By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor
“In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, few industries have fallen as far and as fast as tourism,” writes Elizabeth Becker in our story about how the coronavirus is affecting the travel industry. With projected global losses of some 75 million jobs and $2.1 trillion in revenue—significantly greater than the losses triggered by the 9/11 attacks—one of the world’s largest industries is likely to be devastated by this pandemic. (Pictured: The nearly empty Cologne Bonn airport in Germany.)
No travel sector, from airlines and cruises to destinations and resorts, is immune from the effects of COVID-19. Not even China’s domestic tourism market, which supports some five billion trips a year and has recently seen an uptick in hotel occupancy, will return to normal anytime soon. However, less than four months after the virus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, vast numbers of Chinese tourists are once again swamping destinations such as Mount Huangshan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Shanghai, streets are crowded and the famous Bund waterfront is packed. The concern is not merely about current crowding, but about a new wave of the outbreak.
Asia is not the only region with reason for worry about a coronavirus boomerang wave. Now in the thick of the pandemic, Europeans and North Americans will need to remain vigilant in efforts to flatten the curve through social distancing—with other global regions soon to follow. So for now, the answer to the question “How soon is too soon to travel again?" may be that it’s still too soon to tell. Frustrating news for travelers and the economies that depend on them, but better for the health of people near and far. Stay safe and stay at home.
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Your Instagram photo of the day
Long-ago protection: Located 2,700 feet above sea level on a remote hilltop in Mahad, India, the majestic Raigad Fort became the home of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s Maratha Empire in the mid-1600s. Despite being attacked by the British East India Company in 1818, much of the fort remains intact. “It’s definitely worth the trip,” says photographer Jody MacDonald. Travelers can get there by cable car or by hoofing it.
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Today in a minute
Finding the narwhal: The Arctic “unicorns of the sea” are hard to find in the wild, but Jason Bittel reports for Nat Geo on the ways to track the elusive whale off Greenland and Canada. “They’re very skittish and I guess I’d say sneaky,” says University of Washington ecologist Kristin Laidre. “They startle easily, so they’re not a whale that’s going to aggregate around your boat or anything like that for whale watching.” Note: Before signing up for whale shark or other trips after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, read this cautionary look at the industry by Kennedy Warne for Nat Geo.
You can check out any time you like, but ... They are the last two guests, honeymooners in an exclusive resort in the Maldives. They hadn’t planned on staying so long—but COVID-19 prompted airports around them to close, stranding them in paradise. Now the full staff remains on board to cater to their wishes, the New York Times reports. It’s idyllic, but when is it going to end?
We asked, you answered: Nat Geo’s Amy Alipio came up with this list of 10 adventure books to read while you’re stuck at home (and thanks to the many Nat Geo readers who have added good reads). Paul Cheney suggestions included Sarah Marquis’s Wild by Nature, a tale of the writer’s three years walking alone in the wilderness from Australia to Siberia; Jeanine Barone picked another off-the-beaten-path account with Earl Swift’s Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island; Alexis Marie Adams chose The Journey’s Echo by the legendary traveler Freya Stark (hint: pick up the paperback edition of that book; Amazon says the hardcover goes for $851).
What’s one adventurer doing? Free Solo and Meru filmmaker/climber Jimmy Chin is used to facing the unknown. Holed up in the Tetons now, how are he and his family handling waiting out the COVID-19 outbreak? “We’re doing what we can do—trying to get outdoors once a day, doing cleaning and lots of house projects,” Chin tells Nat Geo’s Jennifer Barger. “The kids keep cross-country skiing in the yard and building snow forts.
The big takeaway
What you don’t know about the Vikings? They had women leaders. They did more than pillage and plunder. They came in contact with more than 50 civilizations. That’s part of what Heather Pringle discovered for Nat Geo in a swashbuckling adventure that promises and delivers flames. “Like everyone else,” she writes, “I’ve come to see a Viking ship burn.”
Subscriber exclusive: Think Renaissance Fair, but with fire—and Vikings
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
Lyrical travel: For singer and rapper Dessa, travel began the teen summer she went to visit a former classmate who moved back to Umeå, a town (pictured) just below the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden. While there, Dessa learned to love salt licorice and phrases in Swedish. The acquisition of language has kept on as she has toured. “Seeing more of the world provides more grist for the imagination. It deposits more nouns and verbs and images into the mind,” Dessa writes for Nat Geo, “all of which can be withdrawn later, in the service of a new song."