Here's a pretty staggering fact you might not know: the tourism industry accounts for roughly 1 in 10 jobs around the world.
That's hundreds of millions of jobs in a wide variety of sectors of the travel industry; everything from airline employees to hotel staff to tour guides to cruise ship workers to travel agents. And let's not forget the people who work in restaurants and cafes in tourist hot spots, the owners of souvenir shops, and even travel writers like me!
The World Travel and Tourism Council is already predicting that up to 50 million jobs will be lost in the tourism industry worldwide due to the effects and after-effects of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. In the US alone, it's predicted that this pandemic will have a negative impact on the travel industry at least 7 times greater than 9/11.
I won't lie to you: Things look pretty grim right now.
It's obviously not just the tourism industry that's been affected; lots of people in lots of industries are losing their jobs right now. And that sucks. But since the tourism industry is the only one I've known for several years, it's the one that I feel like I can actually talk about.
If you're feeling a bit helpless now, you're certainly not alone. I vacillate daily between worrying about my own business in the coming months, and trying to figure out what I can do to help others right now with the money I still have.
The good news is that there ARE things we can do right now. And, even though it may not feel like it at the moment, this WILL eventually be over and we'll be able to travel once again.
9 ways to support the travel industry right now
If you want to feel a little less helpless, here are a bunch of things you can do right NOW to support the travel industry while still diligently practicing your social distancing. (I really hope none of you need to hear this, but you should definitely NOT be traveling at the moment!)
1. Continue ordering takeout from local restaurants
When we start talking about the travel industry, we have to start local. After all, the tourist attractions, museums, and restaurants in your home town are all suffering right now – and they're the ones you might still have access to.
Even in cities and states where stricter “shelter in place” rules have been implemented, many restaurants have been able to remain open and provide take-out and delivery services. If your favorite restaurant is still operating, consider ordering something this week – and consider tipping your delivery driver or the person at the till at little extra.
If you want to take your support a step further, consider ordering from your local Chinese restaurant. They are hurting the most during all of this, and could definitely use your business.
2. Shop local online
Many non-essential businesses are closed by now – but in many cases it's still possible to support them by shopping online.
Order a bag of coffee beans from your favorite cafe; get some new artwork for your home from your favorite artist's Etsy shop or online gallery (you've probably got some extra time on your hands right now to do some redecorating!); browse your favorite small shops' online stores for a t-shirt or sticker that can help you show your support from afar.
I know that, for many people right now, spending extra money just isn't feasible. But for those of us who still have our jobs and some disposable income, now is an excellent time to give back to your local community in the form of supporting small businesses.
3. Purchase gift cards to use later
Another easy way to support businesses right now is to purchase gift cards that you can save for later. This can be done locally by buying gift cards for nearby restaurants, shops, and museums, but it can also be done on a more global level – you can totally buy gift cards for your favorite tour companies, hotels, airlines, etc., too.
Now, I don't necessarily think we're going to “save” airlines in this way, but if you have a go-to small tour company you love, or favorite attraction or museum that you know you'll be visiting once this is all over, look into whether you can buy a gift card now to use later.
Some bigger companies I know you can buy gift cards for easily online include:
- Southwest Airlines
- GetYourGuide (tours all around the world)
- Urban Adventures (local immersion day tours)
4. Continue reading your favorite blogs/websites
Yes, this item is a little bit self-serving, but if you've ever taken a peek at my post about how I make money as a blogger, you'll know that a lot of my income comes from people like you reading my stories, planning trips, and even booking travel through my links.
Since nobody is really planning trips right now or even particularly interested in reading about travel, you can probably imagine what my traffic numbers (not to mention income) look like at the moment. I'm not telling you this because I want you feel bad for me; I'm in this for the long haul and have confidence I'll be just fine! But I do want you to know.
An easy way to support your favorite content creators right now is to just spend some time on their websites, or watching their YouTube channels. I've always presented 100% of my content to you for free, and I plan to continue doing this. You can help by simply reading a few things on my site.
This is a great time to do some armchair traveling, and daydream about where you might want to go once this is all over and we can all travel again.
And if you're not ready to start thinking about future trips yet, how about a distraction in the form of learning? I have a whole series of posts that are just fun facts about different places.
5. Buy that ebook or guidebook
Have you been putting off buying that ebook written by your favorite blogger, or that guidebook for a country you're planning to visit next year? Go ahead and buy it and support self-publishers, small publishers, and other travel businesses trying to stay afloat right now.
6. Support brands that pivot
You may not be able to go on a tour or a cruise right now, but you can still support brands in other ways. I've already mentioned gift cards, and there's always the option to book flights and tours for later with companies that are offering flexible booking options and free change fees.
But you can also look out for ways that your favorite brands are pivoting to offer new and unique things to their customers and guests right now. A good example is Walks, which operates unique walking tours all around the world. While they can't run tours at the moment, they've started up a Tour from Home series, where you can take cooking classes or museum tours from home with local expert guides.
You can also get insights into art, history, music, and Downtown Abbey on Viking TV (brought to you by the folks behind Viking Cruises), or sign up for a live virtual wine tasting and chateau tour with my friends over at Luxe Adventure Traveler.
You'll also find me trying to find ways to support brands that are just doing GOOD during this difficult time. For example, I've always been a Marriott fan, but after its CEO addressed the situation so well (and has said he won't be taking a salary for the rest of 2020), I'll be going out of my way to spend money with Marriott in the future.
7. Donate to organizations you care about
Taking it to the next level, if you're able to, consider making a donation to an organization that you care about. This could be a local charity helping to feed kids or the elderly, a local animal shelter, or any other organization that's been affected by all the shutdowns and uncertainty.
You can also consider making a donation to your favorite museum, zoo, or other attraction (either locally or elsewhere around the world), especially considering how many of them are offering free online programming, virtual tours, and live animal cams to help keep us all entertained as we're stuck at home.
8. Leave online reviews
The easiest thing you can do right now to show support from your couch is to leave some online reviews. If you've never written a Yelp review for your favorite restaurant, or told people on TripAdvisor about the best hotel you've ever stayed in, or rated your favorite attraction on Google, or left a note for your favorite tour guide, now is the perfect time to do all of that.
While new reviews won't help businesses make money right this minute, they can certainly help later once the world economy gets rolling again. (Plus, as someone who often gets feedback from readers, I can tell you that the positive stuff really is a big deal; I have a whole folder in my Gmail labeled “warm fuzzies” that I go and read whenever I'm having a bad day.)
Plus, this is something that won't cost you a cent!
9. Postpone, don't cancel
Lastly, if you have travel plans coming up that are likely to be disrupted (which, is pretty much all of them through summer at this point), consider postponing or rescheduling your trip instead of totally canceling it.
This doesn't sound like that big of a difference, but for many small companies in travel, it's huge. Refunds mean they make no money – money that they often need to pay staff, or local ground crew. Too many refunds mean smaller companies have a much higher likelihood of going out of business.
If you can opt to reschedule your tour, or take a credit for the value of your hotel stay so you can use it later, do that instead. I realize this isn't always possible in every case. But if it is, consider postponing instead of canceling.
Plus, there's even some evidence to suggest that the act of planning and looking forward to a trip can be just a good for your mental health as actually going on one. So if you don't have to completely cancel, don't.
We are living through a confusing and unprecedented time; the global economy has never faced anything like this – and neither has the travel industry.
I know the tips in this post won't apply to everyone, and that those of us who still have jobs and incomes are very lucky. But I still wanted to provide what ideas and resources I could, in hopes that they might inspire you, too.
Right now, we need to stay home. But eventually we'll need to get out there and travel again.
Did you find this post helpful? Do you have any other tips or ideas for how we can help the travel industry right now?
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