There has been plenty of talk surrounding travel and the guilt associated with it in the midst of the pandemic. To learn more about how traveling safely and responsibly is helping those within the industry recover, Groups Today sat down with Robb Showalter, Brand Development Manager, Bob Rogers Travel, to discuss his recent travels.
Since the pandemic began, where have you traveled and with who?
Since the pandemic began, my wife and I have done quite a bit of domestic traveling—visiting Arizona; San Diego; Los Angeles; Portland, Oregon; Santa Fe; Miami; Moab, Utah; Alaska; and Death Valley National Park.
Since I normally find myself in Tokyo, Hong Kong or Buenos Aires for a long weekend, this has given me the opportunity to do some domestic traveling I wouldn't have normally, like driving the Pacific Coast Highway and taking a cross country train ride (which I never in a million years thought I would do). International travel has been tricky, but we did make it down to French Polynesia for a week, as well.
Why has it been important to you to continue to travel during the pandemic, outside of simply enjoyment?
Beyond my own mental well-being, it has been important to understand what things are like "on the ground" so we can convey that information to our groups. Additionally, if we have not traveled ourselves, how can we expect others to travel?
Do you feel safe traveling? If so, what gives you that assurance?
I've felt very safe while traveling, and never felt less safe than if I simply did things in my local area. I have done a lot of research in choosing where to go, where to stay, and what to do. We try to take as many reasonable precautions as possible when traveling so we feel safe and protect others. We wear masks anytime we are outside our hotel room (even if mask wearing is not a local requirement), and avoid any "high-risk" activities (like large crowds).
What has been the most surprising thing you've encountered along the way?
I have been surprised by how normal traveling has felt. We are used to additional safety measures like social distancing and wearing a mask in daily life at home, so it doesn't feel all that different out on the road.
Being a travel industry professional, you've already got an understanding as to who travel is helping right now. How would you articulate that to others who aren't from within the industry?
I think a lot of people don't realize how many people have livelihoods that are directly related to tourism. In some places, there simply are not many (if any) alternatives. This felt particularly pronounced in Bora Bora, French Polynesia, where after a long border closure, many people thanked us for coming to visit their islands.
What's your advice to other industry professionals who want to help with recovery?
Make sure your business is prepared by having clear information on your website regarding what changes you have made to keep travelers safe, and enforce those polices onsite. Without good policies in place, you likely won't attract many travelers, and those who do come, may not return in the future.
If you haven't done any traveling, grab your mask and hit the road once you feel comfortable. You'll have a better understanding of what steps can be taken to ensure safe travel, and do a small part to support the travel industry.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.
Photos courtesy of Robb Showalter.