Health first; travelling not on the radar until at least end of the year
There is a significant amount of scientific research that suggests exploring a new place can do wonders for physical, mental and emotional health. In a report published in 2018, Dr. Tamara McClintock Greenberg, a psychologist and author of Psychodynamic Perspectives of Aging and Illness, found travel allows a break from the daily hustle and bustle for the mind to relax, recharge and rejuvenate. Hence, travelling is a hobby or even profession for many young adults.
The once-vibrant tourism industry is now in tatters in the aftermath of COVID-19. Many tourism related businesses were hit hard. This is not surprising as virtually all borders closed, including intracountry, and many travellers put their plans on hold until the pandemic subsides and it is considered safe to travel again.
An engineer by profession, Suzai Dathul Ezaidah often rewards herself by travelling to different places. “Travelling is the best way for me to reduce stress and I feel refreshed after every trip. I love to do backpack travelling because I can plan my own budget and itinerary. I will always be so excited when I finally reach a destination after all the research I had done prior. Those are moments that feel like a dream come true,” she shared enthusiastically.
“Every trip has its own story and unique memories. For example, during my trip to Europe, I missed my flight from Singapore to Germany and had to pay an additional RM4,000 for a new flight ticket! But it was well worth it in the end. I had a blast and managed to visit 10 countries and make new friends in a span of two weeks. Another trip that I remember very fondly was to Taiwan. This was actually a spontaneous getaway I planned with my friends. To be honest, Taiwan was never in my bucket list but it blew me away in so many unexpected ways. I owe Taiwan an apology for underestimating how beautiful it is!” she continued.
Suzai Dathul shared her input about travelling during COVID-19 and said, “Looking at how serious the situation is, I am not sure when will be the best time to travel again. Although many countries are starting to reopen for tourism, I think we should put our plans on pause for now, and carry it over to next year. For what it is worth, not travelling anywhere allows me to save more money for the upcoming trips and also toward my personal saving goals!”
Wilson Ng, a full-time travel blogger and YouTuber (PlacesAndFoods) said, “On average, I travel to 20 destinations a year, locally and internationally. This year alone I had made plans to explore Australia, Taiwan, Thailand and a few other countries. COVID-19 rendered all these plans for naught and as a fulltime content creator, it affects my income. Nevertheless, I remain positive and take this opportunity to look back at my previous travels and put them into the blog and on YouTube.”
Another avid traveller, Bruneian Rano Iskandar, who is also active on social media, shared his thoughts about travelling during this pandemic period. “Travelling for me is more like a form of escapism. I love to revisit places especially countries in Southeast Asia. Since I am deeply passionate about travelling, I combine this passion with my profession as a content creator to create useful content for my followers,” said Rano.
“COVID-19 affects me in a lot of different aspects. First up is definitely no new or latest travel information to be shared with my followers. Secondly, I am unable to treat myself to new experiences in new or even places I have visited before. But, I believe health is more important and decided to put all travel plans on hold at the moment,” Rano continued.
When asked about predictions of future travel behaviour, Ng believes that good personal hygiene is very important. These include having enough sanitisers and face masks, and also frequently washing hands with soap and water during a trip. Limiting human touch or going contactless will be the new norm of travelling, where there will be no handshakes or bisous.
His advice is, “For those who want to travel after this, travel when it is safe when there are no quarantines required while keeping track of self hygiene and cleanliness. When it is safe to travel, I will consider visiting countries that are closer to home. Travelling by land is currently the top choice on my list. Once there is better health safety assurance, I would also look at countries such as Taiwan, as they have among the lowest COVID-19 cases and are very transparent with their tests and results. I hope I get to travel to Taiwan with my family again because the island is very family-friendly. I had no problem travelling with my 2-year old son when we were there since everyone was so helpful and kind. I also miss their food and weather.”
Suzai Dathul shared, “When I get the opportunity to travel again, I will avoid being in crowded places. If I have no choice, I will be extra careful in order to reduce the risk of infection. Since there are still a number of cases being reported, I believe every traveller should practise self-quarantine at home after coming back from any trip if possible, at least for a few days. I am actually planning to go back to Taiwan when the situation gets better. I am looking forward to exploring the different sides of Taiwan and understanding the island a little bit better. I also planned to go to Iceland this year which I have since postponed to next year due to COVID-19.”
As for Rano, he is more cautious. “Personally, I am hesitant to travel overseas even when the COVID-19 situation is over. I am concerned about being stuck in another country and having to go through the isolation period there. That would not be the kind of travel that I want. Nevertheless, I am thankful that Brunei managed to curb the pandemic with zero new cases since May. For now, I will be focusing more on local content.”
To-date, COVID-19 has affected more than 200 countries, decimated airlines, caused hotels and resorts to close for good, and brought about thousands if not millions of job losses. Many nations raced to stem the bleeding by aggressively activating steps to contain the spread of the coronavirus in order to reopen the economy. For example, the Taiwanese government recently announced that the tourism industry is expected to receive an aid of NT$30 billion to help tourism businesses badly affected by COVID-19. In Malaysia, the government has unveiled a RM35 billion package to regenerate the economy, of which the tourism sector is among the focus.
The road ahead for the tourism industry will require stamina and tenacity, but they can rest assured that the travellers will be back. Countries that have shown their determination and ability to contain a pandemic will be the first to welcome eager tourists again.
Taiwan has been hailed as a role model for their success in containing the coronavirus quickly and effectively. To this day, Taiwan has not activated any lockdowns and out of less than 500 cases reported, 80% is imported. Malaysia is also doing well, and the government has slowly eased restrictions for citizens to travel interstate and even encouraged domestic tourism.