Photograph by DESIGN PICS INC, National Geographic Image Collection
Photograph by DESIGN PICS INC, National Geographic Image Collection
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How will travel be better after the pandemic?

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By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor

What will travel look like in our post-pandemic world? The smartest thing I’ve heard so far comes from Elizabeth Becker, author of Overbooked and our own early report on how hard the pandemic will hit the travel industry. “The travel complex will have to grab a seat at the table where government policies are made,” she says. “Travel concerns and travel advocates need to be heard on everything from transportation and public health to the climate emergency, conservation, and foreign policy.”

When we travel we’re understandably excited about the things we can experience. What’s harder to see is the web of stakeholders that makes travel possible. While key segments of the $2.6 trillion U.S. travel industry, such as the transportation sector, receive most government attention, community concerns often struggle to be heard. Becker’s call to reinstate an administration-level travel and tourism body could create a more sustainable path for American tourism as we emerge from the pandemic. (Pictured above, an image of a classic road trip, which has grown in popularity as air travel has declined.)

Other bright ideas will guide our return to travel, writer Steve Brock reports. Our journeys could become more inclusive, says Black Travel Alliance’s Martinique Lewis. “The world will see more diversity in travel post COVID-19 because for the first time we were all forced to acknowledge there is a problem that needs to be solved,” she says.

We also will seek quality over quantity in our journeys, says Eulanda Osagiede, of Hey Dip Your Toes In: “Privilege comes in many forms, and the act of recognizing our travel-related ones have called us to think about traveling more intentionally and less often.”

In a recent panel discussion on travel (see me in action here!), G Adventures founder and author Bruce Poon Tip says not only will we travel again, we’ll do it better. “I still believe travel can be the biggest distributor of wealth distribution the world has ever seen,” he says. “This pause gives us the gift of time to consider how we can travel more consciously.”

As we have reported, even just planning your next trip is good for your health. So don’t stop thinking about tomorrow. Dream of your next journey and add to the ways travel will improve in the future!

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Today in a minute

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First things first: If you haven’t been spending time on Smithsonian National Zoo webcams, that little panda cub you see (above) is a boy, the zoo announced. Veterinarians determined the gender of the six-week-old giant panda from a swab sample, CNN reported. In a checkup Thursday, the cub was healthy and strong, weighing 3.6 pounds and measuring 14 inches. See the cub cuddling with his mom on the panda cam here.

Nobel Prizes: Black holes may be space’s ultimate one-way ticket. The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded today to three researchers studying the phenomenon. Among them: American Andrea Ghez, only the fourth woman to win the award. Here’s how Ghez’s work confirms Einstein's relativity on a massive scale.

Ripple effect:
Work trips are down 90 percent. What’s that to you? By one measure, business travelers who tagged on a few days someplace after their work was over made up a huge share of the tourism market. Half of airline revenues. A higher percentage for the Marriotts and the Hiltons of the world. In the world of travel during COVID-19, “many of the shifts can be traced to the inextricable link between business and leisure travel,” Bruce Wallin writes.

A drier Venice: For the first time in 1,200 years, a newly installed series of flood barriers actually held back the tide in the flood-prone Italian city. CNN reports the success was hailed as a key to the recovery of tourism there. When the tides rise, the barriers form a kind of dam against the Adriatic Sea. Delays and corruption dogged the installation of the flood barriers, in the works since 1984.

Your Instagram photo of the day

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Shared roots: Autumn hues embrace aspen trees at Antelope Flats in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. These gorgeous deciduous trees often propagate through a shared root system, forming a large clonal grove. In other words, they are often all the same tree. There is nothing quite like seeing them in full fall colors in the mountain landscape. This image received nearly 200,000 likes on our Travel Instagram page.

The big takeaway

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Protecting your privacy: Like it or not, new technical changes, such as facial recognition, pose privacy challenges for the traveler. The pandemic has made contact-tracing apps or GPS trackers mandatory in some nations. How to make sure you don’t give up too much information that hackers could exploit? One cybersecurity executive recommends using devices that “contain only the data you’ll need for that trip,” especially when visiting countries where government officials have the right (or inclination) to access your devices. (Pictured above, a passenger shows a health code on her mobile phone as she checks in for a flight at China’s Beijing Capital International Airport in July.)

In a few words

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On Wednesday, Victoria Jaggard covers the latest in science. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Rachael Bale on animals, Whitney Johnson on photography, and Debra Adams Simmons on history.

The last glimpse

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Dark Skies: Who wouldn’t want to be out watching the Milky Way glow over rock formations in Colorado? The Rocky Mountain state has proposed a 3,000-square-mile dark sky reserve, which would be the world’s largest dark-sky designated area. Mountains shield the area from the interstate’s glow, writes Jacqueline Kehoe, who proposes an itinerary of highlights for Nat Geo.

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, and Jen Tse and selected the photographs. Kimberly Pecoraro and Gretchen Ortega helped produce this. Have an idea or a link? We’d love to hear from you at david.beard@natgeo.com. And thanks for reading!