The world is talking about the corona virus. Everybody is affected in one way or another. Some more than others. Certainly the travel industry and everybody who is travelling or has booked any trips for the next couple of months is feeling the impact.
Please note: I do not intend to provide advice on the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak or tell you if you should still travel or not. I am not a medical professional and whether you still feel comfortable to travel is a very personal decision that is based on many factors which are different for each person.
That said, I still want to give you my thoughts about the current situation and what it means for travellers, the travel industry and local businesses.
I have previously addressed topics like the impacts of climate change on travel, how to cope with heat waves while travelling and how to respond to travel anxiety. In fact, the need to look after your safety and to take precautions when travelling have been and always will be important.
Right now, however, the situation is different.
In fact, there are regions that are now in lockdown and there are travel restriction or at least travel warnings for various regions and countries in place. And how things will evolve further is totally unpredictable.
If you are travelling for business or leisure, and currently have any trips planned you are likely wondering if you should stick to your plans, or if cancelling is a safer option. If you have not yet made plans for your next holiday, you are most likely postponing any decisions, hoping the situation might improve over the next few weeks or months.
This is a difficult and deeply personal decision, and with the level of information available right now there is no right or wrong way. You need to do what you feel is the best option for you.
Personally, I have not yet cancelled any trips. But I am watching the situation very closely and I am not ruling out to change my plans if it seems to be the wiser option.
Where to find reliable advice about the corona virus
If you want advice whether a region is safe to travel to or not, I recommend to check travel advice provided on your own government’s website. For example, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) is constantly updating their travel advisory section, highlighting which countries are safe to travel and where you need to be more cautious.
Likewise, the World Health Organization (WHO) also issues travel advice and provides information on frequently asked questions about the virus.
Another important source of information is The Centre for Decease Control and Prevention (CDC) which issues advice on the risk level of different countries related to the corona virus.
Finally, you should also consult the government websites of the countries you are planning to visit. In fact, there are now several countries that have issued various degrees of travel restrictions.
What if you decide to cancel your trip due to the Convid-19 outbreak
Some areas are currently in lockdown and there are travel restrictions. In this case, you do not even have a lot of chance. You should definitely not go to regions with travel restrictions.
In this case, travel agencies, airlines and the hospitality sector might be prepared to either refund tickets or accommodation costs or you will be given the option to re-book at a later date for no additional costs.
If you have booked a cruise, you might also be lucky as many cruise lines currently offer to re-book at a later date with greater flexibility.
In areas where no restrictions are in place, cancelling a trip already booked can be a bit trickier.
However, even here many travel companies are currently offering more relaxed travel policies around cancelling or re-booking. For example, you might re-book at a later date without having to pay extra booking fees even for destinations where currently no travel restrictions / warnings are in place.
However, in many cases cancelling a trip that you have already booked could mean you will have to cover the costs yourself.
Definitely get in touch with your travel agency, airline or with the hotel if you have booked directly to find out about their current cancellation policy. In particular, find out about the opportunity to re-book at a later date. Even though this might not be part of the standard cancellation policy, currently many airlines and hotels are acting more flexible, so it is worth enquiring.
However, the currently applied rules to cancelling or re-booking vary depending on the region you come from and the region where you have booked.
Travelling and supporting local businesses during the Convid-19 outbreak
Many businesses depend on tourists and international clients. With many regions currently in lockdown or rated as high risk, travellers are cancelling their trips and new bookings are down significantly. This is understandable but obviously quite damaging for those who depend on the tourism and hospitality sector. Not only hotels and airlines but also local restaurants, shops, tourist guides along with all other places offering attractions and experiences are already suffering.
What can we do to support those businesses even though we might chose to avoid international travel?
I am not saying you should continued to travel to support this businesses whatever the situation. This is your personal decision; and in some cases you might actually be affected by official travel restrictions. If those are in place, it is important to play by the rule and obey any and all local measurements in place.
However, in many regions daily life has not changed a great deal. Most continue to go to work (although working remotely from home is increasingly popular), shops are open and people still continue to go outside.
This means, with just some exceptions, travelling more locally is still an option.
You should see this as a chance to learn more about the places closer to your home. In times when there are no travel restrictions, exploring the local areas in your neighbourhood is often overlooked in favour of more distant destinations.
The good news is, in recent years the countryside across many European countries has evolved into a truly veritable location for exciting experiences.
Therefore, check out smaller hotels in your proximity. With a limited number of rooms, you won’t run the risk to run into more people than you likely will when staying at home; considering you still need to go to the grocery shop or even to the office where you also get in contact with other people.
Travelling locally, you can also avoid public transportation and instead take your own car. Again limiting the contact to other people
On top, you are helping local businesses who are likely suffering from a drop in international visitor numbers right now.
Keep building your bucket list
You might actually decide you do not want to travel at all right now, and that is absolutely fine.
But remember, even if it might take some time until we return to normal, eventually we will.
I can only urge you in the meantime not to stop looking for new destinations and experiences. Instead use the time to make travel plans for the future. Continue to check out travel magazines, websites, blogs, Instagram accounts and other travel related sources – and keep building your bucket list.
It will give you a great head-start once you feel safe to travel again. Being ready before everybody else starts to book again means you have a great chance to secure the best deals.
Learn more about your special interests and improve your skills
Use the time while you are not actively travelling to improve on your specific interests.
For example, maybe you are a wine lover that likes to go out and visit wineries but you are not a great expert about wines. Though you don’t have to be in order to enjoy winery visits and wine tastings, why not enrol in an online class and learn a bit more about wine? It will come handy once you will travel again.
The same goes for any other skills or interests you might want to improve on.
Check out online classes, webinars, podcasts or blogs offering information about your topic of interest.
Are you concerned about the convid-19 outbreak? Have you been affected as a traveller or business? Please share your thoughts.