To put it simply, the world is a different place right now than it was just a few months ago in 2019. While COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, has spread around the globe, panic is at an all-time high where I live in the United States. I know this panic is spreading just as fast as the virus, especially after seeing the suffering in hard-hit countries like Italy and China, and most people are going through a rollercoaster of emotions.
As a travel influencer (and a lifelong travel lover), there is a nagging helplessness that washes over me every time I hear another update about border closings, airline cancellations, suspended cruises, closed hotels, restaurants, and so much more. This goes beyond being disappointed about ruined travel plans; the travel industry is suffering exponentially and these effects will be felt for a significant time.
Most people across the globe have now been ordered or recommended to self-quarantine at home in order to help stop the spread of the virus as quickly as possible. So then, how can we help?
#1 POSTPONE, DON’T CANCEL
I am all for supporting small business (more about that below), especially during these hard times, but we can’t deny that we rely heavily on big companies for our travel needs. If we want great deals and competitive prices for big expenses like flights, hotels, and cruises, we need to make sure these major companies stay afloat! Things are changing by the hour with this situation, however, I know the U.S. government will be helping our airlines as much as possible, and I’m sure cruise companies and hotel companies will follow.
But let’s focus on what we can do for now. According to a recent report from USA Today, “Airlines are waiving their change fees for flights in March and April. Cruise lines are offering credit for sailings until the end of spring. Hotels are loosening their cancellation policies for certain areas affected by the coronavirus outbreak.”
Getting a full refund for upcoming trips is possible with certain companies, especially if an airline cancels on you, they are required by law to give you a refund. However, if you can financially swing it, I would encourage everyone to take a credit from the airlines, hotels, or cruises, to use for a future date.
Obviously everyone’s financial situation is different, so I’m not expecting this to apply to all. But for those who can manage, taking a credit rather than a full refund will help these big businesses survive. In turn, they will be able to provide competitive pricing which will help us all as travelers in the future.
‘Postpone, don’t cancel’ can also be a positive mindset to have. For those who have no choice but to cancel for refunds, I understand and sympathize. In that case, focus on the fact that these amazing travel destinations aren’t dropping off the face of the earth. Travel will be a possibility again and we all need something to look forward to, so start adding to your bucket lists and make exciting plans for the future!
#2 SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESS
On another note, supporting small business is more important now than ever. As a seasoned traveler, I am always seeking out the best local places to enjoy in order to have an authentic experience. I’m talking about those charming boutique hotels or B&B’s, mom and pop shops and family-owned restaurants that we fall in love with around the world. All of them need your help right now.
I’ll start off with ways you can help in terms of spending money. Please consider ordering delivery or take-out from your local restaurants. While many restaurants in the U.S. are closed for dine-in, most are still doing curbside take-out or delivery. With apps like Postmates, Uber Eats, and Grubhub, you can have the food dropped off directly to your front doorstep, with no need to interact.
Although restaurants are doing everything they can to sanitize and stay safe, I understand that some people might not be comfortable with consuming food from outside their house. In that case, buying gift cards to restaurants is a wonderful idea, as well as for shops and hotels. The money will go to help these businesses out right now, and you can use them at a later date which you have to look forward to! Also remember to shop online, especially on websites like Etsy that support freelance creatives.
For those who are stretched for money, there are ways you can still help small businesses. Consider leaving reviews for your favorite local place, or somewhere you went around the world and loved, but forgot to leave a review for. Share these places on your social media, and support their social media content as well. In other words, just spread the love!
#3 DON’T FORGET ABOUT TRAVEL INFLUENCERS
Whether you like the phrase or not, travel influencers make up a huge part of the travel industry in this fast-paced digital age. Perhaps you’ve read a hotel review on a bloggers website, or bookmarked a beautiful restaurant on Instagram; travel influencers not only inspire people to travel, but also help to guide them as well.
And how do travel influencers earn their money? Through sponsored content, press trips, digital campaigns promoting destinations, freelance writing/photography, and so much more. With the travel industry at a standstill, most influencers do not know when they will see their next paycheck.
Nowadays, many travel content creators have published ebooks, online courses, Instagram presets, travel prints, etc. If you can, I encourage you to purchase these products to help these hardworking people, in order for them to continue creating amazing content for you to consume. Blogs are free to read, and if you want them to stay that way, giving back by buying their products is a great way to do so.
As far as non-monetary ways to help, simply visiting their website, clicking links, and reading articles is the best way! Traffic helps online businesses, as does engaging with their social media posts. Even a blog or Instagram comment can go a long way.
We will only get through this if we help each other. The travel community is such an incredible one and I’m already blown away by the support and love I’ve seen just online. Please stay safe and positive, travel will be there to welcome us with open arms once again!