When can we go out again and start traveling?
Planning for the post COVID-19 pandemic
By Linchi Kwok, Associate Professor at The Collins College of Hospitality Management
When will the COVID-19 pandemic end? When can we go out again? When will we be able to travel again?
Since California issued the stay-at-home order in mid-March, over 316 million people in the U.S. and Puerto Rico are now urged to stay at home. The U.S. State Department also issued a "Level 4: Do Not Travel" advisory for all international travel.
Today, many people are getting tired of staying at home. Residents from coast to coast are protesting against the stay-at-home orders. So, when can we go out and begin traveling again?
First and foremost, when will Coronavirus stay-at-home orders end?
The answer varies from among states. At the earliest, some states might see hopes of reopening businesses in the early summer, like May or June. Nevertheless, that is the most optimistic expectation. New York, for example, just extended the statewide stay-at-home order to May 15, and no one is certain how many extensions will be added.
Last week, California also announced six requirements before the state will consider lifting the stay-at-home order:
- The state's capacity to expand testing, track the quarantine, and isolate the infected or exposed individuals.
- The ability to protect the most vulnerable who are at the highest risk for severe COVID-19.
- The ability of the hospitality and health systems to handle surges.
- Engaging researchers and academic partners to develop therapeutics to meet demand.
- The ability for businesses, schools, and childcare facilities to support social distancing.
- The ability to determine when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home order, if necessary.
So, it is likely that the stay-at-home order will reinstate even if it is lifted. Some researchers believe that vaccines or herb immunity are the only way for life to return to normal. The good news is that the virus vaccine will be ready for mass production as early as in September. If that's the case, it may seem September or October will be the time when people will begin going out without worrying about the pandemic.
Are there places doing fine at this point without placing the stay-at-home order?
Taiwan, Canada, South Korea, Georgia, and Iceland are among the places that succeed in flattening the curve. Here are a few common measures these places took:
- Recognized the Coronavirus as a severe threat
- Acted early, such screening and testing the travelers entering the border
- Made mass diagnostic testing available
- Tracked or monitored the self-quarantine cases
- Effectively use isolation
In Taiwan's case, people are able to live in their routine life inside the island to a large extent. No stay-at-home order is in place. Schools and businesses also remain open in Taiwan.
What can we expect when the stay-at-home orders are lifted?
When the stay-at-home order is lifted, I expect there will be a spark of short-term demand in local businesses. Many people feel they have been "locked" inside the house for a long time; they might want to go out to eat and shop a little bit more often than usual. There was also a surge of "revenge spending" in mainland China after the residents lived through two months of lockdowns.
The hospitality and travel industry will not sustain without the support of a healthy economy. It may take a long time for the economy to fully recover even though some believe it will bounce back in "month." Before the economy is fully recovered, it is likely that:
- Many people want to continue practicing social distancing.
- People may prefer to visit the rural areas or parks, which are less crowded than city centers.
- People want to travel but probably begin with short road trips.
- People may prefer to stay in chain hotels with high brand standards over independent hotels or home-sharing facilities.
In your opinion, when will people begin traveling again? After COVID-19, what behavioral changes do you expect to see from the consumers?
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