- The Washington Times
Thursday, May 7, 2020


The roads, seas and skies are less traveled these days, as the travel and tourism industry hear the incredible sucking sound of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

No lounging about the white sands of the Mediterrean’s largest Island, Sicily, or indulging in the food and beverage of Europe, cultural beckonings of West Africa around Caribbean delights of soca and percussion-driven music.

In America, your yearning to be free is not enough to put the fears of flying to rest due to the coronavirus. In fact, travel and tourism experts say the industry won’t return to its old normal until at least 2023.

“Six months ago, the global tourism industry was celebrating a record year for travel,” The Associated Press reported Thursday. “Now, it’s decimated and facing a recovery that could take years.

“Tourism Economics, a data and consulting firm, predicts global travel demand won’t resume its normal pace until 2023,” the AP said.

In the D.C. region, where the green buttons of the U.S. economy and free markets are pushed, the federal and local shutdowns and the free money loosed by Congress and the White House will leave many an American asking questions come the November House and presidential elections.

In the meantime, elected leaders and their bureaucratic minions are in the throes of pulling together plans to give us breathing room out of doors.

Maryland, Virginia and the District share common constituencies, including the federal, state and local workforces, service industries and, of course, lobbyists and unions.

In D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said her first order of business is to flatten the COVID-19 curve for at least 14 days straight, and while she knows that will not necessarily ensure or guarantee a weakened viral threat, it’s a starting gate that leads to reopening the historical capital of magnificent intentions. She, like the guardians of Maryland and Virginia, is considering phasing in her ReopenDC plan.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is loosening restrictions beginning May 15 and 19. Guys and dolls who need their beards trimmed or a mani-pedi will simply need to hop across the Potomac River. As in D.C., face masks and social distancing still apply. Unlike D.C., however, religious congregants will be permitted to gather together if they follow social distancing protocols.

Maryland governor Larry Hogan jumped to the head of the regional class, reopening some state parks and other recreational facilities to give Marylanders the choice to golf, fish or cut bait and bask in fresh air or stay at home. Cities and counties can follow Mr. Hogan’s lead or not.

Elliott L. Ferguson II, president and CEO of Destination DC, said this week: “To date, we’ve lost over $1.7 billion in travel spending because of this crisis, which is a 71% decline from where we should be. $78 million in taxes that normally would be generated have been lost because of this.”

Amtrak is hurting, too, as travelers along the Northeast Corridor line are fewer. And with far fewer passengers riding from Boston to points between the land of Mickey and Minnie and warm, sunny climes, it’s disappointing. Amtrak is already looking at a minimum $70 million hit.

As things stand, it’s unclear what the “new normal” will look like when recovering from a global pandemic sometimes calls for a prayer for serenity, courage and wisdom as tour guides.

It helps to take virtual online tours, such as to Sicily, whose white sandy beaches look dreamy and alluring. It’s cool as well, to “visit” the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives and Frederick Douglass sites.

But honestly, we need all our keepsakes reopened — ASAP.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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