The Magic Carpets Have Unraveled
I work in the travel industry. Or should I say worked? My company put all its staff on unpaid leave as the pandemic ramped up and murdered our business. The chances of its survival are slim to none; the company was a startup, and was looking to break even on cash flows in 2020. Our government does not bail out small companies, and the 300+ employees that lost their jobs are on their own. It’s disconcerting to suddenly be unemployed, without any income or healthcare insurance, just as a pandemic blankets the Earth.
Ours was the first industry to be sideswiped by the Covid-19 pandemic, and that roadside accident has turned into a 100-car pileup. Or in this case, a 10,000-airplane pileup in runways-turned-parking lots across the world. Hotels are empty. Resorts are silent. Travel offices are shuttered. Tour buses are parked. Beaches are closed. Airports are ghost towns. The current estimate is 75 million jobs in the global travel and tourism industry will disappear in the wake of Covid-19. Recovery will take years as the financial fallout from the cascade of defaults on financial obligations sweep through the banks.
I chose to stay in the travel industry because I enjoyed it. Seeing the world is one of the great joys of being alive. Being in new places every so often stimulates everything from passion to creativity to curiosity. But moving people across borders is a complex pursuit, especially through the air. It takes a lot of money, and a lot of people working around the clock to deliver the best travel experience with the necessary degree of safety. When the planes stop flying and the flow of people stops, the intricate web collapses. Putting it back together will be a thing for lawyers and bankers to clean up the financial mess. That includes the mess for us who worked in the industry. Our paychecks are gone, but our mortgages and car payments stay.
I’m fortunate in a way – my skill set allows me to try and find a job in a different industry. Many of my colleagues have skill sets that are specific to travel. For their sake I hope that the experts are wrong about how long it will take. Even then, it won’t be the same for a long time; perhaps even permanently. It’s sobering to think that the industry that made the world smaller, and put us all within reach of each other wherever we live, became the delivery system for the pandemic. That forces everything about it to change, and the people will be direct casualties of all the changes.
I’m going to miss travel. I hope to eventually return to moving people across the world.