Traveling in a COVID World
By: Sandy Saburn, CTIE

Yesterday was the first time I have been on a plane in 285 days. Remarkable for someone who – like many of you – normally travels quite often. I want to share my experience with you in hopes you find this “experience from the road” helpful to you and your clients.

My flight originated at my home airport, Charlotte (CLT). Charlotte is a major hub for American Airlines so I knew the airport would be busy. What I didn’t expect was how busy. It wasn’t the largest crowd I’ve seen at the airport, but it was a lot more people than I expected. If you just woke up from a coma not knowing about COVID-19 and found yourself in the airport, you would think it was a typical day. There are a lot of people traveling! Both of my flights (CLT to MIA and MIA to CUN) were completely full.

Almost every person I saw was adhering to the mask requirements. Occasionally there was a rebel without a clue who had their mask pulled down under their chin, but for the most part, people were abiding by the rules.

The biggest change I noticed was that at least half – probably more – of the food establishments were closed. The one open Starbucks I saw had at least 30 people waiting in a line stretching down the concourse. It was the only place to get coffee after you pass through security.

Once we were seated on the plane beverages were available only on request. Because we were in first-class (a surprisingly low-cost upgrade for an international flight) we were able to get a beverage, but I am not sure how efficiently people in coach were served. There was no food on the plane either for purchase or free. For future flights, I will plan ahead and pack snacks. It isn’t likely that I will actually go hungry during a trip, but it’s good to have a snack so you don’t get hangry!

Once we arrived in Mexico and went through passport control, our temperatures were checked. They were checked again when we arrived at the resort. We also had to complete a detailed health survey at the resort. When we met our transportation from the airport to the resort, we were given a “welcome packet” that contained a mask, hand sanitizer, and antibacterial wipes. Our driver was masked as were all the people I have encountered at the resort.

The resort has a detailed CleanComplete Verification process to protect guests. Our suitcases were sanitized before being delivered to the room, and many of the items in the room had been sanitized and were encased in plastic including glasses, coffee cups, toiletries, and even the tablet for accessing resort services. There are hand sanitizer stations everywhere around the resort and you are required to use hand sanitizer and wear a mask before entering restaurants. I did notice that most guests are not wearing masks when walking around outside.

Speaking of guests there are quite a few here. I don’t yet know what the hotel capacity is, but it certainly isn’t a ghost town. At the airport, there were lots of travelers here for vacations. They were excited and happy to be traveling again. All the hospitality industry employees I encountered were very happy to see us. I have always found Mexico to be warm and welcoming, but there was a sense of gratitude too. Tourism is a huge part of the economy in this area and I am sure they are glad to have visitors again.

I am completely aware that there is a lot of debate about whether or not we should be traveling right now. My purpose here isn’t to debate that point, but to share with you what it is actually like to travel internationally now.

As a travel agent, I am sure you have heard people advise you, “Don’t sell from your own pocket.” Along the same line, I think it is important to remember not to assume your client has the same travel preferences you have. You may or may not want to travel right now, but your client may feel the opposite. Don’t assume – ask. You don’t want to lose a client because they thought you weren’t “open” or willing to help them.

If you have any specific questions about traveling that I can help with, feel free to email me. If I can assist, I will be happy to!