David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
NOT Traveling Blog, 4th Week Of June
What Will It Take To Get Back On The Road
In 2014 I was voted by USA Today readers as one of the top ten business travel bloggers in the USA. Now mind you, I turned out to be number ten on the list of ten, but I did make it on (with my thanks to all those who voted.) Now that we’re all stuck at home and not traveling, I had to think about what to do with my blogs. I could stop writing them entirely – waiting till we all get through the current COVID19 pandemic / crisis. I could wax nostalgic and/or complain about past trips. Or, I could focus all of my efforts on my day job – growing the use of collaboration technologies – especially in light of how many people are now forced to use those tools for the first time. In reflecting upon those choices, what I decided to do is compile an ongoing list of observations during the crisis. Some of these may amuse, some may inform, some may sadden and others may help. My goal will be for you to have seen something in a different light than you did before you stopped to read the blog. I was going to apologize for how disjointed these thoughts may seem when put together, but then it dawned on me that feeling disjointed is our new normal – at least for a little while.
Thanks to all of you who have been following my “not traveling” blogs these last few months of COVID-19 sheltering-in-place. As I’ve written about extensively, I believe we’re going to be in this mess for quite a long time. The people who are acting like its over just because they want it to be over (who I’m now calling Covidiots) will likely have a price to pay in the near future for not paying enough attention.
In light of my opinions, I was recently asked what it would take for me to get back on the road. That’s a fair question to think about. I realize how lucky I am that I can be just about as effective in my career remotely as I could be in person, and also that not everyone is in that position. I understand that deciding not to travel is a luxury some literally can’t afford, and I won’t criticize them for the choices they are forced to make. This blog will be about my thinking and needs. Everyone needs to make their own decisions.
Firstly, 99% of the reasons I would travel for business don’t exist right now. All of the conferences and events I’d have attended have been cancelled or postponed. The next business conference on my radar that is saying it will go on as scheduled is CES 2021 (and a lot can happen between now and then.) But assuming it does go on, that still means there’s nothing compelling for me to attend until January – six months away.
What’s left is leisure travel, and my wife and I are dying to get away somewhere. We’re as frustrated by staying at home as anyone else. But honestly, I don’t see it in the cards for us.
The reality of this COVID-19 situation is that there is more we don’t know than we know. There were media reports about how long the virus stayed viable on different types of surfaces, but then there were reports that it was found on the cruise ships weeks after the people left. So I don’t believe any of it. We just don’t know. Every grocery, every piece of mail, every delivery that comes into our home is wiped-down with alcohol before we put it away. Is that paranoid? I’d absolutely love to have enough real data and science to find out that it is, but for now, to me, before there is a vaccine or even a viable and effective treatment, it is reasonable caution. In light of that, what would it take to travel again:
· To take a taxi / ride-share again I’d need to believe the protocol used in the cab matches mine at home. That means wipe down everything between passengers, ensure that the car’s air filter can remove the virus.
· To rent a car again, it’s essentially the same as the above. I’d want every surface disinfected, and I’d want the air filter changed and the AC purged between each traveler.
· To stay in a hotel again – ugh, give me a break. We’d need a real societal change that compensated housekeepers commensurate with the job that is now being asked of them. Would you sleep on a pillow that someone who had COVID-19 used, just because the minimum-wage housekeeper changed the pillowcase? I wouldn’t. Do I trust that housekeeping can manage close to the volume of rooms to clean that they did before all this and do the job of wiping down every surface needed? No, I don’t. Perhaps, when more science is in, hotels can install some sort of UV lighting in each room that cooks any germs left behind after all the bedding and soft goods like towels and rugs are removed for thorough cleaning. As room guests depart, these lights (with some sort of safety that there are no people present) are turned on to fry the bugs for an hour or two before the room is made-up. That would likely take a long while to get in place if it even works.
· To fly again – which I guess is one of the big issues – I’d need to see video of airline CEOs and CFOs routinely flying in coach middle seats. No amount of cross-branding or promises about any new process is going to convince me that the serial liars that run the US airlines can be trusted with my or my family’s health. If they won’t travel in their worst experience then I won’t subject myself or my family to it. If the experience is too unsafe or uncomfortable for them then – if they were humans with any empathy at all – they’d realize that it’s too unsafe or uncomfortable for the customers they’re supposed to be caring about. How can anyone even believe them anymore when they preach about safety being ‘job-one.’
· To cruise again – honestly, they couldn’t pay me enough to get on one of those floating, smelly petri-dishes ever again. My awful cruise experiences before this, and more specifically, the nonchalant way the company responded to them, tell me all I need to know about trusting them.
In addition to all the above, we have to acknowledge the need to eat on the road. If I don’t even trust my neighborhood restaurants enough to eat there, how can I possibly trust the one’s I’d need to eat-in when traveling? Take a look at this Twitter thread from a waiter of a recently re-opened bar / restaurant for how the service staff at these places really feels.
So, the bottom line for me is a whole bunch of things would need to change before I’d ever travel again – many of them neither likely nor practical. Traveling is not something I’ll be doing – short of in a hazmat suit with my own packed food – until there is a vaccine or treatment. As a follower of science I realize that work on human vaccines for coronaviruses has never been successful before. I’m hopeful that the increased attention can change that, but the way 2020 is going, I’m not confident about that success. I have more faith that scientists – given the appropriate amount of time – will develop an effective treatment for people who do catch the COVID-19 virus. That would be the lynchpin to get me to start traveling again like I did before all this.
So again, am I being paranoid? Nothing would make me happier than having enough real data and science for that to be proven true.
As always, please feel free to write to me with comments or items I should add to a future Not Traveling blog (or if you just need someone to write to.) Stay safe, be well, hug those you’re sheltering with (but no one else) and do your best to stay positive. We’re going to be in this for a long while.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.