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 is suspending its regular destination episodes and, in their place, offering a daily round-up of the major coronavirus-related travel headlines.
00:57 Travel headlines
01:35 The country with the most reported cases of COVID-19
02:14 How the travel industry has been impacted
04:38 Making others feel comfortable
06:40 In lockdown in Lima
08:50 Family time
09:38 Shout out to the NHS
10:05 Next episode
"As you can imagine, with all the lockdowns and all the stay-in-place orders, it's a really crazy time. It's much worse than after 9/11. It's much worse than the 2008 financial crisis." - Jim
Jim Kane founded Culture Xplorers in 2003. At its core, “Culture Xplorers is an adventure lab that creates fresh models for active engagement, meaningful connection, and mind-expanding travel experiences.”
Exito Travel is a flight consolidator for businesses in the adventure travel industry, arranging the best flights so their partners can concentrate on crafting inspiring trips on the ground.
Go bird watching in Colombia from the comfort of your sofa.
In self-isolation? You can put your time to good use practicing your travel writing skills
You can get in touch with us by emailing [email protected].
We use the Rodecaster Pro to record our episodes and interviews when in the studio, made possible with the kind support of Rode.
Kim: In this episode, the country with the most reported cases of COVID-19, how the virus has impacted the travel industry, and the nightly ritual acknowledging health workers.
Announcer: Welcome to the new daily World Nomads Podcast. We'll be keeping you up to date with travel alerts, information about coronavirus, and serving some uplifting news and views to inspire you, and keep you smiling.
Kim: Hi, it's Kim and Phil. While you're sharing your stories we are working from our wardrobes and-
Phil: Oh no, no, I've changed. I've now got a pillow fort. I'll give you a photo, okay?
Kim: Great. Normally we're in the studio. This is the third time that we've attempted to record this, Phil, for you. So let's get it right Phil.
Kim: As mentioned we're looking at how the travel industry has been impacted. When we chat with Jim, he's a US-based resident traveling with his family. He's hold up in Lima at the moment, but he also has a small travel company. But tell me, what's making travel news headlines related to the virus?
Phil: Well look, we know that the aviation industry has been badly affected by COVID-19 but here are some stats for you. Again, at the time of recording. Air capacity is down 60% in Western Europe and down 40% in most other regions as well. That's a huge blow, isn't it?
Phil: Obviously, hotels have taken a hit since the outbreak, but in some cities in China, and across Europe as well, hotels are acting as hospitals for people with mild symptoms or as homes for medical staff. Apparently over 7,000 hotels in the United States have expressed interest in converting their hotels to hospitals, good on them.
Phil: In the meantime, it is the United States which now has more reported coronavirus cases than any other country in the world. This is not a race people. They've got something like 82,000 cases on their books now.
Kim: Well that might be the reason why so many hotels are offering up their places to turn into hospitals.
Phil: Yep. Yep, yep.
Kim: Well Jim runs Cultural Xplorers. As mentioned, he's holed up with his family in Lima, but he's also on the board of a travel company. At the time of recording ... Oh, it was so hard to ask this question, he had just finished a really long meeting when I asked him, "Hey Jim, how's the travel sector been impacted?"
Jim Kane: Can I scream on this podcast or is that allowed? No. It's-
Kim: Whatever you like.
Jim Kane: Listen, it's rough in travel. I actually have a couple of different roles in the travel industry. Maybe three, in a sense. I wear a few different hats. Before speaking with you I just got off a board meeting call with one of the firms that I work with. I'm a board member of a firm called Exito Travel that is 100% connected to air travel, to air fairs and flights. As you can imagine, with all the lockdowns and all the stay-in-place orders, it's a really crazy time. It's much worse than after 9/11. It's much worse than the 2008 financial crisis.
Jim Kane: But at the same time ... Well, so it's bad. It's free-fall pretty much, but it's ... I just got off with the board conversation. Yes we're talking about slashing costs, yes we're talking about some layoffs, but we're also talking about, once things land how do we go forward? We know it's not an apocalyptic scenario, in terms of we know things are going to shake out. We know things are going to settle and get back, maybe not to where they were right before this, but to some semblance of the new normal. But yeah we're right in the front lines, if you will, in that sense. In terms of the travel space.
Jim Kane: The other hat that I wear, I have a very ... What I like to call the tiniest tour operator, which is called Culture Xplorers. On that side of my life, I design, organize, and run specialty trips. My year was looking very busy and now it's ... The rest of the calendar has cleared off. I'm just in a reactionary mode, where I'm just trying to ... Most of the fires have been put out at this point and I'm just trying to actually make others feel comfortable at this point. Maybe in a month or two, I'm just going to go, "Holy smokes, this is bad." But at the moment I'm more thinking outwards than inwards.
Jim Kane: I've been in the travel industry for about 20 years, so I've seen the ups and downs. I got started, well, just shortly after 9/11 and so I've seen that. I've seen the 2008 crisis, the SARS, and H1N1, and the different things. I know things are going to settle, but a lot of the travelers they're not in this every day, day in and day out, and so they're terrified right now. I feel like when I've had choices, and it just seems like someone really just isn't comfortable having their trip deposits out and not knowing whether they can take the trip again, maybe they're seeing their stock market portfolio crumble or maybe they're having some job concerns because unemployment's spiking, I just think that it's more important for me to reassure them. I'm just waiving our rules, I'm returning deposits. I'm just saying, "Look, take your time. Be safe. Be with your family. When you're comfortable again it'll be a privilege to be of service again."
Jim Kane: I don't know. One of the things I joke about the world's smallest tour operator, well one thing that I've been very relieved about, is that I don't have to worry about a big staff that I'm supporting right now. I am, of course, worried about my local teams. I'm here in Lima, Peru, as you mentioned at the start, and Peru is one of the countries where we do the most business and have the most long-term relationships and most travelers. I'm worried about my friends here on the ground. I want to see things rebound as soon as possible for them as well.
Kim: Tell us how you came to be stuck in Lima, and who you're with, and what you're doing? Are you in lockdown or self-isolation?
Jim Kane: Well we're in lockdown mode right now. Yeah, as I mentioned I have a lot of relationships here. I have business here, but I've also fallen in love with the country. It was spring break. I'm married and we have a 10-year-old son. We decided to take a family trip. I mean with my business it was a pleasure trip, it was a family trip, it was a spring break trip, but of course, for me too, being in the business, I'm seeing contacts, I'm developing things, trying new things, et cetera. So that's what brought us down here.
Jim Kane: I had rented an apartment in Lima and I was originally going to be here just a for a few nights while we were staying in Lima before we went up to the Sacred Valley. I kind of thought in the back of my mind, "If things get really bad, sort of worst-case scenario, I'll extend the apartment." I didn't know quite how serious things were going to get but that is what happened. That we have extended our time here in the apartment.
Jim Kane: So in terms of being stuck in Peru, while things did lockdown 24 hours after we got here, I think the borders did lockdown, I really didn't want to join the mad scramble because of that last 24 hours, when people ... Many people were desperate to just get out of Peru. I don't know, I just thought that was one of the worst places to be. You know scramble at the airport, waiting in long lines for hours, and hours, and hours. Of course, everyone's terrified of coronavirus. That's, of course, when you have the massive crowds, and panic and people pressed up against each other. Then getting on the long flights. I work wherever my laptop is, so for me, it's kind of like sheltering in place somewhere where we're all really comfortable.
Kim: I hear you like ... The daily routine is to do a little bit of exercise on the roof?
Jim Kane: We're trying to find ways to put a little adventure, a little family time, a little discovery, a little ... Yeah, a little physical activity. A little workout. We're in an apartment that has about five units, but it has a shared rooftop. We're going up there every couple of nights. We've put on one of these workout videos and we're doing family workouts. Every little thing has become an adventure. Going down to the fruit cart, and picking out some of the incredibly wonderful exotic fruits of Peru, and trying those for breakfast with yogurt. Yeah, things like that.
Kim: Very nice. Part of their routine, Phil, also includes opening their window or standing on their balcony and clapping along with the rest of the neighborhood in appreciation of health workers during this tough time.
Phil: They're doing that in the United Kingdom as well. Every night the people will get out and do a shout-out to the national health service workers. Do you want to have a listen? Here it is.
Kim: That's very cool. They deserve it too.
Kim: Next week we will continue to share stories from travelers in lockdown, or self-isolation, from our pillow fort and our wardrobe. This chat I loved. I love all the chats but this I really loved. It's a nomad self-isolating in her grandparents' village in Kenya.
Phil: Oh wow. Okay. Look, if you've got a story you want to share with us please email us at [email protected]
Phil: See you later.
Announcer: The World Nomads Podcast, explore your boundaries.