I have put off writing a piece about the coronavirus for a long time, because I didn’t want to be another voice shouting into the already deafening noise. Of course, we each have our own set of concerns, questions and opinions, but in the midst of a global pandemic it seems more important than ever to find some quiet. Not only that, but the coronavirus has taken away the luxury of having someone to turn to with the answers. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from British press coverage of the coronavirus, it’s that these times are unprecedented, so even our usual figures of authority and knowledge are having to learn and improvise as we continue to battle through. However, this isn’t to say that our voices don’t matter. Now, more than ever, they matter. Rightly so, the world as a whole is more concerned with providing solutions to the problems the coronavirus has caused for world economies, healthcare systems and public health standards, than it is with the future of travel. But, even then, the travel and tourism industry stimulates economies, creates livelihoods and generates wealth, and so there are voices quietly chattering about how these industries can survive.
But, where can our voices be heard?
Not the voices of the airline CEOs or aviation agencies, but the consumers. Not even the consumers, but the aficionados. The impassioned generation of aspiring travellers who have been raised alongside the quickening pace of modern life, turning to the skies for an answer to our future, as the prospect of homeownership, a stable career and a sustainable way of life shrunk away as we grew. Our aspirations depend, of course, on the conversations being had by those in charge. But the future of travel doesn’t just mean the future of travel. For our generation, the future of travel is our entire future.
We have all benefitted from the accessibility of international travel in the 21st century. If we pounce early enough, we can be in another country for £20, another continent for less than £100. As with every other industry, the travel industry has boomed to such an extent that the entire world is at our fingertips and, with it, worlds of potential. Accessible travel has afforded us all huge privileges: the opportunity to see with our own eyes the array of choices available to us; the chance to meet and actually understand someone else, someone we may never have met otherwise; the ability to experience a life outside the confines of our own back yard, and to imagine a future there. Coronavirus has made all of this feel like a distant memory now, and potentially unattainable again in the future.
For our generation, the future of travel is our entire future.
With news breaking recently of Virgin Atlantic cutting 3000 jobs in the UK and ending its operation at Gatwick because of the negative impact of the coronavirus, it’s not out of the question to think that this is just the tip of the iceberg for the travel industry. The economic impact of the coronavirus won’t be fully realised until potentially years in the future, meaning there are a number of different outcomes for the travel industry. However, the likelihood is that all of them will include a huge price hike in the cost of travel, as well as a significantly decreased choice of destinations. Once again, international travel will become off-limits to the working classes, and an industry that is only just starting to shake its elitist reputation will regress.
Beyond the impact on the world, we also need to think about the impact on the individual that the coronavirus might have. In the aftermath of 9/11, the collective fear of flying increased, so imagine the anxiety-inducing consequences of the coronavirus. What does this mean for the future of travel culture, and for travellers with anxiety?
With almost every country in the world imposing some form of lockdown, just the notion of leaving the house has become something to be frightened of, cautious about. Once the worst has passed, will we go back to normal completely, expected to forget about the fear that’s been drilled into us on a daily basis?
Or, should we prepare for a new normal?
Even if our life after the coronavirus is altered, so too will our mindsets be. This could go one of two ways: we carpe the diem more than ever, gaining perspective over the small obstacles that we would have previously let stop us in our tracks, and making the most of every opportunity that comes or way; or, we shut down, the memory of the pandemic too recent, the fear something like this happening again too much to bear.
There’s no way of really knowing to what extent the coronavirus will affect modern life, or for how long. We can speculate on how it will negatively impact the travel and tourism industry and, of course, how that will go on to affect the lives of the Shut Up And Go readership, but we won’t know until we live it. The last thing we needed was another global crisis, as our generation still grapples to adjust our life plans according to the last one, but it’s what we’ve got.
In the meantime, FaceTime those friends you made from another continent; research that job opportunity you heard about in Barcelona; keep learning that new language, you’ll need it one day.