The Travel Department

Like everyone else in the Travel Industry, I’m watching the news and reading all the Social Media articles regarding the Pandemic. Every day multiple experts rise to the occasion providing us their opinion on the direction the Pandemic is taking us. I’ve heard countless predictions covering the future of the Travel Industry, from total devastation to the positive belief things will be back to normal by early Fall. With each prediction, there are always multiple caveats “if,” that reels you off in complicated thought processes and numerous timelines, all with the underlying hope to reopen the World of Travel. I’m no health expert as it relates to Pandemics, but after 45 years in the Travel Industry, I do understand the mentality of a Traveler, specifically, we Baby Boomers.

At the beginning of our “quarantine,” I was a part of the Optimistic majority. I truly believed, The Pandemic will end by June, and travel will be back to normal by September. I even told my wife, Let’s start planning our 40th Wedding Anniversary Cruise! It wasn’t until reality hit close to home that my attitude toward future Travel took a more cautious path. I am a 67-year-old Baby Boomer who, as mentioned, watches the news regularly witnessing the upward climb of the COVID-19 deaths. My biggest worry is the fact that the vast majority of these deaths are my fellow Baby Boomers. Yes, we have a much higher chance of dying from COVID-19, while my son, daughters, and grandkids have a negligible probability of dying. Don’t take me wrong; I thank God every day that they are healthy and, if infected, would probably experience only minor symptoms. But like my fellow Baby Boomers, I have no interest to aid the Angel of Death; I have a long list of places yet to visit and cruises to take on my Bucket List. I will wait patiently for a vaccine.

We all know that if the COVID-19 were merely another Flu, life would go on even if it claims the death of 20,000 to 50,000 people each year. Why? Because there is a vaccine, and Flu cases that require hospitalization, do not put a strain on the health care system. Moreover, the death rate of influenza is less than 1%, which appears to be an acceptable rate by health experts for people to keep traveling. But COVID-19 is not just another Flu. It is on track to claim far more deaths than influenza in 2020. Moreover, it has forced the World into self-quarantine to avoid overstraining the health care system of every country. Not doing so would have resulted in millions of additional deaths, not just the thousand it will claim. Though we still do not know the exact percentage of fatalities from those with COVID-19, we do know four facts that will determine the future livelihood of the Travel Industry:

    1. VACCINE – There is no current COVID-19 vaccine. According to FOX News experts, because of the required timeline for testing, there will not be a vaccine available for at least 12 months to 18 months. If you listen to CNN experts, it could take as long as 4 to 5 years. Naturally, I prefer the optimism of the FOX News experts. A vaccine will be a Final Solution.
    2. DEATH RATE – The most significant number of deaths are Baby Boomers like me, Travelers born from 1944 to 1964. Yes, experts soften the “death blow” by using global figures of 2% to 3% die from COVID-19. However, what they fail to distinguish is the simple fact that for infected Baby Boomers, this percentage increases dramatically.
    3. TESTING CAPABILITY – The ability to test for COVID-19 has proven to be a “shining light at the end of the tunnel.” With such capabilities to find out in minutes if you have had COVID-19 or you currently have the disease, it will allow us to isolate every future Traveler into three categories.
      1. “COVID-Positive”: You now have COVID-19 and will soon be Immune*.
      2. “COVID-Negative'” – You tested Negative to having COVID-19
      3. “COVID- Immune” – You had COVID-19 and are now Immune*.
      Testing capabilities is a giant step to getting back to a semi-normal but limited life for everyone. Governments are considering the issuance of a credential to each person, displaying their current status, 1.) “COVID-Positive,” 2.) “COVID-Negative” or 3.) “COVID- Immune.” Unfortunately for the COVID-Negatives, socializing is a risk, especially for the Baby Boomer with this classification.
    1. *IMMUNITY DURATION – Experts believe (not yet a fact) that people who had COVID-19 are immune from getting it again. The jury is still out as to the duration of this Immunity and whether it is true. We only pray that it will last at least until they roll out the vaccine in 12 to 18 months by FOX News standards. If CNN experts are correct, we may be back in trouble before the creation of a vaccine.

Side Note: A recent but unofficial Social Media posting reports that South Korea has multiple cases of past COVID-19 patients contracting the disease for a second time. If this is true, even those that have once contracted the disease would not be out of danger.

So, where does this leave the World of Travel? For the Gen-Zs, Millenials, and Gen-Xers in good health, COVID-19 was never an ominous “death” threat. The World came to a stop for the benefit of us Baby Boomers and those with a debilitating sickness. And now that almost every country’s health care system realized an enhanced make-over, things should return to normal over the coming months for everyone except us Baby Boomers and those people with chronic health problems. Yes, even for the younger generations, some social distancing and recommended changes to enhance a more healthy way of life will become the norm. But business as usual for us Baby Boomers is still out of reach until there is an official vaccine. If we were one of the lucky Baby Boomers that survived the decease, then we only pray our Immunity exists and lasts until the vaccine.

For Baby Boomers that are not Immune to COVID-19, our anticipated travel plans for the next 12 to 18-month (or more) will continue to be at home in self-quarantine. Until there is a vaccine, our comfort zone for avoiding death will be limited to family and friends, who agree to take a COVID-19 test immediately before visiting. Some of us may venture out even further if there is a confirmed “tried and proven” treatment (not a cure or vaccine) that diminishes the deadly effects when infected with COVID-19. Such a remedy, plus the knowledge that continuous “testing” becomes the norm for businesses, will open local and even national Travel for Baby Boomers. It is highly doubtful that Baby Boomers will leave the assurances of medical care in their country and venture out by plane or cruise ship to other countries, especially those countries with inferior health care systems.

Healthy Gen-Z, Millennial, and Gen-X Travelers will be more than happy to challenge COVID-19, especially when they see the World of Travel open at discounted rates never seen before. Every destination and every form of Travel will be vying for these three markets. The thousands of Hotels, Cruise Lines, Airlines, and Rental Car agencies who depended in large part on us Baby Boomers will now challenge their competitors for a diminished market made up of travelers born after 1964.

The question now is when President Trump will open the United States for business and under what guidelines established by the experts. For sure, the initial roll-out will be limited to specific areas and business types within the USA with a gradual expansion to every business in every City and State. Travel abroad will be restricted based on each country’s current status of their health care system and their verifiable historical record in the attack of COVID-19.

Whichever day the initial step of this event occurs, everyone will open their doors with caution, including the younger generations. But as the World reopens Travel, COVID-19 will be treated more like a Flu for the younger Gen-Z, Millennial, and Gen-X Travelers. Us Baby Boomers will remain close to home in anticipation of a vaccine that will allow us to travel abroad with full confidence. Hopefully, this will be in time for my wife’s and my 41st Anniversary Cruise.

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