Travel in the Time of Corona

Words by Connor, 19 NSW

I’m one of many young people who have had their travel plans cancelled or postponed by COVID-19. It’s a sad situation, but there will be a next time to travel, right?

Sort of.

A Reuters report suggests that it could take up to 10 months after the end of the pandemic for the global tourism industry to recover to pre-virus levels. The effects could be worse if COVID-19 stays around longer than the next couple of months. For young people, this means more expensive flights and accommodation as the sector recovers.

The tourism industry accounts for 10% of global employment. With the sector’s current slump, this puts around 50-75 million jobs in the travel and tourism sector at risk globally. Domestically, this is best exemplified by Virgin Australia’s recent entry into voluntary administration, which puts 15,000-16,000 airline workers at risk, and means that the airline may not emerge on the other side of the pandemic. The fall of Virgin Australia could have a negative impact for young domestic travellers as flights surge in price.

Virgin Australia called for a bailout, which, if granted, would soften the blow of coronavirus on the domestic travel industry and keep Virgin’s employees working. This would also aid travellers, as the company would be able to stay competitive and keep domestic ticket prices at a reasonable level. The government denied this call, arguing that a government bailout for Virgin may make Qantas feel entitled to government money as well.

Virgin services link cities to regional areas and vice versa, so a Virgin fall could end up depriving regional areas of tourism and vital connections to cities. This means that young people in regional areas will be adversely affected through loss of jobs and opportunities for travel.

The flight path between Sydney and Melbourne ranks second in the world for aircraft movement. Services on this path are split fairly evenly between Qantas and Virgin. If Virgin Australia falls, then this path, along with countless others, are open to Qantas to form a monopoly. Qantas may be able to set airfares at whatever price they desire, as there will no longer be any major competitors.

So what does this all mean for young people?

Isolated regional areas and higher travels costs mean young people are likely to rely on technology to connect and communicate. It’s convenient and useful during times like these, but there is also the concern that it may become the new normal. The increase in domestic airfares has already left me feeling more isolated from my friends in different cities as opportunities for physical connection break down.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation estimates that just over 20% of all global travellers are young people. Travel allows young people to develop their identity through valuable life experiences, to understand other cultures, and acts as a means to exercise the new-found freedom that comes with adulthood.

I had a trip to Europe planned for June of this year. It was frustrating having to follow up with travel agencies and airlines to make sure everything could be postponed. Mass layoffs of staff at the travel agency meant that I was speaking to different agents each day to get the information I needed. Despite this, I have been able to postpone the trip up to two years from the booking date. My major concern now is whether restrictions will be lifted and borders will be re-opened. If they’re not, I’ll be so disappointed and could be significantly financially impacted, which will hinder my opportunities to travel in future.

There are many activities we can do to pass the time until we can travel again. Research the history and culture of the places you’ll go, learn a new language, explore the different cuisines and try out a few local recipes; all of these have helped me temporarily satisfy the urge for new cultural experiences.

We don’t know when we can travel again. So, for now, all we can do is stay home, isolate, and wait.

Illustration by AileenYou can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenetc

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