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Author’s note: Since this article’s publish date, the situation has rapidly evolved, and the U.S. State Department is now advising that U.S. citizens reconsider travel abroad. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus, it is critical to avoid discretionary travel.
There’s no denying that the world is reeling from COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019). Some alarm is reasonable, as the new coronavirus should be taken seriously. However, rather than immediately terminate all forthcoming travel plans, it’s also wise to pause and thoroughly evaluate all the available facts.
As of press time, the U.S. State Department has only advised against nonessential travel to China, South Korea, Italy and Iran. (Note: South Korea and Italy have received Level 3 advisories, which asks individuals to reconsider travel. China’s advisory does not include Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan.)
However, other destinations around the world and within the U.S. are still very much open for business. What’s more, tourism is the lifeblood of many of their economies.
In addition to staying abreast of the coronavirus updates and understanding the legalities related to dealing with the coronavirus, travel advisors can share with clients the following places where TravelAge West staff have recently traveled, despite the current global predicament.
Travelers should review all
available advisories and risk assessments from the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention and the U.S. State Department. Travelers should weigh their
personal risk and consider their own health history, in addition to the
destination in question.
Las Vegas“I just got back from a trip to Las Vegas, where I sampled the Prestige Club Lounge and The Palazzo Tower at The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino. I also took the opportunity to try out a few of the hottest restaurants in town, including chef David Chang’s Majordomo (at The Palazzo), and chef Roy Choi’s Best Friend at the Park MGM Las Vegas. Both spots were amazing.
Overall, it was a great trip, and I was especially heartened to see that the resorts were bustling and The Strip was as wild as ever. I also noticed that everywhere I went, the staff seemed especially appreciative that I was traveling.
While I don’t think there is any reason to put off an international vacation, if you have clients nervous about going overseas, don’t hesitate to suggest a luxury trip closer to home.”
— Kenneth Shapiro, Vice President, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief
Antarctica With Aurora Expeditions“I‘m sailing the Weddell Sea right now. Antarctica is the only continent on Earth without the coronavirus at this point. I feel more likely to get it in California — where there hasn’t been a lot of COVID-19 virus testing despite confirmed cases, so it’s possible there are unreported or invisible cases in my community.
Sanitation wipes and hand sanitizer do a lot of heavy lifting, and I’ve been washing my hands as often as possible. Onboard, there are hand sanitizer stations nearly everywhere.
Aurora Expeditions was very proactive, sending us info about its measures against the coronavirus (like taking every guest's temperature prior to boarding) before travel. The ship is full with 119 passengers, and there is very little talk about the coronavirus. People are having the time of their lives. My flights were full, as well.”
— Mindy Poder, Executive Editor
Origins Lodge in Costa Rica“A little over a week ago, I explored the lush depths of northern Costa Rica’s rainforest, which brims with life in its purest form. As a guest of eco-luxury and wellness-focused property Origins Lodge near the city of Upala, I was invited to look inward and to honor my spiritual well-being, as well as my connection to the Earth.
To be honest, I had been grappling with dread and anxiety all the way up until I landed at Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport in Liberia. However, these feelings were not at all due to the coronavirus. (In fact, Costa Rica confirmed its first and only case of the coronavirus on March 6.) Instead, they were a result of personal exhaustion and an overbooked schedule.
But I still decided to embark on the trip and ultimately felt grateful for the healing properties that travel can provide. Being immersed in nature can be particularly alleviating, too.
During my stay at Origins Lodge, heartbreaking coronavirus-related news kept funneling in, and I witnessed how panic and cancellations — oftentimes misguided and misinformed — are devastating both travel businesses and people’s livelihoods. But I was also consoled by how travel professionals are remaining calm and tackling challenge after challenge. It may be bittersweet, but perhaps there’s no better time to prove your worth to clients than now.”
— Valerie Chen, Deputy Digital Editor
Santa Monica, Calif.“On March 8, I attended the 2020 Los Angeles Marathon in downtown Santa Monica, Calif., to support a friend who was running the marathon with her family. Despite global coronavirus concerns, the area was crowded with lots of people cheering for their friends and family. Some runners wore masks, but most people — especially the cheering onlookers — did not. There were hand sanitizer stations throughout the route, and runners were urged to wash their hands frequently, not to hug or shake hands with other competitors or spectators, and to try to stand 6 feet away from other people when possible.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Los Angeles Marathon (@lamarathon) on Mar 8, 2020 at 8:18am PDT
A post shared by Los Angeles Marathon (@lamarathon) on Mar 8, 2020 at 8:18am PDT
The travel industry obviously impacts markets and economies around the world, and to keep our global system running — and to keep people employed — it’s important to continue traveling, as long as safety guidelines and precautions are followed. I have no plans to cancel any upcoming trips or to stop making travel plans; the only change in course I would take is to postpone travel to areas with high health notice levels and to find an alternative destination.
If you’re traveling and facing these delays or quarantines, remember to be kind. People are just trying to do their jobs and keep more people from becoming ill. We’re all responsible for doing our part to support one another during an international crisis. This means taking care of ourselves and being compassionate to others.”
If you’re traveling and facing these delays or quarantines, remember to be kind. People are just trying to do their jobs and keep more people from becoming ill. We’re all responsible for doing our part to support one another during an international crisis. This means taking care of ourselves and being compassionate to others.
— Michelle Juergen, Senior Editor
Painted Canyon in the Mecca Hills Wilderness, Calif.“On Feb. 29, my two friends and I took a road trip from Los Angeles to Mecca, Calif. — about 45 minutes outside of Joshua Tree National Park — to hike the Ropes Canyon Trail within the Mecca Hills Wilderness area.
With very few people around us, we had a beautiful trail within a slot canyon nearly to ourselves. However, a more popular route (the Ladder Canyon Trail) did have a few families and outdoor enthusiasts. Everyone we met seemed happy to get away from the bustling cities and into nature.
Incorporating active activities in unfamiliar places is a perfect way to scratch my itch for exploring. I also find that escaping my routine and trying something new and challenging is incredibly important for my mental health — it leaves me energized and excited for the week ahead.
If you’re like me, remember that you don’t need to get on a crowded plane to have a unique travel experience; in this case, I found an interesting destination within a three-hour drive of my home. And, instead of finding a more crowded tourist attraction (such as Joshua Tree National Park), we intentionally searched for a trail outside the park that attracted fewer people.”
— Emma Weissmann, Associate Editor
Sea of Cortez With Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic“I recently took an expedition cruise in the Sea of Cortez, exploring the natural wildlife and cultural ports of call. The crowds, especially in La Paz, were nowhere to be seen, as it’s a quiet off-season time for the destination.
I plan to continue taking cruises because we should not let irrational fear keep us from living and exploring our wonderful world. Travel is the most enriching experience I’ve ever had the privilege of participating in, and I have no intentions of slowing down.
Regarding cruises specifically — disease does not originate on ships, but it is brought on by people. Precautions are simple: Wash your hands.”
— Jason Leppert, Cruise Editor
Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico“I recently went on a girlfriends’ getaway to Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico, for a few fantastic days of skiing, and then tacked on a day in Santa Fe to sample some of the best margaritas in the U.S. It was completely business as usual in both destinations.
I intend to keep traveling because I look at the facts. During upcoming trips, I’ll take sensible precautions such as washing my hands and other easy habits recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
— Audrey Wood, Business Development Manager
Paris“From Feb. 29 to March 7, my family and I visited museums, such as Musee d'Orsay; took guided tours of the Catacombs of Paris and the Palace of Versailles; stopped by points of interest, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe; and even visited Disneyland Paris. We also attended a Paris Saint-Germain Football Club. The crowd levels were lower in Paris than I've experienced during past summer visits, but I attributed that to being off-season.
Although I understand the concerns about being in situations where there are large numbers of people from different parts of the world — such as international airports or tourist attractions — that dynamic could also occur at home. (I live in Los Angeles, where we see a lot of international visitors every year.)”
— Samantha Davis-Friedman, Contributing Writer