The situation surrounding the Coronavirus (Covid-19) is ever-evolving, but one thing's for sure: in light of tightening border controls, recommendations to avoid public events/spaces, and airlines and tour operators cancelling their routes and itineraries, this is hitting travellers and the travel industry hard. For all of you out there who have upcoming trips booked through us, be thankful you have a travel agent by your side to help you out. We're currently dealing with cases on a departure date basis (with those who are currently travelling our number one priority), and our consultants are working their way through them one by one, using the latest updates and their own expert advice to help minimise the impact of this situation on our customers' travels.
If you're sitting at home in self-isolation, or simply wondering what you can do in this situation, we've got a few tips for you:
1. Take care of yourself and others
Some of the recommendations may seem extreme (or just common sense), but before you make fun, take a moment to consider the impact that this pandemic is likely to have should it spread widely throughout New Zealand. While many of us are lucky enough to be healthy and strong, there are many in our communities who are highly susceptible to coronavirus. Not only that, but the more cases build up, the greater the strain will be on our healthcare system and the lower the likelihood will be of people needing urgent care being able to access it.
So, even if you feel like you're overreacting, we urge you to take the advice being issued by healthcare experts and the Government. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, try not to touch your face, avoid close contact with others particularly if you have cold or flu-like symptoms, and monitor your own health carefully. If you feel you have cold or flu-like symptoms, stay home. You can keep on top of the latest recommendations given by trusted health organisations such as the World Health Organisation.
2. Check in on friends and family
If you have friends or family members who are currently overseas, send them a message and find out how they're doing. A lot of travellers right now are stuck or having to rearrange their plans. While you may not be able to offer practical assistance, even a word of encouragement would be appreciated. Similarly, if you know people who have recently returned to New Zealand from overseas and are following the Government's instructions to self-isolate, check to find out how they're doing. Take a moment out of your day to check in on older family members who may be more susceptible to the virus and offer to help them out if they need with things like grocery shopping. It's the little things that can make a huge difference.
For the social among us, cutting off contact with people by not going in to work and avoiding group activities can be difficult, so communication and connection with others over the phone or online wouldn't go amiss. It's times like these that we all need to band together and support one another - and as we've been told to avoid handshakes, hugs and hongi, let's do it in another Kiwi way: humour! Crack a joke, share a laugh over the phone or FaceTime and let the people in your life know you're there for them.
3. Spare a thought for your travel agent
Our industry is struggling right now. Instead of taking holiday bookings, travel agents around the country are dealing with customers requiring urgent assistance as they try to return home, and are being inundated with cancellations and postponed trips. Our consultants are currently doing their best to respond to enquiries, but they're coming through thick and fast, so we'd ask that you kindly be understanding during this time. Our stores are prioritising cases on a departure date basis, with the greatest attention going to those who are currently travelling and require urgent assistance. They are endeavouring to work as hard as possible but with an unprecedented number of phone calls and emails it will take longer than usual to respond, so please be patient. If you do have a trip booked in several months' time we'd ask you to keep an eye on the situation via the Government's SafeTravel website. And if you have any kind words of encouragement for your favourite consultant - a "you'll get through this" text, email or Facebook message will certainly not go astray!
4. Support your local businesses
Small businesses just like our World Travellers stores all around the country will be suffering as a result of so many people staying home and avoiding public places, but it's so important that we keep supporting our favourite places in any way that we can so they're still around in the months and years ahead. Consider the following:
- Shop at your local grocer, butcher or florist: Large chains will be able to take the fallout from this situation; smaller businesses won't. So show your small, local businesses some love by shopping there instead. Buy your fruit & veg from local producers at a weekend market, your meat from the local butcher and your daily coffee from the barista down the road.
- Eat differently: Instead of eating out at your local restaurants you can get the same dishes you normally order delivered to your door. This way, you're still supporting them while looking after your own health and that of others in your community.
- Buy gift cards for your local businesses: Whether it's a movie voucher or restaurant coupon, buy gift cards for your favourite local businesses. They'll get vital cash they need right now to stay afloat, and you can use the vouchers whenever you like down the track.
- Shop online: While you might want to avoid being around groups of people right now, you can still get most of the things you need by buying online and getting them delivered to you.
5. Explore your backyard
If you've had to cancel or postpone an upcoming trip, it can be easy to feel disappointed. On the upside, there are plenty of incredible destinations you can explore in your own backyard while this crisis continues. We're so lucky to live in a country with so much to offer travellers. So load up your car and take a road trip somewhere you haven't been, enjoy the stunning beaches, forests and mountains around the country, and support local tourism operators who will be feeling the impact of a lack of travellers from overseas. Tourism contributes 5.8% of New Zealand's GDP, with tourists generating $3.8 billion in goods and services tax (GST) revenue. $1.8 billion of this comes from international tourists, so the industry is certainly taking a hit right now. By travelling within New Zealand and supporting our local tourism operators as much as possible you'll help them get through this and make it easier for them to get back on their feet.
Take a road trip somewhere you haven't been, enjoy the stunning beaches, forests and mountains around the country, and support local tourism operators who will be feeling the impact of a lack of travellers from overseas.
Campaigns such as Go NZ! from the New Zealand Herald and Back Your Backyard from Stuff are encouraging Kiwis to explore what's on their doorstep. Buy your local newspaper or read some of their content online to gather some inspiration and travel tips for domestic travel while you're unable to go overseas.
6. Use your time wisely
If you are self-isolating at home or taking some time off at the moment, it doesn't have to be dull. Make the most of the opportunity to spend your time productively. Work through your reading list, do an online course, do a spot of gardening, wash your car, start listening to a new podcast, get stuck into a hobby, redecorate, do some yoga in your living room, or reconnect with old friends and acquaintances online who you haven't spoken to in a while. Staying away from people and all the activities and events you love to get involved in might be a bit of a bore, but it's all about the attitude we choose to adopt. You might not be able to do all the things you'd planned to do, but you can still make the most of your current situation.
7. Gather inspiration for future trips
We may not be able to travel right now, but there will come a time (and the sooner it comes, the better!) when we'll be jetting off again in search of new adventures. And we're guessing there will be a whole heap of offers out when this time does come. So there's no reason to stop reading, gathering sources of inspiration and planning future trips. Our World Travellers store owners are small business owners who will feel the effects of this pandemic significantly. While you may not be able to book a holiday with them right now, you can support them by planning ahead for a time when you will be able to book a holiday. Now is the perfect time to gather holiday inspiration, soak in advice from travel experts and plan ahead. Add new destinations to your bucket list and get excited about all the opportunities out there.
Now is the perfect time to gather holiday inspiration, soak in advice from travel experts and plan ahead. Add new destinations to your bucket list and get excited about all the opportunities out there.
It's also a great opportunity to save up! Keep putting aside money for upcoming trips so that you'll be able to afford to treat yourself (or stay longer) when you are finally able to travel. Once the situation does calm down, you'll be all ready to book and throw your support behind your travel agent as they try to pick up business and recover from this.
We New Zealanders are nothing if not resilient. 2019 was a hard year for us, but it was a demonstration of our ability to always unite and bounce back in the face of adversity and trying times. It's this same support and sense of community that will see us through this situation, too. While we're unsure of exactly what to expect, what we know for sure is that we won't be able to get through this without learning on each other. Kia kaha - we can get through this.