5 Bizarre Ways the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Changed Travel and Tourism

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.

Travel and tourism in Covid-19 pandemic

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…

Partygoers Coronavirus

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.

Istanbul the lights festival attractions
The festival of Lights. Photo – Istanbul weekly

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.

Also see: Surviving COVID-19: My Latest Road Trip Described in Just 1,357 Words!

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-19 - empty shelves at a grocery store
Almost empty shelves of cleaning supplies. Photo – Inquirer

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.

5 bizarre ways Covid-19 changed travel and tourism

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.

A satisfied Urban Air customer sipping a cocktail
A satisfied Urban Air customer sipping a cocktail. Photo – Goodie’s corner

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!

Thai Airways plane-themed restaurant in Bangkok
Customers eat at Thai Airways pop-up airplane-themed restaurant. Photo – Reuters

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.

How Covid is reshaping travel and tourism trends
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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.

Related: Surviving COVID-19: 5 Weird but Effective Changes in the World of Travel

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.


32 Comments Add yours

  1. Gigi✨ says:

    2020 was the year it all happened.

    Everything that could go right did, as well as anything that could go wrong. But in all of it, they gave varying perspectives to life. We saw loss, pain, community, love, we saw ourselves push the boundaries of several limitations.
    At Retrogram, we are helping people tell the stories of their year-in-review. Retrogram collects the best and most inspiring stories and shares them to the world to see. Come share your story with us here


    1. Thanks Gigi! I’ll check out Retrogram…


  2. Finally he’s baaaaaaaaack! What interesting concepts!


    1. Haha! Thanks a bunch Andy!!!


  3. I love that you’re back Ero.. MISSED YOU!
    Loved the virtual travel trip.
    I remember well I was out Feb 29th my b.day…. and it’s a good thing it was a BIG deal with an overnight and the whole nine yards. Wind got out the next few days here and it was lights out.
    I’m getting ready.
    Yea on the plus emmisions are low which is awesome.
    I’m starting to dream the words fly me.
    Great videos!!!!
    Hope you had a good break!


    1. Aw, thanks for the very warm welcome Cindy! And Happy Birthday again… soon.

      Virtual travel is really awesome and I like that it has loads of potential. Glad you enjoyed yourself.

      Cheers! 🥂


  4. Rebecca says:

    I have to agree with you on the points you made in this post. Honestly, it infuriates me that so many people don’t care about spreading COVID-19, not just by refusing to wear masks, but also by continuing to go out to bars, clubs, and restaurants– it also baffles me that bars and clubs would still be opened during a pandemic! I actually had no idea that aircraft-inspired restaurants have burgeoned, although I’ve heard of a few famous ones here and there…it’d be cool to at least enter one for a quick photo op before grabbing my to-go meal! Hope you’re faring well with the pandemic, and stay safe!


    1. At a critical moment during the pandemic, a Nigerian governor ordered the demolition of a “running” hotel to send a strong message to the public.

      It’s disheartening that a couple of people have been purposely refusing to follow protocols.

      But, it’s obvious that regardless of their excesses, travel and tourism stakeholders and the world at large will eventually succeed in this fight.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rebecca… I’d also like to visit an aircraft-inspired restaurant someday.

      Cheers and do stay safe.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. winteroseca says:

    Great summary there! I have certainly had enough of Karens doing anti-mask protests! *facepalm! I did read a good article about how in some respects people took advantage of the pandemic to destroy the climate even more. The message was “don’t be fooled by seeing more animals around”. Also, the hygiene one was interesting. Idk if you saw this video and TikTok challenge from Vietnam, but it was so cool!


    1. I mean it’s one thing to say you’re not wearing a face mask but to start spewing germs on people and calling em curse words all in the name of an anti-mask protest is quite the hassle.

      Thanks for the comment Winteroseca… and you’re right, even though greenhouse gases collapsed for a period of time during lockdown, I’ve seen a couple proofs that we may have come back with even more burning, manufacturing and transport burdens on the planet.

      It was cute seeing animals roam public roads tho. 🤗

      Cheers! Please what’s the name of this challenge? I wanna know what Vietnam was up to during the COVID-19 pandemic.


      1. winteroseca says:

        I know. How can people be so cruel? There were more hate crimes in the US because of it too. I will send you the videos of the Vietnam thing on IG. It’s easier that way


      2. Haha, guess I got a reason to check my Instagram now. Thanks Winteroseca!


      3. winteroseca says:

        You’re welcome!


  6. Excellent read and thanks for the shoutout! As someone who is mostly a local traveller anyway, I guess my travel style wasn’t cramped too much, but boy! I’m so happy to see more Jamaicans explore home. 2020 was the first year I ever saw that becoming trendy. Usually the trend was only to go to the USA or Canada for vacation. Some of these other trends though I hadn’t heard of before. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome Rochelle! Your article’s very detailed and I had to reference it.

      It’s a joy for anyone promoting local tourism on their blogs, social media or YouTube to see an up-tick in activities…

      Thanks! And I’m glad you learnt a couple other travel and tourism trends during COVID.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent post! You covered a lot of things I wasn’t aware of. Flights to nowhere was a phenomenon in some countries.


    1. Thanks! It’s cool that it spread to countries asides Australia and even though environmentalists frowned upon “Flights to Nowhere” in the first few weeks, it was a pretty innovative way to stay afloat in a pandemic.


  8. It’s good to have you back, Emmanuel! Interesting to read your analysis of how the travel industry is responding to the ongoing pandemic.


    1. Thanks for your kind and welcoming support Leighton. The travel and tourism industry was quite resilient in the battle against COVID and it’s an interesting topic to research on.

      I’m going to be laidback with the blog this year.


      Liked by 1 person

  9. darellphilip says:

    Love your blog bro. You always write interesting stuff! Hope you’re keeping well and that 2021 is a better year for you and is all. Blessings to you my bro! 😊🙏💛👊🎉


    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Darell! I’m definitely keeping well and I hope you are too.

      Cheers to greater heights.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. darellphilip says:

        Cheers Emmanuel 👊


  10. Shelly DS says:

    Wait, virtual travel? Airplane themed restaurant? Nah… this is just way to much! LOL I can’t!


    1. Haha Shelly! Innovation in both travel and tourism industry was groundbreaking and for me, I’ll be picking the virtual travel options over the “airplane restaurants.”

      What about you? Did you see similar innovations in SA?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Shelly DS says:

        I don’t think I have. The most creative people did was to make their own alcohol… and as a result, we had some covid deaths in Cape Town that were not related to the virus at all.


      2. Oh my, that’s tragic! Ramaphosa really has to rethink the ban on alcohol consumption as this is causing another pandemic in itself.

        I hope for better days.


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