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By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor
“Beauty is useless unless it is shared.” This observation comes from our recent article on how the novel coronavirus is changing life in Venice. At issue is not only the suspension of activity in an ancient city, but the current and future threats to social and economic stability in Italy and the world over. With the market shuddering and public health worldwide under threat, our worries will soon expand from daily fears to long-term consequences.
Our writer Cathy Newman notes that, before COVID-19, the only modern-day contagion afflicting Venice has been the plague of tourists, at least 23 million a year, that strains resources and infuriates residents. As troubling as over-visitation is to destinations around the world, the sudden cessation of travel brings a plethora of its own problems—especially a drop in tourism revenue that sustains treasured ecosystems and sites, as well as the communities that depend on them.
Coronavirus is not the first recent global outbreak to disrupt tourism; the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and 2015–2016 Zika spikes, to name two viral threats, each affected travel. But responses to those events paled in comparison to the nationwide lockdowns, regional restrictions, quarantines, curfews, and social distancing characterized by the actions undertaken to contain COVID-19. An economic collapse as a result of these necessary actions now threatens future stability.
But call me an optimist. I think travel will help us in the years ahead. That will take patience, planning, and daring. It took three years for hotels to regain the average room rate they had before the 2008 financial collapse; the airline sector took much longer, turning profitable (just barely) in two years, according to Skift.
The world’s beauty is not meant to be ignored, and in the future travelers will be able to help. When we return to form I believe we will do so with a level of appreciation, openness, and care that was easy to overlook in the not-so-distant past. In the meantime, using our imaginations to explore the world is good practice! Stay healthy and hopeful.
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Narrowing horizons: Canada has closed its borders to non-citizens, although Americans are exempted from the move—for now. ... Airline companies, hammered by the market, are slashing routes and capacity as talk grows of bankruptcies. ... The first human trial for a COVID-19 vaccine has begun, U.S. officials said. Fingers crossed!
Your Instagram photo of the day
Big: An enormous Buddha statue pokes the top of its head from a cavernous concrete structure at the Makomanai Takino Cemetery in Sapporo, Japan. Atama Daibutsu, or the Buddha's Head, stands at 44 feet and was designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando. In colder months, icicles hang from the chin and snow sits on the top of the head; warmer seasons reveal 150,000 bushes of lavender circling the dome around the statue.
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Today in a minute
Loopholes: You’ve had travel insurance for your trip, but you may not be able to collect, Vicky Hallett writes for Nat Geo. She explains why, as she puts it, “insurance won’t necessarily help right now, even if you bought it long before Purell was selling out in stores.”
The 'monsters’ of Slovenia: A medieval Lenten tradition has been reborn in this Balkan nation in recent years. The parade of monsters, called Pust (pronounced poost), is tied to the Christian holiday of Shovetide. It’s a millennia-old tradition that almost didn’t survive due to the efforts of disapproving church leaders and, in later years, a socialist regime. But it has, Noah Charney reports for Nat Geo.
Saving turtles through song: A pop song in São Tomé & Príncipe stands as a warning to tourists and other restaurant-goers. “If you see sea turtle meat for sale,‘’ sings João Seria, ”don’t buy it.” The 2017 song has had an effect in this island nation off mainland Africa of the five species of endangered turtles native to the area, writes Atlas Obscura.
'Visiting' the world’s best: What do you mean you can’t see the British Museum in London, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, or NYC’s Guggenheim? Here’s a list of 12 virtual tours you can see from your couch, reports Travel+Leisure.
Beyond handshakes: Scores of Nat Geo readers had better ideas on greeting people than the germ-laden shake in these deadly days. A bow. A hand to the heart. The Star Trek-inspired Vulcan salute. A Namaste gesture. An air kiss, even among dudes. "Isn’t it the most polite thing to do these days to ... communicate with our hearts rather than our hands?” reader Laura Lee Klump asks.
The big takeaway
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The last glimpse
O Pioneers! Geologist Maria Tharp (above) had been kept off scientific research vessels because of her gender. But she painstakingly used sonar data to chart the ocean floor, and she advanced the theory of continental drift, writes Nat Geo’s Nina Strochlic. Tharp is among the pioneering women explorers and scientists who contributed to National Geographic over the years—many of whom received only fleeting recognition or were overshadowed by men, some less talented. These trailblazers, Strochlic writes, had conquered the highest peaks, unearthed ancient civilizations, set deep-sea diving records, and flew and sailed around the world. “There is no reason why a woman cannot go wherever a man goes, and further,” explorer Harriet Chalmers Adams said in 1920.
Subscriber exclusive: The trail-blazing women explorers who history forgot
But wait, there's more! We'll leave you today with this history of St. Patrick and why today is named in his honor.
This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, and Eslah Attar selected the photographs. Have an idea, a link, a place you're dreaming to go to once this COVID-19 thing is over? We'd love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org . And thanks for reading!