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You can support the tourism industry today by booking travel for the future. | Photo by John Matychuk on Unsplash

March 17, 2020

With border crossings becoming increasingly difficult, businesses closing their doors, and international transportation put on hold, the travel and tourism industry has essentially come to a standstill.

It is difficult to describe the industry’s current situation: Unprecedented. Catastrophic. Heartbreaking. Fragile. Uncertain.

Each passing day is 24 additional hours that puts an incredible strain on an industry that employs up to 10% of the world’s workforce — not to mention the ripple effect on local businesses that also benefit from travelers. No one knows when this will bottom out or what the long-term impacts will be for destinations, tour companies, travel agents, service providers, and the millions of other people employed in this sector.

Like the climate crisis, it can all feel incredibly overwhelming. And, like many of my colleagues, I’ve been asking myself what I can do to help the travel and tourism industry weather this tumultuous storm and come back stronger, more resilient, and in a more sustainable manner.

No single person cannot solve this massive problem. However, there are several things you can do today to ensure that there’s a healthy travel industry once the world is ready to welcome visitors back with open arms.

“There are several things you can do today to ensure that there’s a healthy travel industry once the world is ready to welcome visitors back with open arms.”

Think locally. Your backyard is someone else’s travel destination. Do what you can to support locally owned restaurants and businesses in your neighborhood now so they remain viable and intact once travelers return later. Consider ordering delivery service or to-go meals (you can freeze the food now for later), buying gift cards, and tipping service providers (just a bit more than usual, if you can afford it).

Leave reviews — even for local businesses. For better or worse, travelers often choose service providers based on ratings on sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Hotels, tour guides, and restaurants heavily rely on good ratings to attract customers. Take time now to review the travel-related or tangential businesses you’ve used while on vacation. Don’t forget to do the same for your favorite local businesses too.

Postpone, don’t cancel. It’s scary not knowing what the future holds. If you have future travel plans, I understand the desire to cancel them. For the most part, service providers and airlines have been generous with their cancellation policies, fully refunding future travel experiences through at least the next couple months. However, this puts the travel industry in a precarious financial position.

Instead of canceling altogether, postpone your trip by asking for credit instead of cash back. You wanted to take that trip anyway. Know that by accepting credit and taking that trip later, you are making a huge difference in the livelihoods of countless people.

Book now for future travel. While you’ve got time on your hands, go ahead and book that trip you plan to take later this year. Those winter holidays might seem a long way off, but now is the perfect time to slot something in for months down the road.

For those with kids at home, involve the whole family in the planning process. This is an awesome cross-curriculum opportunity to talk about geography and learn about history. Calculate miles and money with math. Read up on a destination for literature class. Maybe even learn a few words in a new language. Reward your family for making the best of all that time stuck at home with a trip next fall that they helped plan.

Support microfinance programs. Small business owners around the world are going to take a major hit with this pandemic. If you had a trip planned in the coming months, consider making a donation to a small business in the country you were going to visit through a program like Kiva. Kiva also recently announced that it is extending its lending terms and criteria for small businesses in the United States to help them through this difficult time.

Remember that you matter. The travel and tourism industry exists because people travel. If you travel, you make a difference in the industry’s future. Don’t underestimate how much a single action can matter to the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on this industry. Together, we can see it through to the other side.


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