RIP Travel Industry

The year that travel died

It’s a little over a year since the coronavirus outbreak became a global pandemic, resulting in travel bans, flight cancellations, and eventually widespread lockdowns of major cities and entire countries.

Air travel, except cargo and mercy flights, ground to a halt. Interstate and intercity busses were parked. As people were confined to homes, taxis and trains stopped running. Unless you were delivering basic goods and necessities, or performing a critical service, you had no reason to go anywhere.

Hotels and resorts emptied. Airbnbs evaporated, and tour operators, wildlife lodges and scenic venues quickly switched to virtual offerings. Want to see the Victoria Falls in flood, real-time? Subscribe to a virtual backpack tour, and as your guide clambers over the slippery pathway, you can enjoy the view in full 360 from the camera on top of their head. From the safety of your locked-down living room.

Of course, any major business that relied on physical transport of people, like airlines, that couldn’t pivot to cargo or substitute a virtual service, went bust; except for the major airlines, bailed out by their governments. Driverless cars got a boost; when you need to get to hospital and ambulances are maxed out, take an Uber – unless the drivers are in lockdown too. Way to go, Waymo.

But the strangest thing of all is, after the lockdowns ended, still no one wanted to travel. Some overseas trips and sporting events that had to be postponed, eventually went ahead, but the market for international travel, and even regional road trips, has fallen flat. The great wave of tourism expected out of Asia has fizzled away. It seems we’ve all just got used to virtual experiences, and reconnecting with our neighbours and close family.

Goodbye Travel Industry, it was fun while it lasted. RIP.

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