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We live in an age of hyper connectivity. Given how the spread of Coronavirus is unfolding, one say probably say that the panic could be spreading faster than the virus itself in certain quarters. Social Distancing is now a term and for good reason.

Social Distancing

As per the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website, Social Distancing is defined as a maintaining a distance of at least 1m or 3 ft distance from someone who is coughing or sneezing.

Many governments have already taken measures in order to curb or cancel large public gatherings. These measures are prudent as they massively reduce the spread by avoiding contact with other people who may be infected.

Impact on Travel

The travel industry has been first to take body blows as the Coronavirus outbreak has spread globally. As governments put restrictions on the movement of people, the travel industry has felt the impact immediately.

As social distancing becomes the norm, how does it impact us who love to travel or write about it?

Short Term Impact

The short term impact is already there for everyone to see. Stock markets are volatile, people are stocking up and there is an air of uncertainty.

Travel is exactly the opposite of what Social Distancing is. Travel is all about exploration, about contact, about interaction. As people work from home and spend more time indoors, it’s going to be a while before things get back to normal.

Long Term Impact

What happens 6 months down the line? I hope we’ll see a slow yet gradual comeback as we start seeing a reduction in cases. Governments will first start with easing restrictions. After a few weeks if not months, they’ll eventually lift restrictions and things should start functioning normally. However, our memory may well be our enemy. People will still have the mental scars after what has transpired.

So even when government open up markets, it will still take longer before things come back to normal. Also, if the recovery takes longer, people will get more attuned and used to social distancing as the normal. Like any habit, it will be difficult to get people to break the habit of social distancing. As government’s lift restrictions, domestic travel and office commutes may pick up. However, I don’t think we’ll immediately start seeing packed stadiums or musical concerts any time this year.

Also, the reports of the outbreak in China and Italy have dominated the news. Even as international travel picks up, it could be a while before China and Europe see tourism pick up.

Impact on China

We’ve already seen reports of racist attacks on people of Asian origin around the world. As ignorant and stupid these attacks are, they show information can be politically weaponized to spread hate.  Even after the world returns to business as usual, I suspect that tourism in China will take a longer hit. Given how much China dominates the region, you’ll see ripple effects of this slowdown on other smaller economies in Asia as well that largely depend on tourism to drive their economy.

Who knows, the immediate future of an era of Coronavirus and Social Distancing could be one of domestic travel boom.

The Pundit’s Mantra

As much as I hate slowing down travel and staying indoors, I realize it’s for the collective good. I’d rather have things return to normal a bit later than usual instead of having them get worse quickly.

As human beings, we are great at adapting to situations. However, we often use our brains against our own interests. If you browse social media, you’ll see that the panic is quite palpable. While that may be the initial reaction, the current situation calls for calm. Let’s stick together (while still adhering to Social Distancing) and sail through this.

Stay healthy, stay safe, wherever you may be!

How has the outbreak affected your travel plans? Let us know in the comments section.


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