The pandemic’s creative destruction

Catherine Pushnaya 5 January 2022
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

We all know the pandemic has disrupted our travel plans. I, for one, have been planning a summer trip to Austria since 2019, and I still haven’t been able to bask in the musical splendour of a Viennese opera house. There are more important things, of course, but while the numerous (medically) affected individuals would hardly be enthusiastic about hopping on a plane and braving the alpha and omega of the WHO’s recognised COVID-19 variants, the much less vulnerable youths are only stopped by international restrictions.

As a result, there appears to be a peculiar trend of exploring new travel destinations. While straying off the menu of Western Mediterranean destinations to visit Montenegro might have been the preserve of those with an adventurous palette pre-Pandemic, the implementation of red lists has made these countries the only choice available. Others, however, have opted to keep things entirely online to combat the inconvenience of sudden rule changes and travel PCR tests.

Travel shifts. Many of the lesser-known destinations were explored more extensively. Montenegro, for example, retained almost 20% of its tourist inflow this year while Italy admitted less than every 1 in 1000 of its usual load. The reason for this is extremely simple: Montenegro did not demand PCR tests or vaccinations from its visitors, and Italy did. Montenegro’s cases, though, were not low this year, so they paid a hefty price for keeping the tourist industry afloat.

New ceremonies. Everybody’s heard of online examinations and panopto – but how about online weddings? A friend of mine kindly let me share that she had a ceremony on zoom. Funnily enough, the bride and the groom were not even in the same room for most of the call; they united symbolically at the very end. They hope to have a proper event when the lockdown is lifted and their families can visit from abroad. Their honeymoon is postponed indefinitely. We can only applause the bravery of those who decide to explore new horizons like this, but I hope online weddings will not become a tradition. Given that Zoom is so new, one of the couples that had an online ceremony must have been the first in human history to tie the knot online. Perhaps my friend was that very person! A truly historic moment.

Science, pandemic journalism, and space tourism. 4% of all scientific articles published in 2020 were about coronavirus. Imagine how many journalists are finding it hard to stop talking about it (Including myself!) I apologise; this is what happens when you become a travel columnist nowadays. There is an interesting lesson here, though: research usually reflects funding directed at certain topics, and widespread opinions are highly correlated with where funding goes. If our attention to coronavirus had been able to engender such work, imagine what would happen if everyone suddenly became personally affected by space travel? Billionaires like Richard Branson and Elon Musk are blazing the trail ahead of us, and with times like this on Planet Earth, I sometimes feel tempted to follow their examples – if I could.

Who knows what other peculiar repercussions the pandemic will have? I’d rather not know. I hope we will stop exploring this side of life pretty soon and return to our usual lives – not least for the sake of travel columnists everywhere.