Travelers are finding new ways to explore the world amidst the pandemic

Coronavirus“Coronavirus” by chaddavis.photography is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As the holiday season approaches, many who usually would have spent their holidays either flying to be with family or vacationing are now grounded due to a coronavirus pandemic that’s seen a recent surge in the months of October and November. 

As a result, the traveling and tourism industries have been forced to adapt, with companies across the world looking to develop new ways to bring the experience of traveling back to those who crave it most, while still adhering to social distancing practices.  

“The tourism sector has been devastated by COVID-19,” according to the World Economic Forum. “It’s predicted that 120 million jobs are at risk, with economic damage likely to exceed over $1 trillion.”

With this, companies have now begun to find ways to help mitigate the economic harm the lack of tourism has created. 

Amazon has decided to venture into the traveling and tourism sector with the establishment of its platform, Amazon Explore. Amazon Explore, according to Amazon, “Is an interactive live streaming service that allows you to learn, shop, and discover, new places right from your computer.“

According to The New York Times, Amazon Explore offers virtual sessions that range from a visit to leather makers in Seattle to tango lessons in Bueno Aires. The creation of this platform intends to help small retailers around the world, connecting potential buyers with their businesses and products without having to travel. 

Communication professor Gene Castellano has been traveling for some time now. In a typical year, he flies 25,000 – 40,000 miles, visiting places such as Honolulu, Hong Kong and Paris. During the holidays, Castellano would normally be getting on a flight to Munich, having Thanksgiving dinner at a Marriott Hotel. He’d then go to the opening of the Munich Christmas Markets, head to Berlin to visit friends and back to the U.S., bringing Christmas chocolates to his communication class.

When asked if he’d consider going on one of his adventures virtually, Castellano simply said, “Nope, the real thing or nothing at all.”

Chief Diversity Officer Jose Rodriguez has logged a ton of frequent flyer miles himself, having visited every continent and over 30 countries in his lifetime.  

Rodriguez shared his thoughts on traveling and how it has changed, specifically going into detail on how his own perspective on traveling has changed during the pandemic.

José and his family boarding a flight before the pandemic. Photo by José Rodriguez

“The last time I got on a plane prior to COVID was to go to Aruba to celebrate my son’s birthday and so I was thrilled,” Rodriguez said. “Now, I would say that I’m very cautious and not as free-spirited when flying, asking myself ‘Do I have to go?’ and ‘What do I need to do to make sure that I’m not COVID positive, nor am I putting anyone else in danger?’”

Other companies have also ventured into the traveling arena. Sherpa, for example, is an app that offers virtual tours of different cities and countries from the comfort of home. The app also offers guided tours using AR GPS technology, giving travelers the opportunity to tour places without the large crowds and tour guides. 

When asked if she’d ever pay for a virtual traveling experience, Gabriella Ayala, senior political science major, said, “I don’t think I would pay for virtual traveling because it’s not the same as actually traveling.”    

As more and more companies continue to find ways to reignite the traveling industry, it will be interesting to see how they will potentially attempt to either reinstill faith in the traveling process or market the idea of virtual traveling in the future.