Here’s a $570 billion question: When is it safe to travel again?
When the experts say so, that’s when. But figuring out who those experts are during the coronavirus crisis may be as difficult as finding a vaccine.
When is it safe to book a trip again?
Here are three things that must happen before travelers return to the sky, sea and hotels:
1. The State Department must lift its Level 4 travel advisory
On March 19, the government issued a warning to avoid all international travel because of the pandemic. It will have to rescind the warning for travelers to feel comfortable booking any kind of trip again.
2. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has to give the “all clear.”
The CDC normally doesn’t issue advisories or restrictions for travel within the United States. But it did for coronavirus. Once that advisory is lifted, travelers can resume planning their summer vacations.
3. The World Health Organization needs to give a thumbs-up to travel
It’s not enough for just one of these entities to rescind its warnings. To be safe, wait for all three to do it.
By the way, that half-trillion dollars is the amount of tourism money at risk in North America this year after the coronavirus outbreak, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, a trade organization. All told, nearly 7 million tourism jobs are on the line.
“The travel and tourism sector faces an economic meltdown,” warned Gloria Guevara Manza, WTTC’s president.
And that’s because your next vacation is history – at least, for now.
Other signs that it’s safe to travel
Schools and businesses reopen. When classes resume and you can sit down in restaurants again, things are returning to normal and it may be safe to travel.
When you can buy travel insurance. Many travel insurance companies stopped selling policies after the outbreak. Some added new restrictions, especially on “cancel for any reason” policies. “That’s the canary in the coal mine,” says Phil Sylvester, a spokesman for World Nomads, a travel insurance company. When travel insurance providers resume allowing the purchase of policies, it means it’s safe to travel.
When will all of that happen? At least three months, according to the predictive models developed by the travel risk assessment team of G1G.com, an insurance technology company based in San Jose, California. “We’re telling our customers to avoid non-essential travel for the time being,” spokeswoman Rachel Coen says.
Stan Sandberg, the co-founder of travelInsurance.com, says insurance purchases can also be a reliable bellwether. “We are seeing travel insurance purchases primarily for travel after August 1, and many travel insurance policies for travel in 2021,” he says.
These are NOT signs that it’s safe to travel again
Reopening tourist attractions. “That has more to do with economics and profit anxiety rather than safety,” says Courtney Kansler, a senior health intelligence analyst at WorldAware, a risk-management firm headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland. While these events may be greeted with fanfare, it doesn’t mean there’s no risk of infection.
No more coronavirus cases. Even if a particular destination country is reporting no additional cases, travelers are still transiting through airports with thousands of other people. You still could get infected.
When politicians say so. Instead, heed the words of health officials. “They are the experts,” says Alison Hickey, president of Kensington Tours. “When they feel the time is right, they will lift the restrictions on international travel.”