven't booked a trip yet then it would be wise to avoid Asia and possibly Europe until another time. Travel within the USA for now. The local economy could certainly use the revenue as travel numbers continue to plummet worldwide. It takes considerable exposure to COVID-19 to catch it, so a flight of just a couple hours should be perfectly harmless. You can attempt to avoid large crowds of people, but currently we don't have as dire a situation here in the US, so even that isn't entirely necessary. Places like cruise ships and theme parks have experts for managing these types of health scares, so you should be worry free.
Wait It Out and Strike While the Iron’s Hot
This pandemic has affected, and will continue to affect, many different industries. From food manufacturing, and agriculture, to electronics, and, of course, the worldwide travel industry. Many people have cancelled trips all across the globe, not simply just to China. At the same time, travel out of China is practically non-existent. This is hitting airlines, hotels, livery drivers and tourism industry folks very hard in the wallet. In fact, BusinessInsider.com reported last week that the US travel industry alone is projected to lose over $10 billion in lost revenue from Chinese visitors to the US! $10 billion! This means that many places will eventually be desperate to make up all of that lost revenue - which means deals! The industry won't care where you’re going, they just want you going somewhere! Once the stigma of COVID-19 dies down, feel free to take advantage of flight and hotel packages that will undoubtedly be offered at a discounted rate. As long as you continue to monitor the situation where you live and where you’re traveling to, you should be perfectly fine. Common sense and due diligence - the two most important things you’ll need while traveling this coming year.
Healthy and Safe Travels!
About The Author
Erik Hastings, a.k.a. Erik the Travel Guy is an EMMY award-winning television personality who speaks directly to consumers who can't afford to "get their vacations wrong". He is the host and managing editor of the internationally syndicated television series "Beyond Your Backyard" for public broadcasting stations (PBS) and other networks/VOD platforms. Erik leads an incredibly talented team of industry pros and is the editorial driving force of his platform. While the travel industry directly supports millions of families worldwide, Erik believes travel makes the world a better place. Through exploration and discovery, he has learned that travel brings cultures together and he eagerly shares that spirit with his viewers.
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TV Series: Beyond Your Backyard
Audio: His Podcast
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. As the host of the Emmy award- winning, nationally syndicated television television for PBS and the Create channel, "Beyond Your Backyard," I travel (on average) 25 weeks per year. I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet cool people, experience new places, eat delicious food and work with the best production crew in the world. Hopefully, through this blog, you will join me on my travels and be reminded just how exciting it is to be alive!
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