We can’t think of a time when purchasing power has carried this much weight, nor when tourist dollars have counted more. In the same vein, never has there been a more important time to postpone your trip rather than cancelling it altogether. Let us tell you why.
Around ten percent of the global workforce is employed by the travel industry, reliant on our tourist dollars to keep their businesses afloat, their bills paid and – often – their children in school. The coronavirus pandemic has put the entire industry under immense pressure, with workers around the globe finding themselves suddenly without work, with reduced hours and a reduced income, or – at the least – facing a lengthy period of uncertainty.
While travellers everywhere are facing the same uncertainty, it’s totally understandable that the knee-jerk reaction is to cancel your trip and get your money back. But what about delaying your holiday rather than cancelling it altogether? Businesses around the world – reliant on your bookings to pay their salaries – need streams of cash flow to see them through these trying times.
The reality is that much of what we book – and the money we spend on a trip – doesn’t go to a massive, faceless corporation, but to local communities and independent outfits on the ground. The knowledgeable safari guides, nimble Sherpa and even the hotel cleaner: local people of all fortunes are being hard hit by the current crisis. These small, independent outfits are the ones who need our support most – and it is these meaningful ventures that we’ll be glad are still in business when we are able to return. It's the local communities who will welcome travellers back with open arms when it’s safe to see the world again.
In the spirit of promoting these small businesses – in the same way we have been doing for decades in our guidebooks – Rough Guides now operates a tailor-made trips service. Bookable on our website, a range of mostly small, independent local tour operators are given a platform to connect to travellers, like yourself.
Of course, you need to be protected as a consumer, too. What we’re seeing is that businesses – including airlines – are making their cancellation, refund and postponement policies more flexible, to give punters more breathing room. All this makes it much easier to play travel plans by ear. If you’re still not sure of the small print, contact the company directly: staff are aware that there will be more questions that usual. And don’t be shy about contacting experts “on the ground” either: these are the people with the local knowledge to advise you as the situation changes.
Having insurance is important, but so is knowing that your money is safe and guaranteed. We vet every local tour operator on our tailor-made trips platform carefully and Rough Guides insures all your trip pre-payments. More often than not, only a small deposit is needed to confirm your trip and in these uncertain times, all of our partners are trying their best to make these deposits flexible to be rolled over to 2021.
Being forced to slow down certainly has its drawbacks – and we’ve never seen so many pictures of sourdough on Instagram – but it’s an opportunity, too. There’s nothing like a global health crisis to make you re-evaluate your priorities and think about what’s most important to you. We hope that when travel resumes, holidaymakers will think a little harder about where they are spending their money, and how they can travel in more ethical and sustainable ways.
Top image: David Statue with protective coronavirus maks in Florence, Italy ©Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock
Helen worked as a Senior Travel Editor at Rough Guides and Insight Guides, based in the London office. Among her favourite projects to work on are inspirational guides like