When I first created Bossy Flossie, I wasn’t planning on becoming a professional travel blogger. If anything, I abhorred certain Instagram-addicts who claimed to be brave for living life on the road. I viewed my website as more of a personal project; a virtual scrapbook of wanderlust memories; a documentary of my greatest experiences!
I left Sydney ten years ago to explore the world and have never looked back. A few highlights have included: exploring the Greek islands, skinny-dipping at sub-zero temperatures in Iceland, gorging on fresh sashimi in Taiwan, getting lost in Turkey’s largest national park, stomach-wrenching food poisoning in Thailand, and squabbling over tuk-tuk fares in Sri Lanka. Blogging about my trips has bought me a lot of personal joy, as I can relive the experiences again and again.
With that said, over the years I began secretly hoping that my passion for travel and writing could become a career. I poured hundreds of hours into learning the ins and outs of WordPress (check out my opensource.com guide), as well as how to take that perfect travel snap. Can you blame me? I mean, does anyone really aspire to spend their life working in an office?
I guess the good news is, very few of us work in an actual office these days. Because of the coronavirus, we are learning to work from home. I’m not complaining. I love working from home and I have designed the ultimate workspace for me to be productive (check out my vintage pin leg desk below!!). On the other hand, I have to acknowledge my days as a travel blogger – whether for profit or for fun – are well and truly over.
I cannot imagine travelling again
Try as I might, I cannot visualise travelling freely, or confidently, anytime soon. The mere thought of going abroad is fraught with stress.
You can barely scratch your own butt, let alone turn on your phone, without being confronted by a surge of coronavirus hype. Some sources say it’s nothing more than a little flu, while others claim COVID19 can cause permanent scarring of the vital organs and even brain damage.
Who knows what is the actual truth. All I know is that I don’t want to get sick. I also don’t want to be responsible for infecting others.
Anyway, even if I wanted to travel there is also that teenie weenie issue of border control. At least I can console myself with the fact that once upon a time, I travelled business class with British Airways, and another time I had a selfie with a Singapore Airlines hostess. I have made my peace with staying at home from where I can safely muse the fate of the world.
The way we travel will never be the same
In the last fifty-or-so years, flying has gotten easier thanks to technological progress and globalisation. During my grandparents’ generation, a holiday abroad was an expedition and, quite possibly, a once in a lifetime experience. So much planning was required – letters of invitation, travel-worthy wardrobes, the obligatory postcard, and don’t forget traveller’s cheques.
But then came budget airlines, frequent flyer clubs, carry-on luggage, and relaxed visa requirements. Some regions, such as the Eurozone, dropped the concept of borders altogether. Travel became an easy endeavour and flying for the masses took off. However, there have been bumps along the way.
The greatest threat to the aviation industry (besides our current shit storm) was the September 11 terrorist attack of 2001. Four commercial flights were hijacked, two of which were purposely crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York. Nearly 3,000 people died and 25,000 people were seriously injured.
In the immediate aftermath, the U.S. government halted commercial fleets for three days, causing a 31.6% reduction in travel volume. Even when flights resumed, people were too afraid to fly. Shares of airlines plummeted, with some U.S. carriers such as Midways eventually shutting for good. While the U.S. was hardest hit, major layoffs in the industry occurred around the world.
But innovation, along with some hefty capital injections, turned things around. Better airport security measures were introduced such as advanced x-ray machines, restrictions on carry-on items, and training of security personnel. Although these new measures were pesky, passengers adapted quickly and regained their confidence to fly. The frequent flyer learned to wear slip-on shoes, avoid belts and hairpins, and keep electronic devices out when passing through the terminal gates. George Clooney provided some wise travel tips in the movie Up In The Air.
International travel will be reserved for the elite
Airlines will not recover as quickly from the coronavirus relative to September 11. The most obvious reason being that terrorism isn’t a significant threat. It’s a military strategy based on inciting fear, almost always adopted by weaker parties who have no army and little resources. Since 2001, terrorists have killed no more than 25,000 people globally per year, mostly in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria. Increased airport security measures do more to ease the minds of travellers than prevent actual terrorist acts. Plus, let’s face it – people have short memories. September 11 was a one-off American-centric event the scale of which we have not seen again.
Some would argue the coronavirus isn’t a significant threat either (now who was it that called it a silly little cough?) but regardless of your beliefs, it is a truly international issue and has been wreaking havoc for months with no near end in sight.
Since COVID19 went viral, governments have sought to protect national borders and such policies have forced a decrease in international flights. In early February 2020, the average number of daily commercial flights was around 104,000. This dropped to an average of 24,000 by mid-April and has slowly risen to 60,000 flights per day currently. Domestic travel is the main driver of increased activity. However public confidence, and government policy, continues to waver. Almost five months into the epidemic, commercial activity is down 63% YOY and citizens in many countries still cannot travel abroad freely.
The aviation industry is leaking cash every which way. Even with the slump in passenger demand, there are still ongoing costs that haven’t disappeared such as maintaining aircraft and airports. Many airlines also hedge fuel. Earlier this year, the price of crude oil crashed to an all-time low, which has only added to woes. Presuming a vaccine won’t be ready until 2021, there is a lot that can happen before the year is out. We can expect first-world governments to bail out their national airlines. But many budget carriers and airlines from the developing world will probably disappear. Already, more than twenty airlines have declared bankruptcy this year including AtlasGlobal (Turkish), LATAM Airlines Group, Thai Airways, Alitalia (Italy), and South African Airways. When things go ‘back to normal’ there will be less competition up in the clouds.
With flight activity way down, the airlines have been busy innovating ways to make travelling safer. Early measures have included capping the capacity on planes, requiring face masks to be worn, and not serving food and beverage (especially alcohol). However, there is a lot of invention going on behind closed doors that we still don’t know about. It’s a competitive business and airlines will battle tooth and nail to outdo one another. Inklings of changes to come are nasal-swab tests for COVID19, barriers between seats, onboard doctors, temperature sensors, free-flowing hand sanitiser, and more.
We don’t know what the future of travel will be like, but one thing is for certain; fewer airlines, less capacity on flights, and over-the-top health measures will cause flying to become crazy expensive, not to mention a pain in the neck. International travel will become just like during my grandparents’ time – an activity reserved for the elite.
It will not be fun visiting other countries anymore
Putting aside the logistics of travel, visiting other countries will cease to be a pleasant experience. Foreigners won’t be welcome.
The coronavirus has become the greatest media circus since the O.J. Simpson trial. Excessive news coverage and a definite blurring between real and fake news have successfully created widespread fear. Governments, in turn, have used this to institute more nationalist policies. In many cases, governments appear to be egging on anti-foreigner sentiment either to justify (or divert) attention from their own actions and mishandlings. This is particularly so in countries that are having an election this year.
At the start of the epidemic, when it was thought to be a ‘Chinese flu‘, many Asians living abroad experienced racism and violence. But now it doesn’t matter where you are from. Anyone who starts traipsing through foreign lands will be met with hostility. Everyone is considered a potential carrier and inconsiderate traveller. Nobody gives a shit if you’re a tourist or resident either. If they see your foreign face they will start screaming at you for stealing their jobs.
The world has gone mad. People have lost all rationality. The media keep telling us we are entering the worse recession since the Great Depression of 1929. Every developed country has reported a significant fall in GDP and people are losing jobs left, right and centre. Ways of working have changed, and some roles have disappeared never to return. The masses are afraid of their ability to earn a livelihood, which makes them desperate. I’m not going to attempt to explain why foreigners aren’t evil – it is a waste of breath these days. But if you hate foreigners in your country, I suggest you read this interesting article on birth rates.
Maybe you don’t care if people hate you, and you are more than happy to be the hated tourist. But, there are other reasons why travel will lose its radiant gloss. If we are truly entering a recession, then many tropical destinations that heavily rely on tourism are going to suffer. How many months does it take to go from beach paradise to ghetto? I remember holidaying in Bali and China during the 1990s. You couldn’t walk five steps without someone saying ‘missy, missy’ and asking for change. As an anti-capitalist, I sympathise with street urchins the world over. As a realist, I admit negotiating with beggars is not a relaxing holiday.
There is hope yet for a budding travel blogger
On the bright side, I am hoping we will see a general decline in fake Instagram accounts. I have never liked those heavily-manufactured accounts with the VSCO filters, flash photography, and the faceless brunette holding a photographer’s hand. Is there a real person behind such accounts? I make a point of taking ordinary photos for my own Instagram feed so that the average person can relate to them.
But seriously – coronavirus has taught us not to take things for granted. That includes developing an appreciation for our own backyard. Japan is leading the way in promoting domestic tourism. Their campaign may have got off to a rocky start, but the principles are solid. During tough economic times, domestic travel ensures money stays and is spent at home (yeah yeah, I know that sounds nationalistic). Furthermore, it is a great opportunity to learn more about local history and culture.
My career as an international travel blogger might be over before it even began. But maybe I will find a new calling as a domestic travel ambassador. I’ve already booked my very first staycation this month at the Oasia Hotel. Stay tuned for the juicy details!