By Bill Clevlen
If you are thinking to yourself that the most useless purchase of 2020 was a calendar, you are not alone. As the coronavirus jolted the world out of any sense of rhythm, it is easy to forget what a day it is sometimes, let alone plan ahead. As a travel writer, it has been brutal seeing the tourism industry decimated. and like many of us, I have felt the economic impact in a big way. Millions of Americans we know and work with have seen their jobs disappear or most of their income evaporate.
A Mix of Fear and Excitement
There are basically two schools of thought when it comes to the future of travel. The first is a gloomy prediction, and not one that I personally share. Some of the so-called experts believe that people will continue to be afraid to travel or stray too far from home, fearing the worst. That, of course, would be even more devastating for hotels, local restaurants, and the economy in general. I happen to share a more optimistic view and believe that most people are going to want to get out of their houses and get out as often as they can.
If there is one thing the stay-at-home orders have accomplished, it is reminding people that life is short, and things can change in a hurry. What better motivation than a national pandemic to get people thinking that they need to finally accomplish do all the things they have always talked about doing. Not to mention, road trips are not that much fun when you can only travel from your driveway to your carport. (Oh wait, am I the only one that has been doing that?)
Decide if You Feel Safe Traveling
Obviously, safety should always be on our minds, and each person must decide for themselves if they are comfortable enough to travel. Most people seem to agree that in the U.S., the airline industry is going to struggle for quite some time. Once things return closer to normal, flight prices and fees are sure to dramatically rise which is going to bring even more travelers to the open road instead of America’s airports.
Planning for future travel is going to be tricky, but it is not impossible. For starters, just assume that you will need to bring that mask with you every place you visit. Learn to have it with you. It is entirely possible that museums, tourist attractions, and conference centers are going to require them, or strongly encourage them for visitors.
Flexibility and Refunds
When making your plans for the rest of 2020 and into 2021, flexibility is going to be of most importance. Knowing that the immediate future is still uncertain, make sure any plans you do make have rock solid guarantees.
In the midst of the coronavirus shutdowns this spring, many travelers found that rental properties and venues did not refund customers, even though stay at home orders made it impossible (and in some cases illegal) to leave home for anything other than essential shopping or medical care. Most hotels seemed to be more accommodating to consumers.
Going forward, you will want to make sure that if things must be canceled for any additional shut down orders, any bookings you make are fully refundable.
Verification and Backup Plans
As we have come to rely so much on the internet and various travel apps, it is important to remember that your phone can actually still be used to speak with people. Reach out and personally verify that the places you want to visit are in fact open, and if so, check on operating hours.
Sadly, there will be places that will never be able to reopen. Whether it is a favorite restaurant or a hotel along your route – the sad fact is that there will be businesses that do not survive. It is important to plan ahead if you will need to make pit stops. This conveys the importance of devising a backup plan.
What happens if you are traveling, and a city shuts down because of an upswing in COVID-19 outbreak? Where would you go? How fast could you plan a trip back home?
Missouri Travel and Tourism
The good news for Missouri is that most Midwesterners are slowly dipping their toes back in the travel waters and staying closer to home. Missouri is almost certain to see an influx of travelers from other midwestern states looking for recreation and vacation without having to travel to areas of the country that were the focus of so many unnerving news stories this spring. Likewise, Missouri residents should aim to help fellow tourism workers in the Midwest by planning trips within Missouri and nearby states.
Travel is Here to Stay
Traveling supports millions of people and keeps the lights on in our favorite cities and at our favorite tourist attractions. If you are not quite comfortable enough to travel – postpone; do not cancel your trips. When the time is right for you, hit the road, and finally check off those bucket list items.
Bill Clevlen is a contributing writer from St. Louis.