The World Nomads Podcast: COVID-19 Travel News, 1 July

In this episode, how to grab the best airfares as travel begins to rebound, and the ex-pat living in Greece where tourism is its lifeblood.


Lady smiling at a market Photo © Supplied: Verna McGeachin

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The World Nomads Podcast: COVID-19 Travel News

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.

What’s in the episode

00:59 Who is allowed to visit Europe

02:34 Jesse's passion for affordable travel

05:20 Plans for 2020 out the window

07:43 Snaring a cheap flight

10:01 The Dollar Flight Club's deal for listeners

11:53 COVID in Greece

13.10 Can the summer season be saved?

15:30 Helping refugees in Lesbos

15:55 Next episode

Quotes from the episode

“… what we're going to see, is roughly a 35% decrease in airfare prices over the year of 2020. So through the end of this year. And then as travel rebounds over the next three or four years, we're going to see prices increase above 2019 levels, roughly 27%.” – Jesse

“The Greek government reacted really well to COVID. I think they saw what was happening in Italy and they shut down things. So now there are very strict rules about bars and restaurants and making people keep distances.” - Verna

Who is in the episode

Jesse Neugarten is the founder and CEO of the Dollar Flight Club. With his passion for affordable travel, Jesse quickly became known amongst friends and family as a 'flight guru' and began distributing an e-newsletter to select people that held the latest flight deals. The demand for Jesse's service grew to service travelers around the world, and Dollar Flight Club was born. Now reaching 1 million members, Jesse and his team help people save up to 90% on international and domestic flights. 

picture of a plane

Verna McGeachin aka Upcycled Antiparos is an ex-pat living on the Greek island of Antiparos. “I take everything people want to throw away. If needed by refugees in Lesbos - I send them there - my fabulous friend Philippa Kempson of The Hope Project lets me know what is needed. If things can be made into bags, I make them and use sales money to pay for postage and washing clothes. “

The Hope Project is run by Eric and Philippa Kempson - they have 4 warehouses - one of which is an art room.

three people sitting on a bench
Photo credit: Supplied Eric and Philippa Kempson from the Hope Project with Verna

Verna visited The Hope Project for the first time in October 2019. “Soon after that visit, Mary Chatzaki from Anti Art Gallery came to my place to donate clothes for me to send there. When I told her about the art that was being made there she offered her gallery for free for an exhibition in 2020. I went to Lesbos early March 2020 (there was a lot of unrest there at this time about foreigners there - The Hope Project only advised me to come because Mary had asked Nikos and Sofo to come with me to make a film about this visit - I, as a foreigner would be ok with them as bodyguards!) - I have never curated an art exhibition before. I made decisions, I hugged people and the emotion and love I felt — no words -  that is what this is about.”

The planned exhibition of paintings by refugees at The Hope Project in Lesvos at Anti Art Gallery is now canceled. These 30 artworks by the talented artists from The Hope Project were up for auction on @Art is Hope. The exhibition sold out and €4,000 made.

Resources & links

Kim: In this episode the man known among friends and family as the flight guru and an ex-pat designer living in Greece, a country relying heavily on the travel dollar.

Insert show intro

Kim: Thanks for tuning in to this episode of the podcast from wherever you get your favorite pods, we will hear from Jesse from the Dollar Flight Club shortly and Verna born in Scotland, grew up in Ireland, worked in Sydney and now living on an island in Greece. What’s travel news, Phil?

Phil: Europe will soon officially be open to visitors but not everyone is welcome. If you are from America, Brazil or Russia you aren’t allowed to travel there because those countries failed the inclusion criteria test given the high number of coronavirus cases. But if you are from Australia, Canada, Japan, and around ten other countries you are free to visit.

We are going to be talking about Greece with Verna later in the podcast but Russian and Ukrainian doctors currently on the frontline fighting against Covid-19, will get free holidays to Greece, the company behind the initiative says the doctors will be able to relax and share their stories with Greek colleagues.

In the last episode we showed you a new design for cabin seating, well in this episode Airbus has unveiled a futuristic plane design that it says could cut fuel consumption by 20 percent. And last month the planemaker completed a pilotless take off for the first time ever, using recognition technology. All the details in show notes.

Kim: Jesse Neugarten has a passion for affordable travel, so much so he quickly became known amongst friends and family as a 'flight guru' and started sending out an e-newsletter to people the latest flight deals. And the Dollar Flight Club was born.

Jesse: Yes. So three or four years ago, I had always been the person that my friends and family would ask about finding flight deals or where to get the best deals because that's really what I did. I've been traveling for as long as I can remember. It's always been a passion of mine. And everyone started reaching out to me, asking me about my trips, about where I got those deals. So what I decided to do was start a newsletter and start emailing them out, those deals, to all my friends and family. And that's really the way that Dollar Flight Club was born.

And the way it works is you tell us where you live. So you can say, "Hey, I live in L.A.," or, "I live in Sydney," and our team is going to go out and find the best flight deals internationally and domestic that leave that home airport to destinations across the globe that are up to 90% off the standard fare.

Kim: Wow.

Jesse: Yeah, exactly. So just a few examples, I guess, off the top of my head. Some of the best deals we've found are from L.A. and Houston to Sydney and Melbourne for 415 U.S. Dollars round trip is one of the best we've done recently. Which, I mean, those fares are usually $1,500 at least.

Kim: So how do you get them so cheap, or find them so cheap?

Jesse: Yeah, so it's a combination of things. I think the main thing is we just have a big team of deal experts that know where to look, where to search, what routes to focus on. And then we also use data that comes in from different partners that help us locate these deals. So it's a little bit of supply and demand and knowing where to look. And then also, maybe you've heard of the term mistake fare? You know, when the airlines just make a mistake. They forget to put the last digit on the fare. And we're able to find those and send them out to our members. And we have roughly 1 million members that are across the globe.

Kim: So you mentioned supply and demand.

Jesse: Yeah.

Kim: This isn't a great time, is it? And can I just start off by asking you? You said you're passionate about travel. Obviously we're all grounded at the moment. How are you feeling?

Jesse: Not great? A little antsy. I was actually traveling... I was traveling full time from last August and I had a big year of going all over Europe, Australia, South Africa, where I was going to work remotely and just see these new places. And we're not able to do that anymore. But we're excited for when it's safe to venture out again, which I'm sure you are as well.

Kim: Yes I am. And I would love to know from you what the future of the airline industry will look like.

Jesse: Yeah. So, I mean, there's a lot of different things that we can expect to see. But I guess the first thing that everyone talks about, is interested in, is what is it going to do to airfare prices? And how is this pandemic going to impact that in the near term and long term? And we did a report, we did a study, looking at what happened after 9/11, what happened after the great recession, where there is a massive impact to the travel industry.

And what we've found is, what we're going to see, is roughly a 35% decrease in airfare prices over the year of 2020. So through the end of this year. And then as travel rebounds over the next three or four years, we're going to see prices increase above 2019 levels, roughly 27%. So for the short term, we're going to see much, much lower prices. But then in the long term, we're going to see those prices get much more expensive than they were before the pandemic.

Kim: Well it makes sense, because there is no point having a flight that's super expensive and we've got no money to buy the ticket with, because a lot of us have lost jobs, or income, or been, had hours reduced. So that makes total sense. And that's based on research.

Jesse: You know, we have a massive database of airline routes and prices. And that, we took all of that and analyze that data. And then look back at data from the past 20 years to kind of predict what's going to happen now. And we're seeing that happen at the moment. I mean, the deals that we send out to our members... I'll just talk about from the U.S., for example. We're currently seeing flights from the U.S. to Europe for $200 or $300 round trip, which is very, very cheap. And we're seeing that across the board.

Kim: That's the future of the airline industry. How do you think that leisure travel will be different?

Jesse: Yeah, so leisure travel I think, in the near term, until there's a vaccine available, I think it's going to be very different from the time that you get to the airport, from the time that you're spending in that destination. I think at the airport it's going to take much longer. It's going to be much more of a hassle to get through security, to make sure you have all your documents in place, boarding process. But I think what we'll see, in terms of when you're on that trip, I think we'll see people... I don't think we'll see those Euro trips as much where you're hopping from city to city. You know you do like 10 destinations in a few weeks. I think it'll be more longer-term trips in one place. And I think a lot more solo trips and outdoor adventure trips that we'll see. People staying away from those crowded places.

Kim: I'm hearing that too. Also, we're being told that business travel will bounce back first, followed by luxury travel. Based on your knowledge, would you agree with that?

Jesse: Yeah, definitely. I'm not sure if you saw this, but the first European country that I think is going to open up to travel the summer is going to be Greece. They're slated to open up borders for international travelers on July 1st, which no one else has done. And what they have said and what they're anticipating is that the first batch of people that show up there are going to be people who are doing exclusive luxury trips, more catered to them, fewer people. And that's what we're seeing. So I think that's true.

Kim: What about you? These aren't your words, but you're going crazy not being able to travel. What's the first place that you want to visit?

Jesse: Number one for me is Greece. And number two is Australia. Those are the two places that are next on the list. We had those booked for this summer, but that's where I want to go.

Phil: Sounds perfect Jesse, who has offered listeners a full year for free by signing up to the Dollar Flight Club and we will have the code you need in show notes.

Kim: Now you’ll find Greece is pretty much normally on everyone’s list of places to visit particularly during summer. Verna is an ex-pat living on an island there and gives us a snapshot of how the country is fairing. But first I was keen to know how she found herself living the dream.

Verna: I'm now 60 years old. I grew up in Ireland. When I was 28, I moved to Australia, lived in Sydney for 23 years, but before I went to Australia the first time I visited this little Greek island of Antiparos in the Cyclades and I just loved it. So anytime when I was in Australia, anytime I went back to Ireland, I would always fit in a holiday here if I could. I got made redundant in Sydney 11 years ago, and I just realized I couldn't afford to live in Sydney without a decent job. So I moved here. I've been living here now full-time for about eight and a half, nine years. I just love it. The lovely thing here is that there are so many what we call regular visitors or people who have... their holiday is always here. So June and September here, the amount of return visitors is phenomenal. I mean, I can go down to my local bar and I will know 90% of the people, and they're from all over the world. It's just really lovely.

Kim: So what does it look like now then, [Verna 00:00:01:13]?

Verna: I spoke to a local bar owner yesterday, and he said they now feel that they've lost the season. Greek government reacted really well to COVID. I think they saw what was happening in Italy and they shut down things. So now there are very strict rules about bars and restaurants and making people keep distances. There was an instance in Mykonos a couple of weeks ago where this beach bar, they weren't controlling their customers, and they were fined 20,000 Euro, which actually is not a lot for a beach bar in Mykonos, but they were shut down for two months. So the government are taking it all very seriously. But this, it's such a great place to come, because most of the restaurants and bars have outdoor seating areas. A lot of them have removed some of their normal tables. So you can still sit. You can't have a table of more than four people, but you can still sit and enjoy it.

Kim: It's the perfect place for dining outside, and even social distancing. There are so many tiny little beaches that you can go to, where there's no one.

Verna: Yeah. I've lost count the number of posts I've seen and messages I've had from friends who desperately want to get here. Some of them have just written it off and said, "We'll be back next year," but so many people are saying September, October. So we just wait and see.

Kim: On a serious note, we know that Greece has struggled financially in recent times. What's the vibe like? Are they feeling demoralized? I mean, tourism is such a huge part of the economy.

Verna: I think they didn't get electricity here until the '70s, and then slowly, tourists started coming. They lived by fishing and farming. So realistically, tourism is the lifeblood. But everyone here been very sort of stoic about it. They just go, "We can't change things. We just have to let the tourists know we're here and we just wait and see who comes." For me, I would worry that some businesses are going to find it really tough. We'd love to support places, but everyone here has only got a limited amount of money. We're missing the tourists who would come for two or three weeks with holiday money in their pockets. So I think a lot of people are going to be hit quite hard.

Verna: The Greek government, I think, has been really good about this. They've basically the whole way through has said, "We really don't know what's going to happen, and we may change the rules at any minute to protect you." At the beginning of the virus, Greece had literally 60 ICU beds for the whole country of 11 million people. So that's why they clamped down. I mean, the island I'm on, there's no hospital. There's nothing. We have an excellent doctor. Some wealthy homeowners here donated a couple of isolation, pods.

Verna: Basically, if you got COVID here, you'd need to be helicoptered to Athens. But we'll just wait and see. And as I said, talking to local businesses, everyone's been very pragmatic and down to earth and it's like, "Well, there's nothing we can do. We just sit here and wait and see who can come." I would just say, Greece is waiting for you, but if you come and you're respectful and keep your distance, we're waiting.

Kim: Verna has a super interesting background in publishing design, she now has a business called Upcycled Antiparos, taking everything people want to throw away, mostly clothes, bed linen, and towels and if needed by refugees in Lesbos she sends them there through the Hope Project. Lots more on Verna and that project in show notes.

Phil: To share your story with us email and a reminder to look for that code in show notes for a free year when you sign up to the Dollar Flight Club.

Kim: Next episode, in lockdown and learning a language.



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