Travel employees laid-off due to cornavirus: Why aren't Australians supporting them more?

You care about your favourite restaurant. Of course. You care when you see the tables being stacked away and the signs going up out the front saying they're now "takeaway only". If they can even do that.

You probably care about your local pub right now too, the good people there who have been forced out of work, the fact you can't go there anymore to socialise.

You care about your favourite bands and musicians as well, these artists you've formed connections with who can no longer tour and play concerts and make money in the way they normally do.

You care about all of these people and all of these places that have been badly affected by coronavirus and the associated lockdowns. And that's great. You should.

But do you care about travel?

Oddly, I don't see a lot of love out there for the people in the travel industry who have been affected by coronavirus lockdowns and movement bans. Travel was the first industry to be hit – it will be the last to recover. Pretty much anyone you know who is involved in travel has either lost their job already, or is facing that prospect in the next few months. Where's the groundswell of support?

I see headlines about cancellation fees and deposits not being returned; about airline collapses and lost frequent flyer points – the bad stuff, that is. The flow-on effects of businesses facing ruin.

(I also see legitimate outrage at Australian Federation of Travel Agents chief executive Jayson Westbury's mind-boggingly offensive comments about Tracey Grimshaw recently).

But I don't see social media campaigns trying to get people to, say, support their local travel agent in the same way they're supporting their local restaurant. People are prepared to queue for hours outside their favourite eateries to buy produce boxes to keep suppliers and cooks in business, but has anyone swung a few dollars to the person who sent you on that incredible holiday last year?

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Travel is a luxury, of course. It's a privilege. I understand that. But so is eating out. So is going to see live music. We seem galvanised to save the latter two, and yet where's the support for the travel industry?

It's almost impossible to describe just how many people who work in travel have had their livelihoods affected by our current situation. By some estimates, it's more than 100 million worldwide.

Every tour guide you've ever used in any country in the world will right now have pretty much no income whatsoever. The wildlife guides in Tanzania, the walking guides in Rome, the rafting guides in Fiji, the tour leaders in Western Europe, the hiking guides in Peru, the expedition leaders in Antarctica – none of them have jobs.

And everyone else involved in running the companies that employ these people? They don't have jobs either.

Don't forget, too, all the people who work for airlines in any capacity, from those preparing food in factories to those serving it in the air; all the people who work for hotels, from cleaners to front desk staff; all of the travel agents and people who work for travel agencies; all the people who drive taxis or run B&Bs or host cooking classes or provide any sort of experience for visitors from another place.

They're all out of work.

If you love to travel – and you're reading this, so there's a good chance you do – then maybe it's time to spare as much thought for these people as we're sparing for those in hospitality or entertainment. These are people who have provided all of us with some of the most memorable and amazing experiences of our lives, people who have facilitated just as much joy and wonder and beauty as a restaurant or a band. It's time to help them.

So what can you do?

A few things, in the short term. If you have travel booked for the future and haven't already done something about it, don't cancel it – postpone it. Leave your money with businesses that are struggling to stay afloat and enjoy a holiday with them once all of this is over.

You can also work with local tour guides and tour companies in far flung places via the magic of the internet. Maybe go on a virtual tour of a city with someone who knows it well (G Adventures is among the companies hosting regular online tours around the world), or sign up for a cooking class over Zoom (Airbnb has a host of these in its Experiences section), or even do a virtual wine tasting event with a local sommelier (Marco Lori, for example, is offering "Vino Quarantino" tasting sessions of Italian wines from his base in Rome).

Perhaps you're not keen to spend money right now, which is also fine. In that case I would say, just keep these people in your mind. And when the time is right, when you're given a clear timeline in your state for the return of travel, either domestically or internationally, book yourself a trip away.

It doesn't have to be a long trip or an expensive trip. You could plan to just drive an hour or two down the road and stay at a small hotel, or a B&B, or even at a campground (which in some states you can do right now). You could engage local guides. You could buy provisions from local vendors.

If you have more money and time to spare, you could plan to go for longer. Book a tour with one of your favourite operators. Book flights through an agent. You don't have to go straight away – any sort of concrete commitment to travel will help prop up the industry and all of the good people who depend upon it for their livelihoods.

Because that's what we're talking about here: good people. Passionate people. Skilled, experienced people. Generous people. Kind people. Normal people.

People you should care about.

Do you think the travel industry deserves more love? Are you planning a post-covid trip? Have you made any bookings or are you holding back?

Email: b.groundwater@traveller.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

​See also: Five great virtual travel experiences you can enjoy at home

See also: Let's start again: How to plan your 2021 travels now

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