Voices From Travel’s Front Lines: ‘We Walk in Fear, We Work in Fear’


Over the past six weeks, countries across the globe have gradually begun to reopen to travelers, both domestic and foreign. But the travel world, still mired in an unyielding pandemic, is drastically altered. This is especially so for workers in the tourism industry.

Their workplaces are now filled with restrictions and health measures, uncertainty and new procedures. With new coronavirus cases rising in many regions, those just returning to work wonder, yet again, how long they will be employed and if they are safe.

We spoke with six travel workers, from Alaska to the Maldives, on returning to the job. They shared their stories in English and Spanish. Like the workers we interviewed when international borders first closed, they are embarking on a new journey, one of caution and reserve.

Among some of them is relief and a renewed sense of hope, while others seek to answer this question: With all the new obstacles, how can visitors feel welcome again?

The interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Now, all team members wear masks. The service team wears gloves. We have daily temperature checks, sanitizer in all the restaurants, a six-foot distance between the tables.

Normally you keep the table set as an inviting feel, but now the table has to stay bare, so there’s a bit to get used to visually. A lot of the little luxury touches associated with a five-star hotel, we’re having to tweak.

Our kitchens are well-air conditioned. The New York City basement kitchen doesn’t exist here. The hotel has a custom-made cloth mask, so that may be better than the hot disposable masks. We’ll figure it out soon.

Thirty to 40 percent of our population is elderly and as an island with a majority Black population, we have to consider that this virus is affecting us disproportionally. I feel like opening back up is incredibly detrimental to the community, but you know: tourism.

It’s the way we’ve become so dependent on tourism, people thinking this is the ‘American Paradise,’ and the entitlement of tourists. So now people are starting to say, ‘We’ve got to fix that.’

This could wake people up. Our jobs are in this industry that, at the same time, is killing us.

Though the U.S.V.I. and Skinny Legs reopened to tourists in June, the restaurant is now closed for several weeks after Ms. Jones and other employees learned that they had been exposed to the coronavirus.


A flight attendant for the Italian airline Alitalia

I haven’t been at work since March, when things got bad with the coronavirus. I’m on standby on Friday for my first flight since then. I don’t know where I’ll be going or if I’ll be going, but I’ll definitely be back on a flight to Budapest next week. I’m so nervous and excited.

I’ve been a flight attendant since I was 20. I am 49 now. I’ve been with Alitalia since 1995 and have never experienced something like this. During lockdown I was a little worried I wouldn’t go back to work this year, but instead, I focused on my family and cooking good food. I’m lucky I have my salary, but it’s a base. The more I work, the more I earn, and I wasn’t working for four months.

I live in Rome with my husband and two teenage daughters, so you see why I am eager to go back to work. I’m joking. I miss the people I work with and I miss the people I meet when I travel. I’m tired of cooking everyday. My skin is so nice now from all this rest and being behind a mask, so I’m really ready to start again. I’m not worried about people not following the rules. They don’t have a choice but to follow the rules. They have to wear masks. I’ll have to wear the mask for 12 hours.

I’ve been talking to my colleagues and they, like me, were enjoying all the family time at the beginning, and having a moment to relax, but now want to start working again. There are a lot of sleepless nights in this job and we didn’t miss them at the start of lockdown, but now we do. It’s a hard job being a flight attendant, but it’s like a drug.

I was thinking about how I’m a big hugger. Normally, when I see my returning guests pop up in the lobby, I run to them with open arms. I need to come up with a way to make them feel welcome again. I know we can’t touch and there are no more handshakes. The guests can’t see our smile, but we have to learn to smile with our eyes, and let them see that we still have effective communication with them. They’ll know we are smiling under our masks.


A reservations manager for King of the River Fishing, a tour company in Kenai

I’m the one who picks up the phones and helps people plan their fishing trips with us. I usually spend the winter doing that, and the summer making sure everything is ready to go.

We have a small team of three. Me, my boss, Dean, who has been leading these trips for more than 30 years, and Jason, another guide. Things got really quiet in March, which in other years is when the phones are typically ringing the most, with people from all over the world wanting to come here and go on fishing trips. Some people want to go deep-sea fishing, others want more remote trips that involve planes.

The height of the pandemic was filled with uncertainty and questioning about whether things would reopen and if travel would return this summer. We typically start fishing in mid-May, and Alaska reopened fully on Memorial Day, so that eased some of our worries.

Alaska had a 14-day quarantine that really prevented people from coming. That was a good thing, and in the last month things started picking up again. When the mandatory quarantine period stopped, mandatory Covid testing at the airport started. To come here now you have to present a negative test at the airport or get a test here. We are not checking any of that stuff. We trust that the people who are coming here are following the rules and being honest. I’ve been surprised by how many people are willing to take a Covid test just so they can come fishing.

One of the biggest changes this year is that everything is happening at the last minute. Instead of calling in the winter to book for the summer, people are calling now and coming in a few weeks. That’s made my job a bit crazy, but we are still at 25 percent capacity. We’re excited to be back at work and welcoming people back.


Sahred From Source link Travel