Isn’t it ironic that in a year that has left us longing for a vacation, the actual act of traveling is not only stressful but also mostly unattainable?

As an owner of a travel agency, I feel your pain. However, even with our sales being down more than 90% since March, we are excited about travel in 2021 – and we think you should be as well.

The administration of COVID-19 vaccinations is great news, but while it was being developed, hotels, airlines and cruise lines were already busy establishing protocols to make their products as safe as possible for current travelers and those in a post-COVID world.

In May, the U.S. Travel Association, a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of the travel industry, released a set of guidelines to help travel-focused businesses safely operate during the pandemic. This is just one of many standards to which these entities are holding themselves accountable.

In addition to the precautions we are all taking – wearing face masks, hand-washing, distancing – many hotels are intentionally operating at a decreased occupancy and/or waiting 24 hours between guest placement in rooms. Most offer a scaled-back housekeeping service to limit the number of people in a room during a guest stay. Other common practices include providing dining in-room only and keeping areas that are common gathering spots, like bars, closed.

Airlines certainly aren’t taking any chances, as they have been installing new HEPA filters and requiring passengers to wear masks. Planes are being sanitized in between flights with hospital-grade disinfectants. Some are leaving middle seats open and taking passenger temperatures before boarding.

Without a doubt, the hardest hit area of travel has been the cruise industry. Ships have been sitting empty since March due to the CDC’s No Sail Order. While that order expired at the end of October, cruise lines continue to voluntarily suspend sailings as they work with experts to create a phased safe return to cruising, following CDC guidelines. In July, competitors Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Holdings formed a panel of experts to address safely traveling again, an act of cohesive resilience among competitors we found encouraging.

Many people have chosen to travel closer to home, but if you are looking to venture beyond our borders, you do have choices.

Both Mexico and much of the Caribbean are welcoming American travelers who meet their entry requirements. Other destinations considered “open” include much of Africa, Costa Rica, Peru and Croatia.

The travel industry understands that for some people, now is not the time to travel, and we are not encouraging them to do so if it is outside of their comfort zone. When the time is right, however, you can be confident that every precaution has been taken to safeguard your health.

In the interim, now is the perfect time to dream about and start planning a vacation, even if it’s a year or more away. Making reservations today will not only kickstart the recovery of travel, but it will lift your spirits to have something to look forward to in the future.

What better way to put all that we have missed in 2020 behind us than to plan to make up for it in 2021 and beyond?

Kathleen Coleman is leisure marketing manager at Sun Travel in El Paso.


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