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Are people still traveling?

Images via Leila Brewster

For the past six months, the question, “Are people still traveling right now?” has been an ongoing topic of conversation amongst our team. And for perhaps for the first time in our 30-years in business, our travel advisors are playing the role of logistics wizards navigating ever-changing state by state and country by country regulations.

Those conversations remain best facilitated one-on-one with your SmartFlyer travel advisor as you discuss your unique situation.

“Are people still traveling?” mixed with a healthy dose of, Do you think it’s safe to fly? shortly followed by, “Do I need to quarantine when I get back?” (FYI: the CDC now says you don’t have quarantine following all travel, instead recommending travelers apply the same precautions they do during their day-to-day lives to prevent the spread of COVID-19) are our new normal. These questions are just the tip of the iceberg in the realm of vacation planning in the midst of a pandemic and as you can imagine, there are no blanket answers to these case-by-case scenarios. For instance, for New York State residents, going somewhere like Maine means something very different than it does for travelers coming from Texas or Florida. But, we digress. Because of the constantly evolving travel guidelines, these conversations remain best facilitated one-on-one with your SmartFlyer travel advisor as you discuss your unique situation.


Travel looks different now. it’s the new normal.

….we have about a 1/4300 chance of getting Covid-19 on a full 2-hour flight — that is, about 1 in 4300 passengers will pick up the virus, on average. The odds of getting the virus are about half that, 1/7700, if airlines leave the middle seat empty.

For those who feel comfortable boarding a plane, passengers can expect sanitation to be at the forefront. United Airlines has partnered with Clorox through their CleanPlus℠ program, a commitment to delivering industry-leading cleanliness with rigorous disinfection procedures. Through early 2021, Delta has committed to blocking middle seats on all aircraft throughout the Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+ and Delta Premium Select seats for increased peace-of-mind. JetBlue is also blocking middle seats through mid-October (though, that could be extended). What does this all mean for your ability to fly safely? As reported by Bloomberg, “…we have about a 1/4300 chance of getting Covid-19 on a full 2-hour flight — that is, about 1 in 4300 passengers will pick up the virus, on average. The odds of getting the virus are about half that, 1/7700, if airlines leave the middle seat empty.” This statistic aligns with the common takeaway from those who’ve opted to fly lately has been that it’s never felt cleaner; perhaps, this re-instilled confidence has contributed to the steady increase in passengers passing through TSA checkpoints in recent weeks. On August 17th, 862,949 people were screened before boarding; this stat is down significantly from the same day last year in which 2.5M passengers went through security, but up considerably from record lows in April which dipped below 100k collective people per day in airports around the country.

And what happens when you actually check-in to a hotel nowadays? Well, that’s where luxury continues to lead the way in matching consumer demand for thoughtful service…at a six-foot distance, of course. Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts have entered into a consulting agreement with Johns Hopkins Medicine International to inform Four Seasons health and safety decisions during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Grounded in the principles of care, trust and service, their Lead With Care program has been implemented by dedicated teams at Four Seasons properties around the world. Beyond intensive training of their staff, the guest experience has been adjusted slightly and is led by technology. This includes discreet temperature checks upon arrival, PPE amenity kit in every room and increased attention on their app to make reservations with the concierge for high-touch needs. Not to mention, in properties like Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles, the option of dedicated Wellness Rooms and Suites with your own exercise equipment or, for all guests, the gym has been completely privatized and is exclusively available to guests who pre-reserve a two-hour time block in advance to ensure social distancing and sanitation are prioritized.


The Road to Recovery as An Act of Unity

Despite the State Department lifting its blanket advisory warning against Americans traveling abroad and the thorough precautions in place, the choice to travel for leisure has been met with a raised eyebrow by some. As firm believers that travel unifies, we’d like to shed some light on how choosing to travel can instead be framed as an act of solidarity that sparks joy. Hospitality professionals have been some of the most impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic, with the U.S. Travel Association reporting that, “The Leisure & Hospitality industry, as prescribed by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), accounted for 11% of pre-pandemic employment in the United States, yet has suffered over one-third of all job losses…The leisure and hospitality subsectors of accommodation, arts, entertainment, recreation, and food and beverage are highly dependent on visitor spending and will require a restoration of prior levels of travel in order to contribute to a full labor market recovery.” For us, these aren’t just statistics, but numbers that represent our beloved community of changemakers across all sectors who so enrich our lives.

…choosing to travel is also choosing to help put the individuals who were once employed by the aforementioned institutions back to work. That should be celebrated.

So, while remaining at home may be the safest place for some and we fully support and respect that decision, staying home indefinitely could mean that your favorite neighborhood bistro, that trendy hotel coffee shop and yes, even that luxurious resort you celebrated your anniversary at last year may not be able to make it through this storm. So, hear us out when we say, choosing to travel is also choosing to help put the individuals who are employed by the aforementioned institutions back to work. If you’re someone who is answering the question of, “are people still traveling?” with an emphatic “yes!,” that should be celebrated, as should taking the responsibility of what it means to travel smart right now; this includes but is not limited to abiding by the guidelines of your particular state and the destination that you’re visiting. Travel is going to look and feel a bit different for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be feared. Instead, we are choosing to arm our clients with the facts and tools they need to make the decisions best suited for themselves and their families.


are people still traveling? cue: #smartflyertakemeto

A study published this week shows that 72% of U.S.-based respondents still plan on traveling in 2020, with 91% more likely to travel domestically than internationally.

To end on a high note, we’ll conclude with the good stuff: statistics that show that people want to and in fact, are traveling, even if your social media feeds may not reflect it. A study published this week shows that 72% of U.S.-based respondents still plan on traveling in 2020, with 91% more likely to travel domestically than internationally. So, how is it that people are still traveling when my social media feeds don’t reflect it? Well, that’s where travel shaming enters the picture. As reported in a piece aptly titled “Shhh! We’re Heading Off on Vacation,” by Sarah Firshein in The New York Times, “Sharing the details about where we’ve traveled has always been a way to transmit our values, tastes and means — look no further than the postcards of the 19th century or the Kodak carousels of the 1960s and 70s. Then came Instagram, a decade ago, to turbocharge the practice. And while technology has made it easy to keep up with loved ones during this period of physical distance, there is one topic being withheld from conversations and hidden from social media: vacations. For a variety of reasons related to the pandemic, some travelers are content to let the tree fall in the forest, so to speak, without a single soul around to hear it.”

Look, we get it. A memory doesn’t need to be posted about for the world to see in order for it to be seared into your heart and mind well beyond its shelf life for likes and comments. But, we’ve also always believed in the power of social media to create and strengthen community. This week alone, we’ve been able to live vicariously through the #smartflyertakemeto adventures of our team and clients thanks to the power of Insta, be it a road trip from L.A. to Amangiri, a staycation by an Austin local at Commodore Perry Estate, an anniversary celebration at Belmond El Encanto, a retreat from Manhattan to Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Boston and beyond. Needless to say, we’re continuing to celebrate the act of travel as a force for positivity. There is no one size fits all approach or simple black and white solutions in this complex world we call home, but there is always room for more empathy and compassion for one another. So, when you’re ready, just know that we’ll be here to help you figure it [that next trip, that is] out.

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