The coronavirus pandemic is gripping the world, so why are we still publishing travel stories? Carolynne Dear explains.
The coronavirus has stopped the world.
When we launched Asia Family Traveller at the beginning of 2020, travel was an enormous part of people’s lives.
From the comments and feedback on our associated Facebook Group, we knew people wanted to know more about travel opportunities in the region. They wanted to be alerted to new hotel openings, they wanted to read about other people’s experiences, get a recommendation for a great family excursion, or even just get feedback on a resort restaurant.
Reader feedback showed us that people were taking, on average, five to six overseas trips per year, some as many as nine or ten. With a generous stack of public holidays in both Hong Kong and Singapore, it was easy to get away. When people weren’t actually travelling, they were talking about it. And when they weren’t talking about it, they were probably thinking about it.
We wanted to provide people with ideas and inspiration, but also to talk about issues affecting the industry, such as animal conservation, ethical travel and over-toursim.
And for two, glorious magazine issues and numerous online articles, we were able to do just that.
But then the coronavirus hit. As the pandemic spread around the world, travel came to a complete halt. It seems incredible now, and it will probably seem even more incredible when we look back on this period, that the entire world just shut down.
As time goes on, it seems increasingly unlikely we will be travelling again this year. It’s impossible to predict what will happen next, but it’s also likely we’ll be travelling a lot less in 2021.
So why have we continued with Asia Family Traveller?
Well, for lots of reasons. But before we start, let’s be clear on a couple of points.
We would never encourage people to ignore the travel advice or break the lockdown measures of individual states, territories and countries. The official travel advice from the country you are in should always be followed.
We have also always endorsed kindness and compassion across all of our social media and publishing platforms. Everybody has individual circumstances, responsibilities and coping mechanisms. We have been stringent in removing judgemental or unhelpful comments from our online platforms. We love soap, but we’re not a soapbox, so tread carefully with your opinions of how others are managing the situation.
So here’s why we are still publishing.
Travel stories offer escapism
It’s true to say that even in the ‘good times’, this has always been the case. Not all of us are in a position to jump up and head off to that luxe resort in the Maldives or on a camel trek to Outer Mongolia, but it’s nice to dream.
At the moment, the world is drowning in a sea of coronavirus stories. There is literally no other news story. Tens of thousands of column inches are devoted to COVID-19 related stories every day. Our readers are telling us that they enjoy having a little bit of content that’s unrelated to the pandemic.
And of course for our mental health, we are being encouraged by health specialists to seek out what we enjoy. If Asia Family Traveller can provide just a brief respite from the madness, then it’s been worth publishing.
Travel supports livelihoods
The travel industry is massive. By the beginning of 2020, one in ten global jobs was linked with travel. It’s not just the ‘fat cats’ who are being hit by the coronavirus shutdown, it’s everybody. From the travel agent who books your trips, to the receptionist who checks you in, the local farmer who supplies the hotel restaurant, the bellboy, the gardener, the waitress in that great cafe by the beach, right down to the guy trying to scrape a living selling trinkets outside the local temple, everybody has been affected. For many, particularly in Asia, the pandemic has been devastating. Many economies in this part of the world rely almost entirely on tourism.
Where possible we have tried to cover charity stories and spread the word about those helping out. We are also continuing to support hotels and other travel related businesses in our features and news stories despite marketing budgets being frozen. As a media team, we are wholly reliant on advertising to pay our staff, so if you work in the travel industry and are in a position to share the love with advertising support, we would be extremely grateful.
The important point is that the world needs the travel industry to survive. And if we can take this time to think about how we might travel more ethically in the future, so much the better.
Travel is good for us
It broadens the mind, it opens us to new points of view and different ways of living. It makes us appreciate just how beautiful – and fragile – the world is. Countless studies have shown all of this to be true and more. I won’t bore you with the references here.
Studies have also shown that 50% of our long-term memories are of holidays. Many a lockdown afternoon has no doubt been spent flicking through old photos and reliving holiday experiences. There’s nothing quite like travel for generating happiness.
And so for all of these reasons, we continue to publish travel stories. We’re not doing it because we’re being reckless and ignoring the current situation, we’re doing it because we think it’s important. And we hope you agree.
We’ll leave you with the wise words of the immensely quotable travel documentarian, Anthony Bourdain...
“It (travel) leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”