Read Time: 15 Minutes
Post Date: 14th April 2020
Feeling dejected? Well, we all are! After all, exploring the world and learning about new cultures is what we love from the core of our hearts. This keeps us going by rejuvenating our soul and mind.
I had my trip planned to the Philippines in July, with two of my friends. I still remember the day when we decided to visit this amazing nation. It was the second Sunday of January 2020. We were sitting in a plush mall located in the Southern part of Kolkata (a metropolitan city in Eastern India) planning our next trip when one of my friends expressed his urge to visit the Philippines. His idea delighted us, and we all decided to buy our flight tickets in March.
Little did we know, all our planning, wasting hours reading blogs about the best places to visit, and drooling over those breath-taking images of the islands of Philippines would go in vain.
Thanks to Coronavirus disease, a.k.a COVID-19!
The Coronavirus travel restrictions imposed by most nations compelled me to decide against my heart’s desire. My conscience is still trying its best to make my inner self understand the cons of traveling amidst this global threat. Chances of succeeding are feeble, I know that!
I strongly feel that there was a pre-Coronavirus world, and now we will forever live in a post-Coronavirus world
As a travel freak, you might be facing the same issues. So, here goes my anecdote of conscience, Coronavirus, and travel. I hope it will help you take the best decision.
According to the World Health organisation (WHO), Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by the single-stranded virus known as Corona. Patients below the age of 45 affected with this deadly disease experience mild to moderate respiratory issues and usually recover without any special treatment. However, older patients having cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease, may develop serious illness.
Studies suggest that the Coronavirus gets transmitted from one person to another through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when a person already infected with this virus coughs or sneezes. The worst part? The COVID-19 has an innate ability to spread easily and sustainably in the community.
Currently, there are no vaccines or treatments available for COVID-19.
What is the Present Global Scenario?
The total number of deaths all over the world has already crossed 100,000. The tallies, provided by the World Health Organisation, likely reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. Many countries are still in the testing phase. Italy and the United States of America have become the epicentre of COVID-19, overtaking China. Check here for more information.
The Coronavirus and travel seem to have developed an ever-lasting enmity. Undeniably, the tourism industry is entering a global crisis due to COVID-19. The travel industry entirely depends on human movement to thrive. And with lockdown imposed on almost every nation and airlines ceasing to operate, no one is moving right now.
The industry currently accounts for 10% of the global GDP, according to data published. The World Travel and Tourism Council has stated that the COVID-19 travel restrictions can lead to unemployment of more than 50 million people. Asia is expected to be the most fatal victim.
However, it is difficult to understand the complete impact, as no one has a precise idea about how long the pandemic would last. Most countries have issued a Coronavirus travel advisory, barring foreign nationals from entering the country.
Out of the 50 million people who could end us losing their job, 30 million could be from Asia, while Europe and America may witness 7 million and 5 million job cuts respectively. The World Travel and Tourism Council also predicted that fall in global travel due to COVID-19 travel restrictions would cut 12% to 14% jobs in the entire travel industry. Airlines and cruise ships will suffer the most.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that global air transport could shrink by 5% this year. This means the global airline industry could suffer a loss of 29.3 Billion (about 27,000 million Euros). Without any doubt, the entire travel and tourism industry is going through a topsy-turvy, with significant loses being reported worldwide.
I doubt whether the small to mid-level online publications will make it through. The infamous 2008 financial crisis led to a very similar situation. It shattered the doors of lots of publication. Those that live off advertising, brand deals, and events will have to suffer the most due to plummeting ad rates and traffic post Coronavirus. I believe most brand deals too will be on hold.
Consequently, publishing houses may lay-off employees, give pay-cuts, and witness a drastic fall in revenue. A lot of creators, YouTubers, writers, and bloggers rely on brand partnership for revenue, they might experience the heat too!
Needless to say; the freelance writing market is not very lucrative, the prospect of months of zero income may drive a lot of people out of the industry. I already know a few who are looking for an exit.
Furthermore, I think many hostels, travel start-ups, and small to mid-level tour operators will suffer! Most small businesses operate with a tiny margin and lack liquidity. A prolonged shock to their business like this will bankrupt them. They have too much overhead cost to sustain. Many will wrap up their operations, and when you travel again, you will have fewer hostels and tour companies to choose.
What’s The Situation In India?
The Coronavirus pandemic has severely affected the Indian travel and tourism industry. According to Industry Chamber, it has never witnessed such a crisis before, where every vertical of the industry is bleeding profusely.
The entire tourism chain, including but not limited to tour operations, destinations, restaurants, family entertainment venues, hotels, travel agents, and air, land and sea transportation are facing the demand shock.
According to the leading players of the industry like Yatra and MakeMyTrip, the rate of cancellation started going up as the news of the virus gradually crossed the borders of China. The spokesperson of both the companies further added that the bookings for October 2020 to March 2021, which should have already started by now, are mute.
Clearly, these are all discouraging signs for the Indian travel and tourism industry.
The cancellation of visas for foreign tourists and a strong Coronavirus travel advisory issued to the Indians to avoid traveling without a reason will only widen the demand-supply gap in the coming months. Industry analysts believe, unless the progression of the virus stops at a global level, the industry will remain at stake for the entire year. Click here to know how the virus is killing even local tourism.
So, Should You Plan A Trip in the Next Few Months?
With most countries imposing COVID-19 travel restrictions, it is now not possible to plan a trip abroad or within the country. Now, you might be thinking “all this is a fuss, and I would plan my trip immediately after the lockdown ends”, well then my friend, you’re gravely mistaken. This is not going to get over soon (though I hope it does, and we all get an opportunity to pack our bags again)!
Traveling in the next few months, or at least till September, will not be a wise decision. You may end up being a carrier to the virus and affect a fresh lot of people there, or affect people around you after returning (by being a host to the virus).
According to the World Health Organisation, community spreading is one of the major reasons behind the outbreak of Coroanavirus globally. And without any second thought, traveling is one of the biggest contributors to community spreading.
Confused? Well, then let me explain it to you what community spreading is, and why it’s really a big deal.
Community spread means contact between two or more individuals in a particular community that spreads whatever the infection may be, in this case, COVID-19. So if you’re planning to travel in the next months, just remember that you might end up putting thousands of people at risk, no matter in which country or state you’re planning to travel.
What if you as a carrier come in contact with your aged parents or in-laws and transfer the disease to them? You should realize that it’s not only about you, rather it’s a battle that the entire human race is fighting.
Isn’t it better to be a soldier, rather than contributing to community spreading?
Know the worst part? You can get infected in flight as well, even if you don’t come in contact with an infected person in either of the countries.
When a person carrying the virus coughs or sneezes, they shed droplets of saliva, mucus, or other body fluids. In any of the case, if the droplets fall on you, or if you touch them by mistake, and then touch your face, the virus may get transmitted to your body as well.
Now, you don’t have any clue where your aircraft is coming from (as domestic flights often do nearby international trips and vice versa), nor do you know whether any of the cabin crews or the person sitting just next to you is carrying the virus. Do you? Well, NO!
So, don’t you think it’s better to avoid traveling, unless necessary, just for the next 5 to 6 months at least. Depending on the scenario, you can plan a trip after that!
No Big Deal – I will Make a Domestic Trip.
Does that change anything? You’ll be traveling either by flight or train, in both the cases you are putting yourself and the country at risk. What seems to be a normal flu, maybe the early symptoms of COVID-19.
No matter if you are traveling within the boundaries of the country, or to a place with no history of COVID-19, you are still at risk. The other passengers may have a travel history to the affected states or are carrying the virus, without getting affected themselves, you are not sure, right?
My advice: don’t take any decision in haste, wait for the Governments to lift the COVID-19 travel ban, monitor the situation closely, and then take a decision.
Well, I strongly believe no Virus in the Universe can stop travel freaks like us from exploring the world! I believe, demand will come back stronger than ever, once normalcy restores, and peace prevails between Coronavirus and travel.
However, tour operators may witness fewer bookings in international travel packages for a couple of years. As a result, domestic travel bookings will witness a surge.
Moreover, the recession that will follow could shorten the traditional two-week summer vacation into a long weekend. But, I expect international trips to surge once the global economy picks pace.
But my biggest concern is, countries will be on-guard about fully opening up until they are completely sure that tourists from a particular county won’t be importing the virus again, or until a particular vaccine is available for the public. No one will be willing to open their borders and go through a second wave of the infection.
I won’t be surprised if you notice authorities checking your temperature at the airport or start asking for evidence that you are COVID-19 negative.
Should You Plan a Trip to Italy in the Coming Quarters?
Italy currently has the highest number of confirmed cases in Europe. Till date, the country has reported 162,488 confirmed cases and 21,067 deaths. Lombardy, known for its plush malls and restaurants, has witnessed the maximum number of deaths.
On March 9th, the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte decided to put the entire country on lockdown till the last week of April, as the number of cases all over the country started to surge.
All international and domestic flights were suspended and entry to every museum and archaeological sites, including the country’s two most popular tourist destinations – Colosseum and Vatican Museums in Rome were barred. Public events and religious ceremonies, including weddings and funerals were also put on hold.
Judging by the current situation, I don’t think the Italian Government will lift the Coronavirus travel restrictions anytime soon. They shouldn’t actually! So, should you plan a trip to Italy just after the restriction is lifted? Well, that’s entirely your call! But, I would advise you not to!
Planning a trip to the worst-affected country in Europe, immediately after the travel restrictions are lifted, will not be a wise decision. You could experience the aftermaths of the storm, if you know what I mean.
Is it Safe to Travel to France in the Next Few Months?
France was the first country in Europe to report cases of Coronavirus. French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe imposed a countrywide lockdown from March 16th to April 15th to break the chain.
As of this day, the country has reported 143,303 confirmed cases and 15,729 deaths. The count is expected to surge in the next couple of weeks, which is quite natural. So, should you consider visiting France immediately after the graph flattens? No, definitely not!
Firstly, we don’t have any idea when the Government will decide to lift the Coronavirus travel ban and start granting visas and secondly, you will put yourself, as well, as those around you at risk.
The graph has flattened or the spread has been contained doesn’t imply that the virus is gone forever. You can turn out to be a carrier and affect a fresh lot of people there, or carry the same to your country.
And, we all know France is a tourist hotspot of the world; you would be meeting tourists from several countries, without having any knowledge about their travel history and medical records. So, it is best to postpone it for a few months. France isn’t going ANYWHERE!
Should You Consider the U.S Instead?
The United States reported 611,156 confirmed cases and 25,924, as of today. President Donald J. Trump has extended the social distancing guidelines through April 30. Travel restrictions were already imposed on most European and South-Asian nations.
On analysing the current scenario, I strongly feel that it will at least take a month and a half for the U.S to overcome this situation. Planning a trip in the next few months will, therefore, not be a wise decision at all, even if Trump lifts the travel ban. Prevention is better than cure, isn’t it?
I understand your craving to visit these most sought-after tourist destinations in the world. But health is important, right? Wait till September, observe the situation, and if everything goes well, obviously plan a trip to any of these amazing nations and fulfil your heart’s desire.
Is India Safe to Travel?
India is one those countries that didn’t waste much time to understand the gravity of the situation The prompt measures taken by the Central Government, followed by the State Governments, helped contain the situation a lot.
Operations of all domestic and international flights were cancelled on March 23, 2020, till further notice. A countrywide lockdown was also imposed from March 22, 200, till 15th April 2020. Now, it has been extended till May 3rd. All other necessary measures were taken to break the chain and contain community spreading.
Quarantine centres and isolation wards were built at immediate notice, healthcare workers were deployed to provide free treatment to the affected, and special finances packages were declared. However, things are still not in control! Nothing can be concluded until May.
So, if you’re planning a trip to India in the next couple of months, I would advise you to postpone your trip until the second quarter. You will put a lot of lives at risk if you decide to travel between May to July. Even if you’re not affected, or don’t have a travel history to worst affected places, you don’t know a bit about your co-passengers or cabin crews.
They might affect you, and you may turn out to be a carrier, spreading the virus here in India. The other way round is also true. Furthermore, we have no idea when the Central Government will lift the COVID-19 travel restrictions and things will restore to normalcy. To avoid visa rejection or any other issues, postpone your trip to India by 5 – 6 months.
Once we triumph over this deadly virus and normal life resumes, we would feel more than happy to welcome you to our country. We Indians firmly believe in Atithi Devo Bhava – The Guest is God. And, I guess, you won’t find any other country safer than India at least in Asia, as far as COVID-19 is concerned. Despite our massive geographical extent and diverse demography, our total number of confirmed cases and the death toll is way lower than most developed nations. Till date, the number of confirmed cases stands at 11,487, with 393 deaths.
Precautions That You Must Take in Your Future Trips
After the war ends, your responsibility towards the human race won’t come to an end. On the flip side, it will increase.
Here’s a list of precautions that you must take in your future trips to avoid getting affected with this contagious disease –
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you notice anyone is continuously coughing or sneezing, maintain at least 3 meters of distance.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for about 20 seconds. You can also use hand sanitizers while traveling, but make sure it has at least 60% alcohol content
- Don’t touch your eyes, mouth, and nose with unwashed hands.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your hand or tissue while coughing or sneezing. Then, throw the used tissues in the trash.
- Avoid shaking hands with people. Resort to the Indian way of greeting people, fold your hands and say ‘Namaste’.
- Try to wear a mask, preferably N95.
Remember: all these little actions of ours can have a huge impact on our well-being, as well as on people around us.
How Can You Keep Yourself Engaged?
I know what you are thinking right now as a travel enthusiast – “how long will I have to stay back home?” or “when will I be able to pack my bags next?” To be honest, I don’t have the answer, nor does anyone! But, don’t you think, fate has given an excellent opportunity to spend time with our family or get in touch with our buddies with whom we hardly contact?
Well, I am enjoying this phase too! Spending time with my mom, helping her in whatever way I could, texting my old friends, randomly, calling them on WhatsApp, putting statuses on Facebook, and posting old pictures of mine on Instagram. And obviously, Working from Home for 9 hours, which I hardly get in normal situations. Let me put it in this way – I am enjoying the NEW NORMAL!
And if you are desperately missing packing your bags, you can try watching travel vlogs, read blogs, learn a new language, or how to take stunning pictures, to get yourself through this depressing state.
So, here was my narrative on Coronavirus and travel. We all may not get an opportunity to do real travel for a while, but there are no restrictions on dreaming or taking on a virtual journey. After all, that is what the rest of the pages of my travel diary comprises – virtual journeys for you and fond memories for me.
Before concluding, I sincerely want to thank all the front-line warriors, that is to all the doctors and nurses who are working day and night to save our lives. We will never forget your contributions! A sincere thanks from all the Earthlings!
P.S: Please don’t forget to share yours in the comment section. Stay home, Stay Safe!