Radio Guest List — New York — May 23, 2020
This week on Eye on Travel, Peter Greenberg continues reporting on Covid-19’s impact on the travel industry. The latest unemployment figures are out, and they’re bleak — especially in the travel industry. Gene Sperling, Former Chief White House Economic Adviser (to Presidents Clinton and Obama) and the author of Economic Dignity, weighs in on what this means, not just to the job market and the economy but to your travels. Then, Editor-at-Large for National Geographic Traveler, Costas Christ covers the surprising and unexpected impacts of the virus on the environment and world’s ecosystem, with some positive surprises. And then, Dean Kate Walsh, from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, on navigating the new terrain of travel and hospitality. There’s all of this and more on this week’s broadcast of Eye on Travel.
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Gene Sperling, Head of Sperling Economic Strategies, Former Chief White House Economic Advisor and Author of Economic Dignity, speaks about how this feels like the moment where people are now realizing how essential every job is in America. People are forced to confront how we don’t treat so many workers with economic dignity. He says we can’t continue calling essential workers heroes while not giving them living wages. Travel spending is expected to decline $519 billion, which represents 9 times the loss of revenue after 9/11. He explains how things start to return to normal usually 1-1.5 years after a major impactful incident like a terrorist attack. Right now, the problem is we are still in the middle of this and don’t know when the end will be in sight and when the recovery will be. He believes that the end goal should be economic dignity for all Americans. If you lose your job, like many have, you should have a chance to come back.
Costas Christ, Editor-at-Large for National Geographic Traveler and Founder of Beyond Green Travel, thinks that the story that needs to be told right now is that particularly in Africa, we are now seeing a conservation crisis. It underscores the importance of the travel industry’s impact on improving livelihoods, poverty mediation as well as protecting wildlife and habitats. On one hand, the world is having a reprieve from factories and other pollution. But on the other hand, poaching in places like Africa is skyrocketing. He also wants listeners to be aware that the planet’s health is directly tied to our health as humans. We cannot continue to pollute the atmosphere, water and land. As a traveler, he says we should make the conscious decision to travel with companies that uphold the value of a cleaner and healthier planet.
Dr. Kate Walsh, Dean and E. M. Statler Professor of the School of Hotel Administration at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, speaks to the regrowth of the travel and tourism industry. She hopes this is something that we will recover from, restart from, and grow from. The school prides itself on preparing tomorrow’s industry leaders in all sectors of services. There are restaurants, airlines, hotels, distribution and more that all fall under the umbrella of career paths that the school helps to foster. Right now, every sector of travel is working on the routes to reopening and how to do it safely. One of the issues is making sure a hotel doesn’t feel like a hospital. It will be the job of the industry to convey warmth and hospitality, even if employees have to be physically distanced from guests.
Axel Hefer, CEO of Trivago, explains that travel worldwide basically stopped mid-March. He says Trivago shifted gears quickly to looking ahead at restarting travel and what it will do in the future. On an operational level, it’s hard to process all of the cancellations when all of the customers are calling at once. Businesses aren’t set up to experience that level of cancellations at one time. He further explains how this is a situation that no one has experienced before or was prepared for on this global scale. As a company, Trivago did not have to deal with a lot of cancellations firsthand because its model is more of a referral agency. It is going to be a step-by-step process to rebuild travel confidence. And he says that it begins with people getting comfortable traveling within a driving distance of their homes.
Amanda Harrinauth, Bay area-based poet, Gold medalist, and ambassador for the Northern California special Olympics, details some of the difficulties of traveling for those who are differently abled. She’s not able to just get up and go like many people. She wants people to stop, breathe and say kind things instead of asking inappropriate questions. Hotels need to have adequate railing, because this simple thing can make a huge difference in accessibility. She also shares her poem, “Together We Can.”
Christine van Blokland, Creator, Host, Writer and Executive Producer of PBS’ “Curious Traveler,” speaks about how she’s staying occupied during the pandemic with virtual tours of not just the inside but also the exteriors of museums and sights. She talks about having already filmed about half of the upcoming season of “Curious Traveler,” so a lot of her days are filled with writing as normal. She had planned on Switzerland as the next trip, but like for everyone else, it’s on hold. For now, she also encourages people to move forward and continue to plan as normal. It keeps you occupied, upbeat, and after doing that research, she says that you’ll feel like you’ve had a mini-trip.
Gordon Dalgleish, President and Co-Founding Director of PerryGolf, addresses a concern that a listener/reader wrote to Peter Greenberg. PerryGolf wants to work with customers as it continually assesses this fluid situation. It’s taking the necessary precautionary steps to ensure the safety of customers and employees and will cancel more tours if necessary closer to the date. Peter continues to urge people who have purchased trips in advance to wait until the company cancels to get a full refund.