(As I shelter in place here in beautiful Southwest Florida, I can't complain. The sunset from my back porch is this magnificent every night.)
Hurricanes? Got ‘em. Flooding? Yep. Blue-green algae? Uh huh. Oil spills? Check. Red tide? Always a possibility. Global pandemic? Sure thing. For Southwest Florida businesses, especially businesses related to travel and tourism (of which there are many), here we go again. Living in the tourist destination of beautiful Southwest Florida, it seems some sort of disaster is always looming. Swine flu, zika, bird flu, SARS, and now, of course Covid-19 threaten all of us. Disease and pestilence are not exclusive to Southwest Florida like hurricanes and red tide, but these things affect whether people want to take a chance and travel . . . travel anywhere in the world. Take the earthquakes in the Pacific rim and the Caribbean. Or the fires in Australia and California. Volcanoes erupting in Hawaii and New Zealand. Avalanches out west, blizzards in the northeast, tornadoes in middle America, polar vortexes, heatwaves, tsunamis and typhoons. I guess it’s safe to say the world is full of hazards whether you’re travelling or not. As a person who travels for a living talking to consumers of travel and travel agents, there’s always a hotspot in the world people are talking about. Talking about and avoiding. But here’s the thing. People will watch and wait. And when the coast is clear—when the danger is past—when the debris has been removed—when the threat no longer exists, no matter whether it's Florida or Timbuktu, they’ll come back. Heck, even war doesn’t keep people from visiting some places for too long. Look at war torn Europe after WWI and WWII. Japan after Hiroshima. Russia after the Russian Revolution. Millions of tourists now flock to these places every year. Amid strife, the Middle East still attracts tourists. As a child growing up in the 60's, I never thought the day would come when a popular honeymoon/vacation destination would be Vietnam for heaven’s sake. So, travel is an innate desire. It’s in the DNA of so many people around the globe. Travelers want to explore the world’s wonders, see its beauty, understand its diversity and meet its people. When the time is right and the situation has resolved itself, they’ll come back. How do I know? I promote tourism in Southwest Florida, and problems specific to our area can drive tourism numbers down significantly. Hurricanes, red tide, blue-green algae, zika, wildfires, and oil spills to name a few. Even with all that in our past, people came back. I get many questions about our status from travel agents, and people just wanting to know. “How’s your red tide situation?” “Have you cleaned up after the hurricane yet?” “Are the beaches safe again?” They ask the questions, not because they delight in our misfortune—which every tourist destination faces at one time or another. They ask sincerely and with concern because they want to come back. So, I say, be positive. Be resilient. Be ready. This too shall pass. They’ll be back.