As governments around the globe impose lockdowns and people self-isolate, coronavirus (COVID-19) has hit the travel industry hard. The World Nomads Travel Podcast has suspended its regular destination episodes and, in their place, offering a round-up of the major coronavirus-related travel headlines, including the future of travel.
00:27 Paris is out of lockdown
01:06 The vegetable at risk of being destroyed
02:44 Julie's theory
03:33 Domestic travel in New Zealand
06:52 Julie's Bedouin tour
09:33 Meet Amanda Black
11:34 Amanda sees opportunity during the pandemic
12:25 Is it a bird, is it a plane...?
13:16 Next episode
“…we are a global community and there are actually millions of people all over the world that are stuck in different countries than the ones that they were born in...” Julie
“Well, like every travel company, everything is canceled for the foreseeable future. So, in that area, it's been, of course, devastating in terms of bookings and lots of canceled plans and all of that.” - Amanda
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Kim: In this episode, the women embracing opportunity as their businesses work to survive COVID -19 and the country wanting people to load up on fries.
Kim: Hi it’s Kim and Phil sharing Julie and Amanda’s story later but Phil what news have you got for us?
Phil: Paris has emerged from eight weeks of lockdown and to new bike lanes. In fact, the main urban artery to the Louvre has been closed entirely to private cars. The reason? Combating climate change and promoting social distancing.
With lockdown and self-isolating forcing us to stay home, many people have been enjoying cooking inspiring the world’s first COVID cookbook filled with recipes from home cooks around the world. To get a copy you donate to Feeding America, a hunger relief organization with a nationwide network of food banks feeding the hungry.
Speaking of food, Belgians are being asked to eat more pommes frites or French fries with three-quarters of a million metric tons of potatoes at risk of being destroyed because restaurants haven’t been buying them.
And a company in the Bluegrass state of Kentucky has released a heap of Zoom backgrounds that will make you feel like you’re on a farm or a Bourbon distillery, even hanging with some horses.
Kim: Julie is a New Zealander who usually lives in Egypt from where she operates her international tour operator business Venus Adventures, but on a recent trip home found herself stranded as the borders closed. Julie reached out to us because she felt there was a conversation missing around a return to travel.
Julie: Well, every morning I get up and I read all the travel trade news because basically I want to know what's going on in the world. I actually live in Egypt at the moment, but I'm a Kiwi and I came home after not being here for three years and I got stuck here. All the travel trade news seems to go on about when airlines open up and when borders open up, business travelers are going to come back and then it'll be luxury travel and then they go on about cruises and tourism and blah, blah, blah. But there is a huge segment that is being ignored and that is the fact that we are a global community and there are actually millions of people all over the world that are stuck in different countries than the ones that they were born in. Everything from kids studying abroad, digital nomads, people married to foreigners, people who work overseas on their big OE. I think when we're eventually all allowed out again globally, they're going to be the first ones in the queue at the airport and it's a huge market.
Speaker 2: What actually interested me most about you, Julie, is the fact that now I am stuck back at home in New Zealand, I can't do my international business. As you know, in business-speak, you are pivoting to providing the kind of services you were doing before, but to domestic travel, because that looks as though it's going to open up first in New Zealand.
Julie: Yeah. Yeah. We're not even sure when yet, but I'm getting ready for that and I'm surrounding myself with people who can help me out with that. Like, launches, vehicle drivers, guides, finding out about activities that will be open. I've got quite a task ahead over the next few weeks, putting together fun and exciting trips for women specifically to be able to get away because everyone's been stuck in their bubbles talking to the same people. We're all going up the wall. And I think, one thing I've discovered, is people just want to have that face-to-face contact. We are humans after all and we want that contact and we want to have some fun.
Speaker 3: Yeah, I'm pretty ready for it. Looks like you are too. Will you do under the banner of Venus Adventures?
Julie: Yes, I will, definitely. I'm currently adapting my website so that you can go onto the website and look and see what's brewing until things have been brewed and the trips have been put together. As I said, I'm still waiting for a lot of operators to open up, wineries, gin distilleries, and I'm excited to see where we can go. Then it will be on the website because I am intending to do global trips again. I mean, I have a global market and my clients, I've got a ton of returning clients because I offer great trips and they'll be champing at the bit to get out again as well. I'm looking at potentially next year doing global trips again.
Speaker 2: What have you learned from running your programs overseas in Egypt? What have you learned from that, that you are adapting to domestic travel?
Julie: Well, it's been kind of a process. The reason I live in Egypt is... well, there're several reasons, but one of the main ones is the fact that it's closer to all the destinations that I go to, which... if I was in New Zealand every time I get on a plane, it's a massive flight to get anywhere. In Egypt, I can get a visa to stay there for up to a year, so it allows me to live there. I really enjoy the community I'm part of there, so I came home and got stuck here and my whole life has been in limbo because I have a flat over there. I have cats, I have all my clothes. I just came here with a bag of clothes and now I'm homeless.
Julie: So adapting just means it's basically doing what I already do, but doing it in my own country. It hasn't been... it's not a huge thing. It's nothing new to me. It's just I have to do it at home now and I have to also look closely at what's happening in the buyer's mind at the moment or the tourist mind. They'll be looking for different things emotionally, maybe less... they won't want to go to crowded places and they'll be looking to get out into nature more and just connecting with their own peers and seeing how everyone else is.
Speaker 3: Yeah. We've certainly learned that. I've got to stop you now and ask how the cats are.
Julie: I think they're okay. Yeah.
Speaker 2: Surely they're still deities over there. They're being treated like gods, aren't they?
Julie: Oh, I live in the Sinai, so it's a bit different. It's Bedouin culture that's the main culture down there, not the Egyptian culture.
Speaker 2: That is a perfect segue. Tell us about that. Where do you live and what is that experience like? Is there a big ex-pat community where you are?
Julie: Yes, there is. I live in Doha, which is in the Sinai Peninsula, which is between mainland Egypt and Israel. Obviously, it's on the Red Sea so it's a diving maker, a free diving maker, kite surfing, and windsurfing maker. There's a ton of foreigners that live there year-round and it's retired people that have holiday homes here that can't get to them at the moment. It's a very varied community with people from all over the world living and working there.
Julie: All of my neighbors are Bedouin who were traditionally nomads. I spend a lot of time out in the desert learning about Bedouin culture. I ran a trip with a Bedouin woman, a hiking trip who took Egyptian woman hiking in the mountains, which was a groundbreaking thing at the time.
Julie: The thing I love most about living there is the sense of community. I know all my neighbors, they're all Bedouin. I can go around to their house any time of day and have a cup of tea and a chat and that's one thing I miss coming back into the Western world. It's just really nice to be part of a community and that's something that I really love over there. Even the supermarket man, if I don't go into the supermarket, and they're just tiny little supermarkets, he doesn't see me for a few weeks, he rings up. "Where have you been? I haven't seen you. I thought you were in the hospital or in jail or something."
Speaker 3: Who are you staying with and what are you doing for clothes?
Julie: Good question. Well, when lockdown happened, I was basically making my merry way around New Zealand, visiting friends and having adventures. Then I was in the bush on a bike trip for two days, we came out and it was announced you've got 48 hours to get to your lockdown location. I just said, "I have to go and stay with my mother". I ended up at my mother's house just because she is over 70 and they're not supposed to go out shopping by themselves, so I came here to help her out. But you know, obviously who wants to live with their mum.
Speaker 3: At the beginning of this chat, you identified that segment, the digital nomad. It's the people that are stuck in their holiday homes, the kids studying abroad. They're going to be the first ones lining up at the airport. You're there in New Zealand as we said, pivoting. What's going to happen when the board is opening? Are you going to be one of those people that will rush back to Egypt?
Julie: Yeah, as soon as I can. Obviously I'll have to take into account what's happening here and if I have any trips running and if it's a good time to go or not. Everything is so uncertain, so it's not until that day happens that I can make the decision, but yes, I'll be heading back, my life's over there.
Phil: Thanks for getting in touch Julie – to share your story or thoughts email email@example.com
Kim: Amanda is the founder of the Sole Female Travel Network a 200 thousand plus on-line community connecting women with wanderlust, and like Julie views this current time as an opportunity
Amanda: Yeah. So, we are a community for women who travel solo and we're all about community. So, we believe that community is the foundation for the best trips ever and also safety, which is especially important as women traveling alone. And it's really important for us to connect with like-minded women around the world. And so, yeah, in a nutshell, that's what we're about.
Kim: So, how has COVID-19 affected your business?
Amanda: Well, like every travel company, everything is canceled for the foreseeable future. So, in that area, it's been of course, pretty devastating in terms of bookings and lots of canceled plans and all of that. But the positive side of it is it's given us this really amazing opportunity to explore other ways to build our community and offer the support that our members are looking for. So, we're actually in the process of launching a membership. It's a culture driven learning platform that has courses and events, for now all virtual, that is all about solo female travel and also connecting with women around the world in a bit more of an authentic way.
Kim: In many ways, the world stopping has offered an opportunity for companies to A, get up to date with their administration, and B, think about how they can do things a little differently.
Amanda: It's been a really big opportunity for us. Of course, at first, it was hard to see through all of the cancellations, but since then a wonderful opportunity for our business to focus on other things, to regroup, to get things like our website updated, like this new program we're launching, to get that going. So, yeah, it's been a really great opportunity for us to just go back to our basics and focus on the community.
Kim: And you're confident that once we can start traveling again, that you will rise to the top again?
Amanda: Oh, definitely. Definitely. We're really excited about it. We have lots of new trips that we're planning and releasing and I think that once the world safely opens again, people are going to be so ready to get back out there and it's going to be such a beautiful, exciting time for everybody.
Kim: It's ironic you're talking about that and there's a plane flying across.
Amanda: Very ironic.
Kim: Well, we all can't wait 'til we can travel again. Do you think it will be a different type of travel?
Amanda: It'll probably go in stages. We'll start being able to travel very close to home, day trips around us and then it'll graduate to more domestic trips for a while and then at some point we'll be able to travel internationally. But yeah, I think people will probably be looking at things with health and safety in mind a little bit more.
Kim: Links to the Solo Female Travel Network and Venus Adventures in show notes.
Phil: Next episode how online magazine and travel company Atlas Obscura has navigated through the pandemic so far.
Kim: They have a cool article on their site now, which we will share, about an LA-based travel photographer, who after her travel plans were canceled recreated the outdoors using stuff from around the house, including pancakes and onions! It’s super cool.