In this modern age with 1.4 billion people worldwide travelling (2019), tourism contributes 10% of global GDP. The Covid-19 (also known as Coronavirus) spreads like wildfire across the globe impacting the travel industry in the most direct and fastest way possible. 

I stand at both sides of the spectrum in the travel industry, being a traveller and a tourist guide.

Corona what? Coronavirus

Corona Extra, not Coronavirus
Corona Sunset Party 2017 in Bucaramanga

Before the start of 2020, if someone were to mention “Corona”, I would associate it with the beer, not a virus. We are just in the third month of the year and look at how quickly things have changed. Now, coronavirus is the most talk-about word which has turned the world upside down.

It takes a toll on the travel industry. From airlines to hotels, travel agencies, tourist guides and anyone whose jobs are tourism-dependent as travellers cancel their travel plans or postpone their holidays. 

I forwent a solo trip in March and travel restrictions have also put me out of my tourist guiding job.

Covid-19 impacting me as a traveller

I was pleased when I booked a return flight to Cambodia for this month during a promotion many months ago. I was looking forward to it because it has been a long time since my last solo holiday. Furthermore, I always want to experience the grandeur of Angkor Wat and to dive deeper into the ruthless Khmer Rouge history.

But with the CoVid-19 lingering in Asia since January, I was sitting on the fence between to go ahead with the holiday or to stay put in Singapore.

I remembered discussing with some friends over our looming holidays in mid-February. Friends asked me to reconsider because I could potentially get quarantine in Cambodia or when I return home. At that point, things were not THAT serious YET, thus it seemed a little unthinkable to reach that stage. 

So I continued to sit on the fence up with had nothing else booked. I know I can wing the trip if I have to. That is how much confidence I have at being a seasoned solo traveller. At least this is what I would like to think so. 

With my indecisiveness, I finally decided to forgo my vacation only 24 hours before the scheduled flight took off. At that time, the virus has not reached the global state of emergency yet. It was purely a financial move.

The unthinkable happened

Since then, it became clear that it was the right move as the numbers were increasing worldwide. I know you must be wondering how does it affect me since the massive outbreak is now in Europe and the United States of America while the infected cases in Cambodia remain low. Well, according to my inside source, in reality, there are more infected cases than the official numbers in Cambodia. Of course, it was entirely up to me to trust the system or not.  

On 15 March 2020, Singapore government officials announced that all returning Singaporeans from ASEAN countries have to serve a 14-day Stay-Home-Notice (SHN) w.e.f 16 March 2359hr. I heave a sigh of relief. If I went ahead with the holiday, I would return on 17 March 2020 which will put me under the 14-day SHN. 

It was more so a sound decision to forgo the holiday with situations changing every day. Imagine staying home for 14 days with only my parents in the same household. I am not sure who will drive who crazy first. 

I realised how lucky I am to avoid all these travel woes. After all, I can still visit Cambodia once everything blows over. 

Restrategising my travel plans

In my previous post, I wrote about wanting to do the Camino de Santiago in Spain this year. With the first wave of virus hitting the shore, I knew I have to postpone the mission. After that, before the virus hit hard globally, I was planning to potentially fly to New Zealand at the end of the year. However, with the whole ongoing situation, I am not even confident that it will happen. 

Sadly, I don’t have the next game plan. It is dependent on how quick the tourism market is going to recover after this pandemic. 

Travel plans halt as the CoVid-19 impacts the travel industry

CoVid-19 impacting me as a tourist guide

At the frontline of the travel industry, the source of income is through guided tours. The number of tourists dwindled gradually since end January as we received our first case on 23 January and we imposed a travel ban from visitors from China a week later in hope to control the situation here.

The impact came after our Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) was turned up a notch to orange triggered by the first cluster of community spread. 

Soon, I faced cancellation of tours, from local schools (as advised by authorities) and inbound tourists who decided to change their plans. Before the CoVid-19 virus, I could fit jobs in my schedule fairly easily. But since then, not anymore.

Tourist guide in the travel industry were one of the first to be impacted during the CoVid-19
I love my job!

Every day I tell myself to remain upbeat and be patient. Let’s wait out for a couple of months for the Covid-19 virus to blow over in Asia. Then, we will be ready to roll again! 

Maybe I was too idealistic because unfortunately, this virus is no longer Asia-centric and has affected many other countries.

The near future looks bleak as markets all over the world plunged to a new low. Who would have thought that a virus could lead to a global economic crisis? 

Moving on from CoVid-19

Being at the front line of it all is no fun at all. My positivity and patience are running thin. On a good day, I do well and get my shit together. But, on a not so good day, I mull over everything. I have come to the point that I deleted FaceBook from my mobile so that I can ignore the negativity I drew from it. With plenty of time on hand, I embark on my personal learning, and use this chance to upgrade myself. This situation also forces me to rethink my strategy moving forward. 

I look forward to the day that I can smile and be excited to be travel and guiding again!
I look forward to the day that I can smile and be excited to be travel and guiding again!

In the meantime, it lies on every single person on this planet to play our part to flatten the curve. Continue to have faith that our glorious days of travelling would come soon. The sooner we get rid of the virus, the sooner the economy recovers and the faster we can travel again! 

Pamela Loh

Pamela, born and raised in Singapore. She is a dreamer, explorer, traveller and local tour guide.

A perfect day for Pam would be being on the road, having beers and endless of great conversations that shape a wider perspective.

Come say hi!

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Pam goes travelling