Search This Blog

Thursday, March 19, 2020

If You Want To Take A Trip During The Pandemic, Try Acid Or Peyote

In early February-- recently back from Thailand and having just canceled a summer trip to the Dordogne region of France-- I wrote a coronavirus travel post, much of it a warning about air travel. Hard to believe only month and a half has passed.

Now we find ourselves in a situation with airlines cancelling flights and governments closing borders and enforcing quarantines. Thousands of Americans are stranded overseas-- Senate Intel chair Richard Burr (R-NC) warned campaign donors but not the public of what was coming-- and the State Department has ruled out rescue flights. Basically, they have no option but to wait, probably for months before they can get home.

On Thursday, the State Department a global Level 4 travel advisory. That's as dire as it gets; there is no Level 5. The State Department is basically telling all Americans not to travel abroad at all and telling Americans who are abroad to either come home immediately-- mostly impossible-- or to "shelter in place." No new passports are being issued other than to people with "life or death emergencies." These are the latest dozen tweets from the Department's travel section-- all from this morning:
Due to #COVID19 related public health measures, effective March 20, passport agencies will only accept applications from customers with life-or-death emergencies who plan to travel within 72 hours. Some passport acceptance facilities may also suspend services. Due to #COVID19 related operational changes, we will not offer expedited passport service on or after March 20 and routine processing (normally 6-8 weeks) may be delayed. More information
#Mauritius: Mauritius has barred admission to all travelers, including nationals, as of Mar. 19, GMT. U.S. citizens considering returning to the US are urged to work with their airlines to make travel arrangements while flights are still available. more
#SouthAfrica: On March 18, South Africa barred admission to travelers who have recently visited the United States, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, and China. All US citizen visitors must have visas prior to arrival to enter. more
#Croatia: All travelers barred from admission except Croatian citizens returning home, foreign citizens departing to their home countries, diplomats, law enforcement, medical workers, controlled shipments of goods, and others on a case by case basis. more
#Angola: The Government of Angola announced that all international flights will be cancelled effective March 20. US citizens who are considering returning to the US are urged to work with airlines to make arrangements while flights are still available. more
#Bulgaria: The Bulgarian government has banned the entry of third-country (non-EU) nationals, including U.S. citizens, into the country from March 20 to April 17. This includes all border crossing points and aviation, maritime, rail, and road. more
#Laos: The Government of Laos announced the suspension of the issuance of visas on arrival, visas at Lao Diplomatic Missions, and eVisas, as well as visa exemption programs. These restrictions are scheduled to be in place for 30 days starting March 20. more
#Bermuda: Effective March 20, at 11:59pm, L.F. Wade Airport will close for incoming passenger flights for 2 weeks. Only returning residents will be allowed on flights arriving March 19 & 20. If departing, work with airlines while flights still available. more
#PapuaNewGuinea: Any traveler who has been to or transited through the United States, or any other restricted place, in the 14 days prior to their intended arrival will not be permitted to enter the country. Other restricted places listed here: more
#Bermuda: Several airlines have reduced or suspended flight services between Bermuda and the US. US citizens who are considering returning to the United States are urged to work with their airlines to make travel arrangements while flights are available. more
#Colombia: The Mayor of Bogota announced a drill from March 20-23 during which all people are ordered to stay off the streets or else face possible fines. Additionally, airlines have begun curtailing or ceasing operations in Colombia. more
#Madagascar: All international flights will be cancelled effective March 20, 2020. The Government of Madagascar has also announced cruise ships may not stop in Madagascar. more
This was from Wednesday-- one day ago:

#Ethiopia: Rise in anti-foreigner sentiment revolving around the announcement of COVID-19 in Ethiopia. Reports indicate that foreigners have been attacked with stones, denied transportation services, spat on, chased on foot, and accused of being infected. more

As I mentioned Wednesday, Thailand is a heavily tourism-dependent country. Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that "Thailand's government is imposing stricter rules on international travel that require people arriving from all countries to have health certificates stating they do not have the coronavirus, along with medical insurance covering the disease. The measures fall short of the total bans on international flights many countries have enacted, but are expected to sharply cut the number of visitors. Thailand has been reluctant to endanger its large tourism industry, which accounts for about 12% of its economy, according to official figures."
The decision comes just two days after the government announced that medical certificates and insurance would be required only for people arriving from “disease infected zones”-- South Korea, China, Macao, Hong Kong, Italy and Iran-- or who had visited "ongoing local transmission areas"-- the United States, parts of Japan, Britain and eight other European countries.

The health certificates now required for all arrivals must be issued within 72 hours of departure, and the insurance must cover $100,000 in medical costs.

Thai citizens also need to have health certificates but not insurance policies. In addition they will have to self-quarantine for 14 days. Quarantine rules for arriving foreigners remain unclear.

"Today we are trying to block those who bring the disease into Thailand, so that's why I tell you that everyone who is about to enter Thailand should have a health certificate," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said. "That is an extension from four countries and two territories, but today we need it from every country as we attempt to control the outbreak in the country and lower the number of infected people as much as we can.

" Thailand on Thursday reported 60 new confirmed cases of the virus, bringing its total to 272. It has registered one death and discharged 42 recovered patients.

On Tuesday the government announced a raft of measures to combat the virus, including postponing a major holiday and shutting down schools nationwide. Provincial governors have been empowered to close venues where people gather, including massage parlors, entertainment places, gyms and sports venues. The popular tourist destination of Phuket on Thursday joined Bangkok and other provinces in applying such restrictions.

Postponing the annual public holiday of Songkran is meant to discourage the gathering and movement of large numbers of people. Millions of Thais normally travel from the big cities where they work to their hometowns during the three-day holiday to celebrate the traditional New Year. It will be rescheduled later this year.
Egypt is also heavily dependent on tourism (3rd biggest source of income)-- or at least they were until the industry evaporated entirely. The airports are shut down and the tourism minister announced he expects to lose a billion dollars a month for as long as there is an emergency situation.

On Wednesday, Forbes' travel write Christopher Elliott tried to look into the future of travel post-coronavirus but starts off with the absurd assumption that things may be headed back to normal in May. And he isn't the only one living in a fantasy world of everything getting back to normal.
Bill Patton wants to know what travel will be like after coronavirus. He and his family of 10 are headed to Antibes, France, in late May to celebrate their 50th anniversary. They've tried to cancel because of the coronavirus, but so far neither their airline or their vacation rental company will offer a refund.

"Our doctor advises we do not travel under the coronavirus conditions," says Patton, who is 76 and has a history of diabetes, allergies and asthma.

So what will France be like in May? What will travel be like after the coronavirus peaks? Will anyone be traveling at all?

A new survey suggests travel is alive and well. More than half of Americans (58%) are planning to travel between May and September 2020, as long as their destinations aren't in quarantine. But they're being careful. A quarter of participants will try to avoid big cities and public transportation, and 21% will choose domestic travel, according to the survey conducted by LuggageHero.

"Demand will come back stronger than ever once the situation is over," says Jannik Lawaetz, LuggageHero's CEO.

Here's how people will travel after the coronavirus:
1- They'll stay in the country. International travel will fall out of favor as people stay closer to the safety of home.

2- They won't travel far from home. "Staycations" and road trips will be favored over flying or cruising.

3- They'll make it quick. A softer economy will mean the traditional two-week summer vacation could turn into a long weekend. 
What will my destination be like this spring?

I know what Southern France is like now because I'm there.

I detoured to Nice, France, on my way to Italy and found an apartment on Vrbo to wait out the virus. It was a little scary at first. All the caf├ęs and restaurants closed. There are police checkpoints in the streets.

But there's also a sense of normalcy and perspective that seems to be lacking in the United States. After all, France has survived its fair share of pandemics and world wars. People here are taking this crisis in stride and are confident it will be over soon-- certainly by the time Patton and his family arrive here.

The borders to Europe are closed for the next 30 days in an effort to contain the coronavirus. After that, things will probably return to normal quickly. By May, Patton and his family might really need that vacation in southern France.

For anyone else with spring travel plans, experts say the outlook is pretty decent. If the borders open up, your destination will happily welcome you.

But that's a big "if."

Will the travel industry come back from coronavirus?

Ask experts and they'll tell you that travel will come back quickly. Probably faster than anyone expects.

"Despite the challenges, it won’t be this way forever," says John Lovell, president of leisure travel and supplier relations and networks at Travel Leaders Group. "Travel and tourism is a highly resilient industry that has come back again and again from diseases and natural disasters."

Industry watchers like Lovell predict a quick bounce back for tourism, despite the current doom-and-gloom headlines. They point out that travel rebounded quickly after other pandemics and disasters, including 9/11.

"You have to assess your own risk tolerance, take reasonable and prudent precautions, and make smart decisions about your travel," he adds. "Right now, there are amazing travel deals to destinations all over the world."

What will travel be like after coronavirus?

Chances are, your destination will immediately begin an aggressive coronavirus recovery program the moment the "all clear" signal is given. That's the prediction of Wayne Smith, chairman of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the College of Charleston.

"Most destinations will institute a recovery strategy in which discounts may be a part of the overall enticement to return to travel," he says.

But don't look for deep discounts. Smith says the best strategies may not necessarily have cheaper prices but to offer more value.

"Examples I have seen in the past would be a hotel offering free meals with room purchase and maybe even packaging in attraction tickets," he says. "Instead of looking for the cheapest price, I would be looking for the best value. There are going to be plenty of high-value travel packages available."

Some parts of the travel industry might not survive

But it'll be a difficult, and maybe impossible, recovery for parts of the travel industry.

"It's going to be a long recovery," says Sophie Anderson, a marketing manager at Cruise Agency Australia, an Australian travel agency that specializes in cruises. "There are going to be collapses and bankruptcies when it's all over. At least one or two cruise lines might finally sink."

Anderson says for consumers there will be a silver lining-- cruises will be a bargain for the foreseeable future. Of course, if airlines, hotels and cruise lines start to go under, the lower prices will be irrelevant.

That's the most long-lasting-- and potentially disruptive-- effect on travel. Coronavirus will almost certainly claim several well-known travel brands, according to experts.

Yes, even with government bailouts. It's inevitable.

"History tells us that there will be fewer players in the wake of this event," says Paul Metselaar, chairman of Ovation Travel Group. "In the United Kingdom, we have already seen the demise of Flybe, and other carriers are at risk. It is entirely plausible that there will be other casualties in other segments as well.

Here are a few tips for traveling after the coronavirus outbreak

No question about it, people will travel after the coronavirus. But how?

Look for deals but focus on value. Assuming the coronavirus crisis is over, don't hesitate to book if you find a bargain for late spring or summer. But don't focus exclusively on price. Instead, look at the overall value of the deal. Are they throwing in attraction tickets or including meals?

Focus on longevity. Stay away from too-good-to-be-true offers from unknown operators. Chances are, these are fire sales from desperate companies on the verge of bankruptcy. Focus on well-known brands that are financially stable.

Consider travel insurance. A reputable insurance policy will protect you if an operator goes out of business. If you can't find a good policy, use a credit card to make your purchase. It can also offer protections from financial insolvency.

Bottom line: Travel will continue after the coronavirus outbreak. The industry will return sooner than you think, and with some great deals.
That swell bottom line ending to the piece indicates that Mr. Elliott, in all likelihood, takes free trips and free hotel stays from the travel industry-- and very much would like that to continue.