Years ago before Cuba became the favoured destination it is today, I remember renting a vehicle in Santiago de Cuba with the intent of heading out to “explore” off-the-beaten path spots in the rural southeastern part of the country.
Armed with a map purchased from the hotel gift shop ( and at the time I thought the staff were laughing at my strangely accented attempt to communicate in pigeon Spanish) , I hit the road only to discover a couple of hours later that said map had been printed years earlier and bore no more resemblance to accuracy than my linguistic skills did to Spanish.
Roads that were supposed to go from point A to point B were long gone – some having been destroyed in the early days of the Cuban revolution.
Bridges that were shown as crossing a river, well, the river was still there but the bridge……… not so much.
The trip was such that I began to understand how Stevie Wonder might have felt playing ‘pin the tail on the donkey’.
I find myself in a similar position these days attempting to navigate a path forward when it comes to where, when and how travel will start to come back into the fold.
Back in March of last year when shiploads of excrement hit the fan, I was asked “when do you think we’ll be in a position to travel again?”
As the severity and scope of Covid-19 continued to expand, my “hope” was (like many) that Fall 2020 would see the beginning of a return to normalcy however my public stance was that we likely would be out of commission for the better part of 12 months.
The gods laughed, sounding a lot like the folks in Santiago who’d sold me the damned map.
And so here we are closing in on a year since the sneeze that changed the world pulled the rug out from under us, and frankly we’re not a lot closer to “guesstimating” that return than we were back in March 2020.
*What we do know*
Airlines, cruise lines, tour operators and resorts have for the most part abandoned any hope of salvaging a Winter 2021 season.
While there presently remains “some” hope for a reduced Summer 2021 season in select parts of the world, the early light of hope fades each day as global lockdowns in the face of escalating case numbers continues to dominate the headlines.
As such, plans laid last year by many players on the supply end have been pushed back to target Summer/Fall 2021 albeit with greater confidence that 2022 will see some sort of return to a revenue position.
With little or no revenue in the immediate forecast, airlines in Canada have pretty much shelved plans for anything other than a very minimal operating schedule for the 1st half of 2021.
Adding of course to the mix is the uncertainly in the minds of consumers that while their outbound flight from Canada to Paradise “may” operate as scheduled – what are the chances that the return flight will still be in the cards when it’s time to come home?
The news is not all bad however – there’s a move afoot with some of the cruise lines as well as a few resorts who are forging ahead with plans to offer on board/in resort Covid 19 PCR testing as things began to open up. Given that more and more countries are requiring 72 hours prior to boarding your flight back home “PCR Negative Test Results”, this at least shows there is an actual bridge over the river on the ever moving map.
*What We Of Course Don’t Know*
The list is extensive, but the top 5 as I see it as of today would be:
-will our ‘go to’ airlines ,cruise lines, tour operators, resorts actually still be operating once we emerge from the dark tunnel? Zero or close to zero revenue for more than a year is clearly unsustainable.
-given that the travel industry was the 1st to shut down and will be the last to re-open ( take out doesn’t work for the travel industry) will the Government of Canada be forthcoming in any type of industry specific support given that the shutdowns were/are for the most part federally mandated?
-will the early promises of a vaccine alleviate travellers’ anxiety while conforming to what “may” become a prerequisite for international travel similar to what Yellow Fever requirements are in a variety of countries. And given that early in the game there would “appear” to be a few problems with respect to the supply end of the chain – is there a clear road ahead to a return to travel in 2021?
-will there be a clear policy indicating that insurance companies, having collected a premium to cover unexpected cancellations beyond the control of the traveler, be mandated to settle a claim from passengers rather than continue to maintain that future travel credits are as good as refunds ( which incidentally they are not)?
-will airlines & tour operators be mandated by law to refund passengers in those instances where cancellation of flights has been initiated by the airline? Cruise lines incidentally have performed well in this arena.
That travel will return is a given.
That it will look a little different to many is also a given.
And my clearest message is *don’t give up*.
The second message is *get a map*
Plot the course but double check that the bridge that “seems” to be there actually is.
Nothing worse than discovering that “the river in the rear view mirror is deeper than it appears”.
Adios until next time.