Any day now, something strange is going to happen to our perception of the US: the script is going to be flipped. The nation will go from basket case to boomtown. It will morph from pariah to powerhouse.
We've become so used to feeling sorry for the US. It's the country with the COVID-19 crisis where, at its peak, more than 300,000 people a day were being infected. More than half a million Americans have died since the beginning of the pandemic.
And then you add all of the rest of the dramas of the last 18 or so months, the frighteningly erratic reign of Donald Trump, the racial tension, the gun violence, the storming of the Capitol (something that still feels weird to write), and you have a country that, in terms of plans for post-pandemic travel, has been way down the back of the queue for some time now.
I mean, why would you?
Of course, I'm not sure Americans have ever understood that perception. I'm part of several US travel industry and media groups, and it has been amazing to see the delusion going on Stateside. A major travel conference was set to be held in Las Vegas in the middle of last year, deep in the pandemic, and it was only cancelled a few weeks out. And there's another one planned for this September.
A big part of me thinks, are you guys for real? Do you really think anyone is going to want to talk about travel to the US by September?
But they will. They really will. Because the US is about to become, if not the envy of the world, at least the leading example of what the world will look like in a post-vaccine era.
The US's vaccine rollout has been astonishing and extremely impressive, particularly when compared to the efforts of other countries – say, for example, Australia. Already, more than 200 million vaccine doses have been administered in the US. The country is expected to have fully vaccinated 70 per cent of its citizens by July. Daily COVID-19 cases have plummeted.
For American citizens, that means the world is about to open up to them again – the EU has already declared that vaccinated Americans will be allowed to enter Europe quarantine-free this northern summer. And it also means that the rest of the world will have to start thinking differently about America.
Because the whole world will eventually look like the US, with its open borders and vaccinated populations. There will still be cases of COVID-19 in the States, of course. But this is the way the world will have to be, the way we'll have to survive, the way Australians will eventually have to live, too: with vaccinations, and with COVID-19.
Of course, we aren't going to be holidaying in the US any time soon, regardless of the situation over there. America, it's not you, it's us. We won't be allowed freedom of movement to the US for some time yet – probably not until we've matched the US's vaccination stats. And that won't be until next year.
Still, it's time for a change of mindset. It's time to stop thinking about the US as the victim and begin to recognise its new status as a leader.
When you're planning your post-pandemic travels, this is a country that you can and should include. That seemed crazy six months ago, but now it's a reality. The US is going to be open for business soon, and it's a country that will come to represent the new normal, a country that you are going to want to visit again.
I can't wait to follow the US's progress over the next six months or so. The fate of this country is the fate of the world. We want the US to get back to its former glory, we need this to have confidence that our own existence is going to get better, much better, in a post-vaccine world.
For travellers, it's time to forget the insanity of the Trumpian, COVID-shocked US and focus on the future. Because the US is the future. It's our future. And one day soon we'll be allowed to experience it.
What's your perception of the USA right now – victim or leader? Do you plan to travel to the States when it opens to Australians? When do you think that will be?