The travel industry, and the world at large, are facing unprecedented times. As an avalanche of cancellations ambush hotels and airlines while lockdowns and community quarantines are springing left and right, society is slowly—and not without an overwhelming sense of anxiety–coming to grips with the gravity of the global COVID-19 outbreak. The tourism sector is one of the most badly-hit sectors, as travel-related businesses are left with nobody to serve and no revenue to gain. Keep in mind that corporate interest isn’t a negligible topic in the current crisis, as it treads a tightrope that could cost the livelihood of its employees and stakeholders.
Whereas the lucky few can work from home, “travel frontliners” such as porters, tour guides, hospitality personnel, and travel operators are experiencing such a formidable drop in foot traffic that their jobs are at stake. For tourists, the lack of travel may mean frustration at cancelled plans or even boredom at frivolity’s peak, but for on-ground travel frontliners, the dearth of travel means the world—as their source of survival that puts food on the table, travel is literally their means to an end.
None of us know what the next few months hold. But only by remaining proactive, informed, and hopeful can we only move forward in the most steadfast way. Here are ways to lend a helping hand in these trying times—not only for you and your loved ones’ safety, but for the well-being of those who made all your previous travels possible.
Don’t cancel your plans, postpone them
Rather than cancelling your plans completely, delaying them is one of the most helpful things you can do at the moment. Before demanding a refund, ask yourself whether it’s possible to reschedule your plans instead. It may not seem like a big deal, but for travel businesses, having the prospect of customers in the future is much more valuable than you think. Although some plans are time-sensitive and impossible to postpone due to constraints, the ones that you can delay could be a huge help—the pursuit of which can be tantamount in helping your chosen businesses get back up from the ground.
Get involved, no matter the distance
In a time of crisis that entails social distancing, utilizing social media for the good is one of the most proactive things you can do. If you’re in a position to help (i.e. if you have extra to give and live a comfortable life with access to a stable internet connection), there are countless ways online to aid those in need. And if you think that helping frontliners in non-tourism spots isn’t directly related to helping the travel industry, you are greatly mistaken. In this global pandemic, the health and wellness of each individual, no matter their residency, has a domino effect—the faster we get rid of the virus in all destinations, the faster the travel industry can get back to business.
Do a quick search online to find ways you can help out. For instance, you can visit Help From Home, a comprehensive directory created by And A Half branding and design studio which compiles initiatives that assist COVID-19-affected frontliners and families. Social tourism group MAD Travel has created a fundraiser to fund its partner communities, while NTFP - EP Philippines (The Non-Timber Forest Products - Exchange Programme), has set up a fundraising initiative that supports indigenous and local communities, many of whom face great risk in the travel industry’s decline. Remember: Don’t underestimate the power of reaching out—if you feel that a particular community is especially vulnerable, it doesn’t hurt to research or ask them directly if there are ways in which you can help.
Foster generosity (today and tomorrow) if you can
We all carry a privilege of some kind. As more and more people punctuate their online posts with #CheckYourPrivilege, it has finally become widely unacceptable to turn a blind eye on your own. In an era struck with turmoil, reflect on the ways that your social status has given you unearned advantages, and act on how you can help flatten the curve in your position. Tip extra when you can, not just at present, but in the future as well. Chances are, when things have started going back to ‘normal’, the lives of those who struggle with food and financial security would still be lagging behind. Acts of generosity may not be sustainable and helpful in the long run, but they do help in boosting the community’s morale, which shouldn’t be underestimated in helping people carry on.
Act with the greater good in mind
This isn’t an act of kindness as much as it is an act of responsibility: stay home. No matter how much you’d love to go outside and travel, taking care of yourself (and your loved ones) in quarantine is one of the best things you can do. While frontliners work hard to prevent the disease from spreading any further, it is our duty to be cooperative, disciplined, and transparent so can we stop the spread of the coronavirus—the faster we do this, the sooner we can get our lives back on track and embark on our pursuit of travel. In the meantime, stay informed, do your part in being a responsible citizen, and allow yourself to hope for better days—spent in colorful cities, breathtaking summits, wondrous oceans, and everything else in between—to come.
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