International tourism analysts say that 2020 will be a lost year. With a projected $2.2 trillion lost and 100 million jobs wiped out, many hotels, airlines, and restaurants are in survival mode. Tourism-related businesses are trying to stay afloat and weather the storm, hoping for a vaccine to turn things around in 2021.
Asia is bearing the brunt of losses, but tourism is down around the world. Some countries are bribing people to jumpstart their tourist economies. In July, Uzbekistan offered $3,000 to any tourist who gets COVID while visiting the country. It is called the Safe Travel Guaranteed campaign. According to Uzbekistan tourism ambassador Sophie Ibbotson, “The government is so confident that the new safety and hygiene measures…will protect tourists from COVID-19 that the president is prepared to put money where his mouth is.” Similarly, Cyprus will pay for hotels, food, and healthcare for travelers who come down with the virus.
Many tourism companies are offering steep discounts, but some consumers are more focused on safety than savings. Two companies have tried to satisfy those bitten by the travel bug, but too afraid or unable to actually go anywhere. In July, Air China and Air Eva offered limited tours called “Pretend to go abroad.” These tours allowed 180 people to experience all the most frustrating parts of travel without the payoff. Participants waited through security and immigration lines to board a flight at Taipei airport. They then deplaned without leaving the ground. Surprisingly, 7,000 people participated in a lottery to win one of the 180 spots for the limited tours. Perhaps seeing a demand, Eva Air upped the ante on anti-climactic travel experiences. On August 8th, they offered another flight to nowhere, but this one actually left the ground. For three hours, the flight circled and then returned to the same airport. Considering the in-flight menu was created by a 3-star Michelin rated chef, the ticket cost of $180 was dirt cheap.
This pales in comparison to the price of a Virgin Galactic ticket to nowhere. For those looking to leave the hassles of earthly travel behind, commercial space flights are coming in 2021. Over 400 people have already made reservations with Richard Branson’s company. For just $250,000, you too can fly 50 miles above the earth to float weightless for a few minutes before returning home to mother earth.