After coronavirus: When is it safe to travel again?

when is it safe to travel

When is it safe to travel again? That’s the $570 billion question.

When the experts say so, that’s when. But figuring out who those experts are during the coronavirus crisis may be as difficult as finding a vaccine.

When is it safe to book a trip again?

Here are three things that must happen for travelers to return:

The State Department must lift its Level 4 travel advisory. On March 19, the government issued a warning to avoid all international travel because of the pandemic. It will have to rescind the warning for travelers to feel comfortable booking any kind of trip again.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has to give the “all clear.” CDC normally doesn’t issue advisories or restrictions for travel within the United States. But it did for coronavirus. Once that advisory gets lifted, travelers can resume planning their summer vacations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) needs to give a thumbs-up to travel. The meaning of WHO’s highly technical warnings are clear: Stay home. Monitor its website for a change. When you see WHO’s easing up, it may be time to plan your next trip.

It’s not enough for just one of these entities to rescind its warnings. To be safe, wait for all three to do it.

If you’re a nervous traveler, look for the Canadian government and British government to chime in, too. If everyone is in agreement, you can probably start to feel comfortable about traveling again.

By the way, that half-trillion dollars I mentioned a minute ago is the amount of tourism money at risk in North America this year after the coronavirus outbreak, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), a trade organization. All told, nearly 7 million tourism jobs are on the line.

“The travel and tourism sector faces an economic meltdown,” warned Gloria Guevara, WTTC’s president.

And that’s because your next vacation is history — at least, for now.

Here are other signs that it’s safe to travel

Schools and businesses reopen. When classes resume and you can sit down in restaurants again, things are returning to normal and that it may be safe to travel. China has already done that and at the time of this writing, Italy was scheduled to reopen its institutions in early April. “Once all these things are in place life should resume normally and travel will be safe again,” says Chantelle Kern, CEO of The Italian On Tour, a boutique Canadian tour operator.

Your travel agent will book the trip. Travel advisors will do almost anything for you, but more than anything they want you to come home alive. “The health and safety of our clients is our biggest concern,” says Betsy Ball, cofounder of Euro Travel Coach. She’s obsessing over a coronavirus outbreak map from Johns Hopkins University. And so far, she’s not ready to start booking again. “It will be quite some time before it is safe for people to travel again,” she says.

When you can buy travel insurance. Many travel insurance companies stopped selling policies after the outbreak. Some added new restrictions, especially on “cancel for any reason” policies. “That’s the canary in the coal mine,” says Phil Sylvester, a spokesman for World Nomads, a travel insurance company. When travel insurance providers resume allowing the purchase of policies, it means it’s safe to travel.

When will all of that happen? At least three months, according to the predictive models developed by the travel risk assessment team of G1G.com, an insurance technology company based in San Jose. “We’re telling our customers to avoid non-essential travel for the time being,” says spokeswoman Rachel Coen.

Stan Sandberg, the co-founder of TravelInsurance.com, says insurance purchases can also be a reliable bellwether. “We are seeing travel insurance purchases primarily for travel after August 1, and many travel insurance policies for travel in 2021,” he says.

OK, so when is it safe for you to travel?

Travelers have their personal lists, too. Lee Richardson had planned to drive from Indianapolis to Tarpon Springs, Fla., on Easter. Her kids forbade her.

“I believe it’s payback for all the times I told them ‘no’,” says Richardson, a retired educator who lives in Indianapolis.

So what would make her go? Permission from her kids and a good word from Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, she says.

A lot of travelers will have their own litmus test for traveling again. “I expect there will be a delay between the removal of regulatory restrictions and broad-based comfort with travel,” says Chris Anderson, a professor at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration. He thinks most travelers will be looking for reassurances that the travel industry has its act together when it comes to hygiene.

If none of that brings travelers back, then one thing will: a good deal. That’s right, nothing gets travelers back like a cheap fare or hotel rate. It won’t make much of a dent in the half-trillion-dollar loss. But travel companies can always raise prices later. And you know they will.

These are NOT signs that it’s safe to travel again

Reopening tourist attractions

“That has more to do with economics and profit anxiety rather than safety,” says Courtney Kansler, a senior health intelligence analyst at WorldAware. While these events may be greeted with fanfare, it doesn’t mean there’s no risk of infection.

No more coronavirus cases

Even if a particular destination country is reporting no additional cases, travelers are still transiting through airports with thousands of other people. You still could get infected.

When politicians say so

Instead, heed the words of health officials. “They are the experts,” says Alison Hickey, president of Kensington Tours. “When they feel the time is right, they will lift the restrictions on international travel.”

Posted in On Travel Tagged , ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

%d bloggers like this: