Good riddance! Would it be far-fetched to say January 1, 2021 was the most anticipated date of the 21st century?
I mean, in 2020 the world changed. It was a shocker of a year, one perhaps that had even the worst among us (chill, I’m just kidding 😉) craving for better days ahead.
An invisible enemy called Coronavirus came like a thief in the night and for everyone, almost everyone, it was basically a stay-at-home year.
For travellers and travel content creators like myself, exploring the world seemed less fascinating and those with humongous plans like travelling to every country, touring world-famous Greek Mythos sites, or visiting the Louvre in Paris for sneaky selfies with Monalisa cancelled such trips because of health concerns and travel border restrictions.
No doubt, COVID-19 was calamitous but beyond the fluff, cringe-inducing news and horrific memories of the pandemics’, enough can be said about how it outlandishly transformed the world of travel and tourism.
Well friend, now that the truth is out there, let’s go on an epic adventure.
All aboard! And keep a six feet distance puh-leeze…
5 Bizarre Ways the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Changed Travel and Tourism
1. Not everyone cared about COVID-19, and that was a huge problem.
In all of the pandemonium and ruckus caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, I think what was most unbecoming of humankind was our disdain for obeying protocols and of course, this proved lethal in many countries.
Aside from refusing to put on a face mask – like this Karen who opined that wearing a face mask makes you a part of a “satanic, mask-wearing ritual” – cynically insensitive citizens in parts of America, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Lebanon, India and Italy participated in anti-mask rallies amid the pandemic.
Quite the hassle, right?
And as if these weren’t enough for locals and tourists to handle, quite a number of air travellers presented fake Negative COVID PCR test results. You know, it’s inhumane to think that someone in their right state of mind would be self-satisfied putting the lives of others at risk.
Again, a couple of clubhouses which were ordered to pause operations during the peak of the pandemic were in fact packed with partygoers, investigation revealed…
In Lagos – the commercial nerve of Nigeria – Nigerian Police arrested 237 partygoers in one night, 85 from Lounge 38 and another 152 from Club Victoria and in Peru, this was even more severe as partygoers in Lima scrammed for safety on seeing the Peruvian National Police.
At least thirteen people died in the stampede.
2. Domestic tourism soared in some countries.
It’s likely that right after air travel, the biggest losers in the pandemic would have to be the tourism sector. And it’s a no-brainer since both industries are closely intertwined.
Tourist attractions with no bailouts from government struggled to stay afloat when international flights dwindled day-by-day.
And then, how did some local destinations manage to survive? You may be asking.
Well, most of the recorded successes stemmed from carefully implemented strategies, strict adherence to COVID protocols and a matter of good luck.
For example, in the Caribbean, the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) flagged off a Rediscover Jamaica campaign which yielded terrific outcomes. Jamaicans thronged to all-inclusive staycation destinations like the Iberostar Selection Rose Hall Suites and the country’s leading resorts noticed an up-tick in local tourists. (Adventures From Elle)
Also amid the stress of COVID and lockdown, Turkey launched its first outdoor light festival in its capital city of Istanbul. It was dubbed “Istanbul The Lights” and artists and other creatives showcased uplifting light installations on over fifty screens in the city.
Bringing this home, La Campagne Tropicana – one of the largest resorts in West Africa – assured fun seekers of their safety by limiting the total number of incoming visitors to just twenty persons per day.
This was a clever move.
With governments policy on international travel restrictions shaky, many locals couldn’t afford to fly out for beach holidays, sightseeing or business trips and this in turn, craftily increased public interest in domestic travel and tourism.
Australian airline Qantas took advantage of the situation by curating a scenic seven-hour “Flight to Nowhere” over Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef, and other interesting landmarks for residents of Sydney and environs. (Insider)
The tickets starting from 575 dollars sold out in just ten minutes!
Now that’s some gust of luck.
3. COVID forced the world into a hygiene contest.
I remember. Do you?
The day was Thursday, February 27, 2020. It had been two months since the announcement of an outbreak of COVID-19 virus in Wuhan, China and now, everyone hoped and prayed that their city wouldn’t be the next hit…
But unfortunately, the first case of Coronavirus was announced in Lagos.
An Italian businessman who travelled from Milan for work in Nigeria was the index patient and by March, there was critical evidence of community spread.
The nation panicked! Shelves of toilet paper, alcohol-based sanitizer, hand glove and face mask quickly emptied in popular markets and grocery stores and everyone blamed the Nigerian government for not enforcing a ban on international travel earlier.
COVID taught us to be clean freaks, and while it tragically revealed how selfish people could be (ahoy, stockpile addicts and swindlers), it also made us realise the importance of personal hygiene and responsibility.
4. Virtual tourism became a thing.
“…a special curated project of ART X Lagos 2020. The online exhibition showcases stories of select photographers and filmmakers who peacefully protested against widespread police brutality in October 2020 in Nigeria… viewers may navigate the virtual exhibition by clicking on the name of a room that is of interest…”
The other day I got an email inviting me to partake in a virtual exhibition, and you just read an excerpt.
Growing up, I played a lot on my father’s computer and one of my favourite things to do was to explore Egyptian or Greek ruins. I did so on Microsoft Encarta Kids and ’twas a unique way of arousing my curiosity.
Fascinatingly, and in the midst of COVID-19, grounded travellers journeyed to world-famous destinations virtually from the comfort of their couches using similar software.
Museums, Theme Parks, Art Galleries, Zoos, Pyramids, Waterfalls and other Landmarks were all up for exploration on platforms such as Google Arts and Culture, Google Earth, Roundme, Ocula, and Klapty.
Additionally, creators designed immersive and interactive 360° tours (with audio) with Google VR and those without the know-how hosted Instagram Live, Twitch or YouTube Livestreaming sessions to display attractions, events and exhibitions.
Fuel your wanderlust by reading this exciting list of The World’s Best Ranked Virtual Tours on Forbes.
Now my friend, you know how to travel the world without buying a single airplane ticket.
5. Aircraft-inspired restaurants and businesses reached for the skies.
“Will passenger AE86 kindly approach the counter? Your plate of jollof rice, chicken and fries is now serving at gate 09.”
Before COVID, the only aircraft-inspired restaurant I’d ever heard of is a McDonald’s located in Taupo, New Zealand.
It’s a decommissioned Douglas DC-3 airplane and diners can enjoy an assortment of dishes on any of the twenty traditional airplane seats or take a guided tour of the vintage cockpit.
Not to mention, the fancy eatery topped the Daily Meal’s list of the world’s coolest McDonald’s in 2013 and has gotten a lot of publicity ever since. “Our locals are very proud of it,” McDonald’s owner Eileen Byrne told a journalist. (Insider)
When restaurants reopened after consecutive weeks of lockdown in several countries, a few creative restauranters took a step in the McDonald’s direction and transformed their “regular” restaurants into “airworthy” establishments.
In Abuja – Nigeria’s capital city and cradle of motorsports – Ugo Young spent a whopping ten million naira (26,315 dollars) to convert his restaurant into a flight-themed attraction.
The restaurant which he now proudly calls Urban Air has catered for hundreds of diners since opening in August of 2020.
Not only that, the diners at Urban Air sit on plush white seats and peruse a flight-themed cocktail menu beside windows illustrated with blue skies and puffy white clouds. (Reuters)
Across the Gulf of Thailand, Thai Airways transformed their head-office canteen in Bangkok into a plane-themed experience for customers missing in-flight dining at over 35,000 feet!
And in late October of 2020, Singapore Airlines temporarily converted one of its grounded Airbus A380 aircraft into an upscale restaurant, catering to travel-hungry residents of the island nation. (Business Insider)
That’s what I like to call having a taste of air travel. 😋
Rising beyond the throes of uncertainty, I think it’s clear that the initial reaction from the travel and tourism sectors to COVID is magnanimously laudable.
Although suffering devastating losses amounting to several billions of dollars, stakeholders in the public transport industry also committed to keeping the danger-virus at bay.
In Nigeria, Keke Napep (auto rickshaw) owners installed safety plastic panels between rider and passenger compartments and this was also replicated in parts of Asia.
On buses, airplanes and trains, middle seats were mostly empty, disinfection of cabins happened round-the-clock, more hospital-grade HEPA air filters were introduced and wearing of face mask was enforced by local authorities.
You should know, Mother Nature too heaved a sigh of relief due to global lockdown or curfew restrictions in March of 2020 and throughout the year.
Greenhouse gas emissions from “mega-emitters” – China, the United States, and European Union – and other countries dipped by roughly 2.4 billion tons for a while and as both industry and transport came to a halt, significant changes in the concentration of NO₂ was visible from outer space!
Again, reports of marine life such as ducks and dolphins reaching the once tourist-packed and unclear Venice canals circulated on social media channels and videos of cute penguins at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium wandering quiet corridors and staring at exhibits went viral.
As you disembark, I hope these few triumphs can convince you that travel and tourism businesses are on a promising path to recovery from the woes of COVID-19.
Did I forget to mention something? Kindly tell me in the comments.
Time to see the world.