‘Southern Voices’ is a reader-submitted platform for stories from the heart. Today’s submission comes from David Yarborough, a Charlotte-based writer who loves to explore new places and share his discoveries with like-minded travelers. His passions include great food and wine and exciting architecture, both old and new. If you have a story to tell, see our guidelines for submission here.
What will travel be like as we begin to restore some normalcy to our daily lives in the coronavirus era? As an avid traveler and writer, I think about that a lot. Here are some things I think we should expect as the many restrictions on our activities that have been imposed to dampen the effects of the coronavirus are slowly loosened.
The effects of cabin fever and canceled trips are creating a huge pent-up demand for travel. Many of us are eager to get away, but several factors will prevent the return to traveling from being a stampede. One of these is obvious: people are nervous. After being trapped in our homes for months, the fear of finding ourselves far away from them, with the threat of the virus still present, will dampen the enthusiasm of many to venture too far. Many people will understandably hesitate to fly again, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder for hours in cramped quarters sharing recycled air.
The financial impact of the shutdown on many families has been serious. Vacations and family trips may not be a top priority for families who have experienced job loss, income reduction or other financial blows. Travel is a deferrable expense, for companies as well as families, and many desired trips simply may not be economically possible in the near term.
Finally, there is the reality that the travel and hospitality industries that we knew before have been devastated by the new realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. The logistics of restoring services that have been shut down for months will be daunting. Re-starting air services and re-opening shuttered hotels and restaurants will be complex, time-consuming and expensive. Getting everything back to a normal level of operation will take much longer than shutting things down required.
While it may take some time for leisure travelers to get comfortable straying too far away from home, our need to get back out will overcome our hesitation. We all share a keen interest to re-connect with loved ones, friends and family who have been sorely missed. We need to see them face-to-face and enjoy the hugs, kisses and handshakes we have foregone. Reunions with family and friends will be the most important driver of leisure travel in the early stages of this recovery.
Now for some (very much needed) good news: With the exception of the restaurant sector, there is going to be significant over-capacity as the travel reopens. Business travel may lead leisure travel as air schedules are restored, but it is not likely that business travel will rebound to anywhere close to its pre-COVID-19 level. For one thing, the inevitable recession. Another is that so many companies and workers have learned how to be increasingly productive using virtual meeting platforms and other remote working tools. Airlines, hotels and resorts will have to offer deep discounts to lure travelers back. The discounts will be deeper still for cruises.
Domestic travel will recover much faster than international travel. However, unfortunately for the airline industry, many American travelers will opt to drive rather than fly. The global oil supply glut in the face of weak demand will keep gasoline prices in the U.S. very low. In addition to the desire to see their loved ones, people will be more interested in active, outdoor trips than visiting cities. Beaches, golf resorts and national parks will be extremely popular with people for whom a walk around their neighborhood has been their primary source of physical activity. Areas that have been tagged as hotspots for COVID-19 will suffer greatly as they attempt to regain their prior positions as popular tourism destinations. All of Europe will certainly require time to return to any level of normalcy, as will New York and New Orleans. In general, travelers will not be eager to go into densely populated areas. When they do visit cities, taxis and ride-shares will flourish as people avoid crowded mass transit options.
More good news: Those of us in the Southeastern U.S. are blessed with many extraordinary nearby post-COVID destinations. The beaches of the Atlantic and the Gulf will be among the first places to re-open. The Appalachians offer a bounty of beautiful outdoor spaces and trails to access them. Disney World and its central Florida neighbors will likely be packed again shortly after they reopen despite the desire to avoid crowds.
When we do venture out of our quarantines again, we can expect to be warmly received by the airlines, hotels and restaurants we choose to patronize. So, let’s tank up our cars with cheap gas and hit the road! There’s a less crowded, cleaner world out there ripe for exploration. There are loved ones to hug and many new friends in the travel and hospitality industries who are very eager to see us!
David Yarborough is a Charlotte-based writer who loves to explore new places and share his discoveries with like-minded travelers. His passions include great food and wine and exciting architecture, both old and new. Check out his website at dmyarborough.com.
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