Aside from all of the fear over the past 90 days (wow, has it really only been a few months?) while the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up in the US, there have been so many interesting things to watch in the world of travel. How does an airline go from full planes to virtually empty, with hundreds of planes grounded? If you’re a government agency, how do you effectively enforce a quarantine? These are very, very different issues than what we normally deal with. And, now that people are starting to travel again, how exactly do you serve a safe hotel breakfast? Amongst the most interesting questions to me is how we actually get travel started again?
Europe Is Closing Their Doors To US Citizens
It’s hard to believe that just over 90 days ago I was boarding a flight from New Zealand back to the US. While we were taxiing to the runway, President Trump announced that the US would close its borders to Europe to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There wasn’t a lot of information, but there was a big rush for folks to get back to the US, whether they were citizens, green card holders or otherwise needed to be in before the borders closed.
Despite the sad news of Europe not welcoming US citizens when they reportedly reopen borders on July 1, there won’t be a similar rush to get to Europe. That’s because virtually every country has travel restrictions right now. From a control standpoint, European governments are coming up with lists of countries they will allow travel from in the short term, and the US is conspicuously absent. They’re not alone. Canada and the US have mutually agreed on an extension of the border closure between the countries until at least late July. I’ve heard credible reports that this may be extended until Labor Day. Heck, Canada still has some pretty significant restrictions on moving between Canadian provinces, let alone allowing folks from the US.
By any measure, cases of COVID-19 in the US are not declining. That makes it tough to figure out when we will be able to travel freely abroad again.
These Restrictions Create Real Heartache
A good friend of mine lives in Europe and planned to have his family come visit this summer. His family has a newborn and he was looking forward to the extended family gathering in one place to celebrate. Alas, that plan appears to be on hold. For myself, I have an aunt in Canada who I’m very close to. Her memory is failing as she ages, but she has looked forward to seeing us bring the family to visit every year. The inability to travel right now prevents my family from creating more memories.
There will be future trips to see family, but you don’t get time back. I recall listening to Bill Marriott speak at a conference once, saying that the industry is based on selling a time and a place, and that when that time passes they can never sell it again. That’s where we stand today. No amount of money allows you or I to “buy” this time back.
The Final Two Pennies
At this exact time last year, our family was enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia. I celebrated the fact that, with miles and points, once-in-a-lifetime trips didn’t need to be that. They could be replicated, expanded, enjoyed again. I’d never lived through a pandemic. As I stand here in late June, I still haven’t lived through a pandemic because I’m not exactly sure when this will end. Almost 2 months after my daughter outlined the 5 places she wants to go when we’re done quarantining, the majority of her list is unachievable.
I originally set out to write about what folks should do in the face of continued travel restrictions. I’ll be honest, I just can’t bring myself to write that story today. I’m still wondering when tomorrow actually means I can hug some of the people I love the most.
Travel is about life. It’s about exploring. And, many times, for me, it’s about family. I don’t want to jet off to a far-away land right now. I want to hug my father, my aunt, my cousin. But, we’re nowhere near a point where that can be done safely. I keep hoping…..
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