Travel advisor Stacey Cabell gives her viewpoint on traveling during the pandemic. One thing that surprised her—she couldn’t believe there would be so much backlash for what she considers an obligation to the industry she is so passionate about.
It comes as no surprise that after 2020–the year that brought the tourism & travel industry to a complete halt—many travel agencies have had to close their doors; numerous travel advisors have thrown in the towel; and the travel industry as a whole has taken a complete nosedive.
I’ve dreamt of owning my own agency since I was a child, back when I was watching “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island,” and no way was COVID-19 going to take the business I’d lovingly built away from me. When the pandemic began disrupting tourism, I spent many nights worrying that I would have to find a new career, so as soon as destinations started to reopen last summer, I made a promise to the industry that I love so much that I would do whatever needed to be done in order to assist in bringing it back. That included my commitment to travel whenever and wherever I could, showing the public it could be done responsibly for those at low risk. I had no idea that I would be shamed by some of my very own colleagues for doing just that, with comments such as “not only should we NOT be traveling, but we shouldn’t even be booking clients travel.”
I do realize that traveling during a pandemic is not for everyone. There are many agents who do not have the choice to pick up and go like I do because they are high risk, and I felt a duty to them as well. The fact is that numerous in-depth studies were conducted analyzing the safety of traveling, including one by the U.S. Department of Defense in partnership with United Airlines. It showed that due to the constant airflow through high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, the risk of COVID-19 exposure on planes is “virtually nonexistent” when passengers are masked. Why was no one speaking about this to the general public? If the media was not conveying ways to travel responsibly, who would tell them? I felt that as a travel professional the public needed to see me out in the field—if travel professionals were not traveling, why would the public travel and how would our industry prevail?
During our time traveling, we gather video for our YouTube channel, complete blogs, and do LIVE videos on social media just so the public can see us traveling responsibly. It truly felt like a no-brainer to us— come to find out we were shamed by many of those in our industry. Because of that, I thought about holding back on some of what we were sharing publicly, but it just did not make sense since it was against what we were trying to accomplish. I have been lucky to meet some other travel advisors and owners during this time that are committed to the same message we are and that has been refreshing, but all of them have their own personal stories of being travel shamed by their industry peers.
This comes at a time when we all need to come together and work towards a better tomorrow. Our world has been turned upside-down and inside-out. We have all learned the true meaning of pivot (a word I am personally tired of hearing), but most of all we are all on the same side and we need to remember that. Everything I do personally for my business I feel is a step towards a better tomorrow in the world of travel as a whole. Have you chosen to travel during the pandemic, and have you been travel shamed for it? If so, how are you dealing with it?