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Even before our current global health crisis, “travel shaming” was a thing. Back then, it mainly had to do with our country’s obsession with working and travelers’ contributions to the climate crisis (think: flight shaming) and overtourism.
In these current days of undertourism, however, a new type of travel shaming has emerged — and it is understandable to see why. Travel was the reason that COVID-19 spread from Europe and China to the U.S. and around the world. And research has shown that New York’s outbreak led to the spread of COVID-19 throughout the U.S.
But those early outbreaks preceded the adoption of risk-mitigating measures such as mask wearing, social distancing and heightened sanitization. Unlike early travelers who spread coronavirus across continents and states, we are now armed with best practices that are making many Americans feel OK about the occasional, cautious trip. (According to AAA, 97% of the 700 million summer trips taken this summer were domestic car trips, and most were long weekend getaways.)
In reality, there is far more risk in attending a neighbor’s 50-person barbeque than there is in heading to a remote cabin for a backcountry hiking trip. It has to be said: The personal responsibility of the individual — how seriously they follow safety and hygiene protocols — is the most important factor in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
And, what about the people and places who depend on tourism? As folks shame Americans for possibly spreading the virus to the places they visit, countries looking to regain lost GDP, such as Barbados and Bermuda, are actively recruiting tourists through programs that give remote workers visas for temporary relocation.
Meanwhile, advisors are hanging on by a thread to survive this pandemic. An American Society of Travel Advisors survey of 1,200 advisors found that only 14% of agents anticipate being in business longer than a year from now if conditions hold. And despite such circumstances, they take the moral high ground — they consult about risks, but let clients make their own decisions.
Indeed, it is possible for advisors to sustain their businesses in ways that are not insensitive. In this issue’s cover story, “A Travel Advisor Guide to Ethical Travel Marketing Right Now,” author JoAnna Haugen highlights responsible marketing practices to incorporate during and after the pandemic. Building back better is a way for advisors to feel good about their place in the industry, and certainly a way to combat anyone trying to shame advisors for doing their job.
According to best-selling author and shame researcher Brene Brown, “you cannot shame or belittle people into changing their behaviors” — but that doesn’t mean folks won’t try.