By Dimitri Wijesinghe
While all corners of the world have been affected and no industry has been left untouched by the pandemic, the travel industry could arguably be said to have suffered the most.
With the only way to get the situation under control being social distancing, there has essentially been a worldwide travel ban as far as the tourism, hospitality, and travel industries are concerned.
Just only a few months ago, travel was the hottest thing around; travel bloggers were popping up every which way you looked, offers were being made by hotels and restaurants, and travel packages were offered to encourage young people to travel more.
The technological revolution which brought us closer together by making travel and tourism easy and affordable, fuelling billions of trips, is now helpless in halting a virus that demands we shelter in place.
World Travel & Tourism Council CEO Gloria Guevara shared that if the pandemic continues for several more months, many will face potential job losses. As of right now, it is difficult to take a snapshot of how the industry is faring, she said. Losses come daily and a devastating example can be seen where, as of 2 April, British Airways is now poised to suspend 36,000 staffers; but one example of what is to come.
Much of the tourism industry was essentially built around a trouble-free future; a sure-fire industry that defies the ups and downs of the market. However, things are a lot different now. When global giants are struggling, it is no surprise that the individual traveller and those who depend on travel are going to be out of work – bloggers, photographers, writers, and influencers.
Bloggers of all types started to monetise their content in the mid-2000s. However, in the past few years, as digital and personality-based content entered the mainstream and with the advent of social media and popular platforms like Instagram and YouTube, it’s become much easier to jumpstart a career as a professional travel blogger.
There’s been a popular joke on the internet about how Covid-19 will force travel bloggers to get “a real job” as international travel becomes increasingly restricted. However, there is the fact that many of these influencers are technically part of the gig economy; many of them are rather accustomed to having some level of uncertainty when it comes to how much income they’re expected to make in a year.
Sri Lanka being a tourism-centred country, many an industry in some way, shape, or form connected with the travel trade have suffered. Speaking to Minister of Industrial Export, Investment Promotion, and Civil Aviation Media Secretary Pradeep Anura Kumara, he confirmed what Minister Prasanna Ranatunga had said with regards to the eventual revival of the Sri Lankan tourism industry, that the Government is in the process of formulating short-term and long-term plans to rebuild, while also pointing out that once the spread of Covid-19 is contained, the Government will implement the proposed plans.
As for those who depend on travel for work, we caught up with a few popular travel bloggers and online personalities who have had to make some adjustments during the pandemic.
The coronavirus is hurting everyone in so many ways! No industry was left untouched by Covid-19, and no industry is likely to be more affected than travel and tourism.
As a travel and lifestyle influencer, a large portion of my work has always been based on travelling and creating content on experiences. In fact, I had plans for the next three months before this pandemic affected us that have been paused till further notice.
Creating content has become nearly impossible since that would be going against the measures to fight Covid-19. Hence, I decided to think about how I can create content around home; with what I have, my surroundings, and any items I have.
As for future plans, I plan to keep brainstorming for ideas to create content. So far, I have planned a few content videos that I could make at home, and even if the situation clears out, I would consider going out and travelling still risky. Therefore, I would still use home as a base. If it lasts longer than expected, I would continue what I am doing right now by brainstorming ideas around my given environment.
I prefer posting real-time content due to the current situation, and there’s so much you can do at home. Now that I have time, I make sure that I allocate a bigger portion of it for my Bible studies as it is a big part of my life. Apart from that, I partake in learning new recipes, gardening, rearranging my house, and recently I’ve started painting the outdoor walls; I also take care of my pugs, feed the street dogs down the lane, practise yoga, and spending quality time with my sister. These are a few of many things that keep me productive during this time.
My main focus is to create original content which will influence and inspire my followers to learn something new and be productive and most of all, try to take this situation as a gift of time to look back at things and people that we often take for granted.
We have been posting a lot of throwback posts, because we are creators who release content in real time and so we unfortunately do not have any content left to release. We have been sharing our experiences through some stills we’ve captured during our first vlogs that we haven’t shared with the public before; hopefully, it has been interesting content.
We managed to gather a lot of content from our trip to Malaysia and Singapore so we have worked on those, but other than that, there was a plan for us to go to Jaffna, spend a whole month experiencing the food, the culture, the people, and do a thorough hands-on coverage of the area there, but of course those plans will have to take a backseat for now.
However, as soon as everything is clear and safe, we will put those plans into motion. But as for income, we have halted most of our sponsored content as it is not appropriate for these times.
I have travelled almost every weekend for the past seven years, so it has really been an adjustment period for me. I spend my time in a boarding house where I do not know the neighbours and the space I have is limited, and from spending every weekend on a new adventure to spending all my hours within these four walls has been rough.
As I often travel with large groups, taking people on adventures with me to expose them to the wonders of nature and travelling, I am someone who meets new people regularly and makes new friends every day, and now to have no outside contact and person-to-person interaction has been tough to say the least.
Recently, I was thinking about how animals in zoos and enclosures must be feeling; it feels like I’ve gone from heaven to hell.
But the nature of the current situation is beyond my control and, while it is rough, the health of my family and friends comes first, so I am glad to partake in this adjustment period. For now, travelling will have to take a backseat.
Thankfully, travel blogging is not my fulltime occupation and I have a fulltime job which I am currently engaging in from home.
We had a backlog of content which we managed to complete edits for just the week of 15 March when curfew was imposed, so there was some fortune for us in a bad situation; and in being able to upload these videos of our travels, we have gotten a really great response. People are restricted to their homes and we’ve been able to release something that they have come to look forward to. It’s been great that we can give people that 20-30-minute escape through our vlogs.
As for the future, of course we won’t be able to produce the same content, but we have plans to take everyone on a journey where we can all learn something and help in self-improvement. I have been looking into learning yoga and I’ve found a great programme so I’ve been sharing that, and the response has been great. So what we will do is really look at sustainable ways to keep everyone occupied and stay focused and healthy.
The tourism industry globally has suffered a blow due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy has been formidable, and Sri Lanka, as a small island nation dependent on tourism, has greatly suffered. However, according to Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, the Government’s main focus right now is to stop the spread of Covid-19 and once they have managed to contain it, the Government would implement its plan to uplift the country’s economy.